Friday, January 31, 2014

Review: "The Magicians Guild" by Trudi Canavan

Title: The Magicians Guild
Series: The Black Magicians Trilogy
Author: Trudi Canavan
Publisher: Orbit
Year: 2004

"Each year the magicians of Imardin gather together to purge the city streets of vagrants, urchins and miscreants. Masters of the disciplines of magic, they know that no one can oppose them. But their protective shield is not as impenetrable as they believe.

Sonea, angry, frustrated and outraged by the treatment of her family and friends, hurls a stone at the shield, putting all her rage behind it. To the amazement of all who bear witness, the stone passes unhindered through the barrier and renders a magician unconscious.

The guild's worst fear has been realised . . . There is an untrained magician loose on the streets. She must be found before her uncontrolled powers unleash forces that will destroy both her, and the city that is her home."

Old but gold. I have read this time more times than I could ever remember. It was the first story of magic I read after Harry Potter and it has stuck with me for almost 8 years. I have always loved it but this was the first time I read it in English. To all Estonians who might read this review I can promise that it has one of the best translations out there. For once the original book has been done justice.

Trudi Canavan is a woman with an amazing imagination. I believe that high fantasy is harder to write. I am not sure why but even though you have so much that you can bend to your will, it must be so hard to strike the exactly right balance between logical enough but still out of this world. I salute the author for the most wonderful job well done. Trudi Canavan does fantastic descriptions, such heartfelt characters and getting the story from multiple point of views was great.

The story itself is actually quite a simple underdog story. I mean we have all heard of the poor girl who discovers that she has magical powers. Sure, a lot of other things follow but compared to others stories, this book will not have her defeat an evil overlord and establish herself as the best of all magicians. But I think that the fair simplicity of the story really helps to establish the high fantasy world. There are so many rules that have to be put in place for the imaginary world of Imardin. A very elaborate story might have made the book too complicated. I got exactly enough from it that I started saving up for the next instalment as soon as I finished with “The Magicians Guild”. I don’t want you to think that nothing happens in this book, it is actually full of interesting events but I do not want to spoil too much.

I really liked the heroin: Sonea. The way she was written made her seem like someone who has a good head on her shoulders. She has disliked the Guild her entire life so she flees from it after discovering her powers. I liked that she was very believable and intelligent. She had heart but still thought logically and could be quite witty at times. I loved her.
Usually Rothen would be more of a side character but due to a big part of the book being introduced through his eyes, then I think of him sort of as the second main character. When I was young I always thought of him as someone younger, I am not sure why. This time I was aware that he was actually older, probably in his late forties, even in fifties. Rothen is your all-on good character. Sometimes I can’t help but think that he is too perfect. But somehow he still seemed human, like someone we should strive to be. He was very likeable and seeing as his goals were most probably the same as the readers then you can’t help but cheer him on.
There is a LOT of characters in this book. Sonea’s friend from the slums, called Cery, will be a prominent part of the next books. Lord Dannyl was Rothens long-time friend and former student. Again he will have a lot bigger part in books to come. But I was a little sad that there were quite a few characters from the slums that were introduced but would almost never again surface across the next two books of the trilogy.

This book is a wonderful story that would be a great read for all ages. I definitely loved it and give it five childhood filled stars.

This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: "Hunger" by Jackie Morse Kessler

Title: Hunger
Series: Riders of the Apocalypse #1
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publisher: Graphia
Year: 2010

"“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

I am speechless. 

Just kidding. I have a lot to say about this book. First of which should be that it was amazing. It is great to have a book that has a nice blurb. I mean when you hear about a book that’s about an anorexic girl who becomes Famine, one of the four Riders of the Apocalypse, what do you think? I thought that this is the coolest thing I have ever heard!

Jackie Morse Kessler publishes under two names. One is this one and the other is Jackie Kessler. Before this one I knew only of her adult works. But boy. While her adult works were highly entertaining, then here she touches on topics that most authors either shy away from or do not manage to quite execute in a way that is believable. Kessler’s writing style is very enjoyable, the pages of the book fly by with a blink of an eye.

Speaking of flying by, this book is not a particularly long one. I cannot decide if that is good or bad. Bad in the sense that I wanted more. I wanted to keep reading about what Famine does, what happens to Lisabeth. But the book is so perfectly paced. I have a feeling that adding or cutting anything else might have disturbed that. So all in all, I would say that it is a good thing. Kessler does not need fillers, her own story is too compelling. Plus, short or not, this book packs the punch of a book two to three times that long.

On to the story. The blurb sounded awesome. And the story does not disappoint. There are good ideas out there. And there is no shame in doing something that has an established coolness, as long as it is well done. But the idea in “Hunger” is the most original thing I have read. And aside from the fantastic idea, it is not only the blurb that is cool. The book itself holds up to the promise and it is a rollercoaster.
And I like that the problem of eating disorders was not pushed to the background of the fantasy element. It gives an amazing insight to what people who have that kind of a problem think. For a moment it all seems logical. And then you distance yourself from it and realize how it really is a disease. Sure, it is something that goes on in their heads (at first), but that does not make the problem any less real. I am sure every girl (and I imagines most guys) have the days when they feel bigger than they should. The “thin” voice that Lisa has… I am sure it intimately calls to many readers. I did not know whilst reading this that Kessler had a problem with an eating disorder when young, so I was especially amazed with how believable it all was. But I guess that sort of understanding only comes out of actually having experience with it.

The protagonist is an anorexic seventeen year old girl, Lisabeth. She herself does not believe she has an eating disorder, believing that if she were anorexic then she would be thin. I think Lisa is impossible not to sympathize with. I may not agree with what she thinks, but she so strongly believes in what she does that it really got to me. Sadly what she does is not the least bit positive. But she really grows as Famine. For this story she is the perfect heroine. Not perfect in the sense that she is pretty and smart and confident. But her flaws make her… well... flawless (that sounded a lot more elegant in my head)
We have a few side characters. Tammy is Lisa’s friend who is bulimic. It is kind of odd to see how Lisa idolizes her. I do not want to give anything away so I will leave this at that.
She has a caring father, a distant mother and a nice boyfriend. But I have to say, I immensely enjoyed Death as someone who looks like Kurt Cobain, singing Nirvana songs and having the, and I quote, “A gallows humour”. 

All in all this is an amazing book. It deals with a delicate subject with a touch of fantasy. I loved it and I think it would give insight to many. I really recommend it to everyone. It gets five stars. Serious ones.

 This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review: "Frostbite" by Richelle Mead

Title: Frostbite
Series: Vampire Academy #2
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Year: 2008

"Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose...

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians—including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks... This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price..."

I seem to forget how wicked of a writer Richelle Mead is when I stay away for her books for too long. Withdrawal I guess. Or a coping mechanism. Because she really is the best. I have liked every single one of her books. “Frostbite” was no exception. Allow me to explain what made this book so great.

The story picks up right where we left off with the last one. Now that the world for the series has been established, Richelle Mead is gearing up. In this episode gruesome attacks by the Strigoi shake the Moroi and dhampir community. And what do the rich and fabulous do? Hide out in a skiing lodge! You heard that right. Okay it might sound a little silly but the whole thing actually works really well together. Rose gets her man trouble that was on the background of the first book. We meet her mom. And our side-characters get a fair share of action as well. The story is well thought out and the ending sets up a darker mood for the books to come.

Rose is still fun, but is also growing up. Metaphorically speaking, because she can’t help but speak before thinking. And it is still funny. A few times I thought that she is being quite stupid, but the transition period is necessary into cool and collected does not happen overnight.
I really liked Lissa in this book. She is embracing her role in the Moroi society and while she does not get much attention in “Frostbite”, then I have to point out that she is cleaning up good.
Lissa leads me to Christian. He is sort of what Rose is, but male. A lot of one-liners and fun times guaranteed.
I liked that other novices (dhampir-kids) got more attention as well. Mason was a big part of this book. He was a sweet one. In Rose’s position I would have probably done what she did though. Or planned to do. No spoilers.
Dimitri… I still don’t know why I am not rooting for him that much. Oh wait, yes, I do. Adrian. Sir Fabulous has been introduced and once again I love him. He is ridiculously arrogant, self-assured and in this case self-medicated. What’s not to love? But back to Dimitri. He shows his fun side when with Tasha (which pisses Rose off to no end, of course). He was growing on me, with his suppressed lust and all, until Adrian came along. Sorry Dimka. 

While “Frostbite” is the shortest book in the series, it still packs a punch and is a worthy follow-up to “Vampire Academy”. My hands are itching for the next book. I must go, my books need me.

But I almost forgot. Star thingies. Five of em. No doubt.

 This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: "Vampire Academy" by Richelle Mead

Title: Vampire Academy
Series: Vampire Academy #1
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Year: 2007

"Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with an unbreakable bond to the earth's magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest and most dangerous vampires--the ones who never die.

The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa's best friend, makes her a Dhampir; she is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making her one of them.

After two years of illicit freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir's Academy, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. Rose will continue her Dhampir education. Lissa will go back to being Queen of the elite Moroi social scene. And both girls will resume breaking hearts.

Fear made Lissa and Rose run away from St. Vladimir's--but their world is fraught with danger both inside and out of the Academy's iron gates. Here, the cutthroat ranks of the Moroi perform unspeakable rituals and their secretive nature and love of the night creates an enigmatic world full of social complexities. Rose and Lissa must navigate through this dangerous world, confront the temptation of forbidden romance, and never once let their guard down, lest the Strigoi make Lissa one of them forever..."


With the “Vampire Academy” movie only a month away, I suddenly understood that this is my last chance to read this book without it being affected by the movie. And that was something I couldn’t pass up.

When I was a teenager with very limited allowance it took me ages to save up money for books. Therefore I was very picky and the books were very dear to me. And the ones that were good… I read them over and over until I had money for something new. I must have read “Vampire Academy“ 7-8 times, maybe more. And boy did I love it. 

Okay, time to stop the trip down Memory Lane and find out how did the book hold up now that I am not a teenager anymore.

And the answer is that it holds up very well. The things that I loved about it at first are still true. This is one of the most original version of vampires that I have ever come across. And I like vampires so I have read my fair share of vamp stories. The idea of the two kinds of vampires is great. This way the darker side of the night-dwellers is not ignored and you can still have “good” vampires. And while I am usually not a fan of hybrids of any sort, then crossing vampires with Buffy is brilliant. Dhampirs are officially awesome. 

I really did not want to bring the movie into this review but I need it to make one point. A lot of the time the fans of the series say that the movie is too teeny or too much of a comedy. But I think a thing that is ignored is that the series actually becomes darker a little later. The first book is very much what it is pictured as. And that is Mean Girls with fangs. And that is fine. Good even. I don’t think the later books would have that strong of an affect if the first one would have been gloomy. But a word of an advice for new readers interested in this book and the series. It is good at first but it becomes great. If you like a fun vampire flick then you are all set with this book. If this seems too childish then I can promise that the later books are so worth the clique wars in the first book.

People who have read my reviews before know how much I like a kick-ass heroin. And Rose Hathaway is probably to blame for that. I always loved Rose. While she might be vulnerable within the four walls of her own room, then you will never know it from the outside. She keeps kicking no matter what. But above that she is not fighting for only herself. She does it for Lissa. It might not seem much at first but the more you read, the more important that is.
Lissa in this book was a little confusing. She could go from vulnerable to a regal socialite princess in a matter of moments. But as the pieces of her weird powers fall into place then I became to appreciate that. Plus she will grow into her role in later books.
Same goes for Dimitri. He gets some backstory in this book but he becomes more important in later books. Which is another reason to like this story. It has romance but it does not concentrate purely on that. In the first book it is actually quite secondary.

Oh and one fun thing that is a little off topic. The Russian names. Oh god… *laughs hysterically*. For someone who knows Russian at least a little bit this was so weird to read the first few times. Who the hell is named Water… or Lake.. or…*more hysterical giggles*

I hope it comes across how much I like this book. And not for sentimental reasons. It will always be a brilliant story by an author from whom I have never read a mediocre book. Five glowing stars for “Vampire Academy”. Whatever anyone has to say against it, I will defend and love it forever.

  This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.