And now back to our regularly scheduled Reading Journal! ^-^ Every month I get up to a bit of book rambling; with some basic information on 4 – 5 books I’ve read over the last year, as well as a quick-and-simple review for each one. This month is ALL books that I really liked. I read them when I first made my way up to Seattle, in August/September last year, and I think they helped me settle in. ^-^
Wizard At Large
Author: Terry Brooks
Published/By: 1988 / Del Rey
Genre: Fantasy/Modern Fantasy
Thoughts: This is actually the third installment in Terry Brooks’ Landover series. I read the first two years ago, and really liked them. So, I feel bad that it has taken me so long to read number three. *sheepish grin* I also have to wonder if the time between reading is partially the reason why this story didn’t strike me as hard as I wanted it to. Maybe I just wasn’t as invested in the characters? Not sure. I think a re-read of the whole trio is in order… And definitely before I move on to the next set of Landover books. ^-^
In Wizard At Large, we find our main character, Ben Holiday, being thrown back into the ‘real’ world when his court wizard bungles a spell. Most of his allies follow him, which leaves the kingdom open to various forms of mischief in the second half of the book. There’s a strong, ‘be careful what you wish for’ vibe in this part. Not to mention a really interesting look at the dark side of several characters, especially the ones that we know from the first two books as good people.
I have to admit that I couldn’t tell where Brooks was going with the relationship between Abernathy and little Elizabeth. She actually feels a bit odd as a child in this group of adult characters. Still, their friendship is really sweet, and I hope that she comes up in another book.
One of my favorite parts was Questor and Strabo’s fight. Wizard vs. Dragon! Classic, and written very well. ^-^ Also, Willow is a badass. Maybe not in the traditional sense of the word, but she’s a woman who gets things done! I’ve always been fond of her, of her strength, and the strength of her convictions. Good to see her still rockin’ it. 😀
One thing I noticed is that a lot of time seems to be spent with Ben reflecting back on events from the previous books. Partly understandable, since he is doing a lot of soul searching when his new and old world’s collide. Still, it really stood out to me in a ‘last time in Landover!’ sort of way… which I hate in books. Admittedly, I may be over-sensitive to that sort of thing after years of reading ‘The Boxcar Children’. XD
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars (Thoughtful and magical)
Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits
Author: Robin McKinely and Peter Dickenson
Published/By: 2002, 2009 / Firebird [Imprint of Penguin]
Genre: Fantasy Short Fiction
Thoughts: An excellent anthology from a husband and wife duo! I actually didn’t know that McKinely and Dickenson were married, until I read the reviews on the inside cover. Their writing certainly pairs very well. ^-^ [Relationship goals!]
There are six stories, three by each of the authors. All of them were written specially for the collection, and all six are rather wonderful. There isn’t even one that I disliked.
“The Sea King’s Son” was my favorite, followed closely by “Mermaid song”. Such lovely, resonating stories! The characters are particularly good.
“Sea Serpent” and “Water Horse” were both very unique, and fascinating in their world-building. They made me wonder if similar places actually exist in real life.
‘Kraken’ has a wonderfully lyrical quality to it. Poetic is the best word I think. And, “A Pool In the Desert” made me desperately want to read ‘The Blue Sword’ again… ^-^
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars (A great journey!)
The Clockwork Dagger
Author: Beth Cato
Published/By: 2014 / Harper Voyager
Thoughts: It has actually been a while since I read this book. I got it the year it came out, and almost a year before I acquired my reading journal. Nevertheless, I wanted to write a review for it. Partly because I enjoyed it so much, and also because I noticed that I’ve been writing reviews for a lot of sequels, without doing the first book.
Beth Cato was a new author for me, an unusual choice; but the synopsis of the book really caught me. Plus, I’d never really read a streampunk novel before. So I thought, why not? It turned out to be one of two great new-author picks that year. ^-^
Our story follows heroine Octavia Leander (such an awesome name!) as she sets out on her own for the first time. She is a healer, heading out to a frontier sort of town via airship. However, the trip does not go smoothly. Strange occurances soon entangle Ocvtavia with political intrigue and harrowing exploits… not to mention adorable gremlins and a handsome steward.
One of the best things about this book is the world-building. This is steampunk that has busted out of England and has its own unique setting, religions, and even a magic system. It is a fascinating world, and Cato’s descriptions do a great job of bringing it to life. There is also world-tree mythology; which is one of my favorites. I feel you don’t see it too often outside of games though.
Another great part is Octavia. She’s a complex character who is both confident in herself and her abilities, and at times completely at odds with herself and the training drilled into her. She faces each challenge with intelligence, and maybe more heart than is really good for her. She holds her own when pressed; but her strength really comes from within, from her convictions and beliefs… even when everything she believes is challenged. I really enjoyed following her adventures.
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars (An wonderful steampunk adventure ^-^)
The Clockwork Crown
Author: Beth Cato
Published/By: 2015 / Harper Voyager
Thoughts: I had been so looking forward to reading this book, ever since I saw it on the ‘New Fantasy/Sci Fi’ shelf at Barnes & Noble. And, when I finally got my hands on it (bless you, Seattle Public Library!), I was not disappointed. It was so engrossing that I read the whole thing in one day, practically in one sitting.
The story is, naturally, the continuing adventures of the characters from ‘The Clockwork Dagger’. Beth Cato slips easily back into the characters of Octavia and Alonzo, with delightful dialog and excellent plotting. We also go even deeper into the world built up in the previous book.
Octavia’s journey towards safety and answers follows a very logical course, which I appreciated. Various foreshadowings and twists are sprinkled expertly about, adding to the smoothness of the pace and growing tension. In fact, I would say that the tension in this book is particularly well handled. It never feels forced, and it builds this wonderful (awful) sense of inevitability and dread right up to the climactic end. Certainly kept me turning pages like mad! ^-^
I definitely saw echoes of ‘Elfstones of Shannara’ here; but done in its own way, and with its own unique conclusions. I love that. It all seemed to wrap up pretty neatly, still I hope that Beth Cato writes another story in this series/world… sometime soon!
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars (so much excellence! ^-^)