Even Stevens’s #CBR5 review #25: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson


On her 16th birthday, Elisa is wed to Alejandro – the king of a neighboring country whom she has never met. The marriage is a political one and Elisa, shy and nervous, would be content to be a lifelong wallflower and let her sister and father worry about politics. For Elisa, though, that will never happen because she also happens to be the bearer of the Godstone – a jewel placed in the belly of a chosen child on his or her naming day by God himself, marking the child for God’s chosen one. As Elisa leaves her home to go to a foreign country she is plunged into a world of political strategizing, greed, deception and sorcery. She must also contend with the fact that there are those who wish to eliminate the bearer of the Godstone and take its power for themselves.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is 400 pages of high fantasy action and adventure, but it is also the tale of one spoiled young princess becoming a strong young woman. Elisa struggles with her weight and actually wishes for an ugly husband, so that she cannot disappoint him with her appearance. She’s loving toward her handmaids but also is self-absorbed and stubborn. Despite these last traits (or heck, maybe even because of them), Elisa is easy to relate to and I was rooting for her from the first page.

Carson does an excellent job of painting Elisa as a teenage girl on the cusp of becoming a woman.  She is smart and tough but hasn’t yet figured out how to apply those traits to the world around her.  As the events of the book unfold, she’s thrust into sink-or-swim situations and she becomes not only a survivor, but a fighter, proud and strong.  There is a hint of a love triangle that develops, and while I was initially annoyed by this overplayed trope, Carson turned the tired out scenario right on its head, leaving me pleasantly surprised.

Surprises are something this book is not short on. There were several situations in which I thought I knew exactly what would play out, but I was so wrong (and happy to be so wrong). Carson keeps up a fast pace and so many developments occur that I wonder what will happen in the next two books. Yes it is a trilogy, but for once I am beyond excited to dive in to the next installment.  In fact, I just got the next two as a Christmas gift, so I will be delving in shortly!

In a YA market crowded with supernatural and fantasy books, Carson’s excellent writing and character development make her stand out amongst the crowd. If you’re a fan of high fantasy with a kick-ass female protagonist (think Graceling) then I would recommend giving this book a go, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #38: A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, Vol.1 by George R.R. Martin, adapted by Daniel Abraham & Tommy Patterson

14749457The first volume of the A Song of Ice and Fire graphic novel adaptations covers the first half of A Game of Thrones, the first book in the series. As Martin himself states in the intro, this is an adaptation of the book only, and has no relation to the HBO series (which is the shit). Actually, it sounds like certain things (like the design of the Iron Throne and the appearance of the characters) were deliberately differentiated from the series for legal reasons. All in all, I think I prefer the show’s version of Martin’s story to the graphic novel, but it was pretty good all the same.

Vol. 1 takes us from the first meeting of the Others, through Bran’s fall, the murder of Jon Arryn, the appointing of Ned as Hand of the King, Jon’s induction into the Night’s Watch, Dany’s marriage to Khal Drogo, and Catelyn’s flight to King’s Landing. The story was adapted by fantasy author Daniel Abraham (a former student of Martin’s who also writes urban fantasy and science fiction under pseudonyms), and he does a great job. It’s always hard to judge these sorts of things when you know the story so well (your brain just kind of fills in the missing pieces of the story that maybe wouldn’t make much sense to non-book readers), but it felt like there was nothing missing, despite that Abraham obviously had to cut a lot of material in order to cram hundreds of pages into a 200 page graphic novel. Another indication that this is a quality adaptation is that it never feels crammed.

Probably the only thing I had trouble with is the artwork. Martin chose Tommy Patterson out of hundreds of candidates, and while I don’t think anyone would dispute that he’s very talented, the way he portrays most of the characters irks me. Everyone is pointy and harsh, and they all have tiny eyes. To me, this makes everyone, even the ‘good guys’ look evil. But it was his women I had the biggest issue with. They all look the same, first of all, and same in this instance means skinny with slender faces, long hair and Barbie-type bodies. The men are at least somewhat differentiated and realistic looking (excepting Khal Drogo, who is monstrously large), but the women look like they all stepped out of some thirteen year old’s fantasy. I think a lot of this is just my vision of this world not matching up with the artist’s, but it was an issue for me, regardless of the cause.

Recommended for fans of the book or show. Wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for someone who’s never been exposed to the story before.

Alexis’s #CBR5 Review #2, The Way of Kings Brandon Sanderson

Way-of-Kings-203x300The Way of Kings is a book of 1,0001 pages. I say this first because if you aren’t into reading a book that weighs more than you do, you’ll want to give this a pass.

The Way of Kings is a high-fantasty novel that takes place in Westeros Roshar, a land that glories in war led by the leaders of the Seven Kingdoms High Princes who are currently locked in a lengthy battle campaign against the Parshendi. The ability to use magic stormlight has been largely lost over time but a few are able to perform incredible feats with it. Also a great unknown danger is looming, winter voidbringers are coming.

This is a book rich with world-building, enhanced further by lovely illustrations throughout the book. Many cultural details, flora, fauna, and points of history are woven into the story. It is not simply the middle ages redrawn with some Fantasy tropes mixed in. The chapters move through a rich cast of characters who are all stuck in various unhappy circumstances:
Kaladin: Unfairly cast into slavery, the noble warrior seeks freedom and redemption.
Shallan: Brilliant ward of Jasnah who has left her home and family to become a master scholar. And surprise many with a brutal betrayal.
Dalinar: The Blackthorn, military genius and Shardblade warrior, he is unable to convince the king and other High Princes of the futility of their ways.
Adolin: Dalinar’s faithful son and…uh….skirt-chaser. Seriously, his defining character trait seems to be that he can’t keep a girlfriend.
Jasnah: Leading scholar and owner of a rare and powerful Soulcaster – a mythical gauntlet that can effectuate any transformation.
Navani: Saucy old broad who’s had an eye on Dalinar since the way back.
Szeth: Powerful warrior whose ability to harness Stormlight makes him all but unstoppable. His code of honor puts his actions entirely at the mercy of whoever holds his oathstone.

Excellent illustrations drawn by Paper Pie.

By any measure this is an ambitious book which, according to Amazon, is the first in what is to be a 10 book series. Sanderson paints this world with the richness of detail that clearly puts him at the top echelon of modern Fantasy writers. He creates multiple character-arcs, each compelling enough to keep you looking forward to coming back to see what happens next. Although therein lies the challenge, for many many pages the answer to what happens next is, “Not a whole lot.” Almost all of the characters are stuck, unhappily, in their current circumstances and they remain stuck for the vast majority of those 1,001 pages.

This is a really good book. This is an enormous book. With some judicious editing this could have been an excellent 700 page book. As it was, it sagged like an old mattress in the middle and I definitely found myself wondering where the good parts were (answer: page 864+). The next book is supposed to come out in 2013 (amusingly its working title is the Book of Endless Pages) and while there is much to recommend The Way of Kings, I can’t say I’ll be racing to continue on with the series.

Katie′s #CBR5 Review 2: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Title: Falling Kingdoms
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Source: giveaway by Jessica Spotswood
Review Summary: Incredibly well written with great dialogue, well developed characters, and a complex but easily followed plot.

This one really did have a complex plot, so I’m going to direct you to the goodreads description and include an excerpt of that description here:

In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power–brutally transforming their subjects’ lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined…

This book is high fantasy at it’s best. There is a broad, epic plot at the level of kingdoms and we get pieces making up this bigger picture from the perspective of a variety of characters. more…