Book Review: The Phoenix Unchained

 

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Hello and welcome to my latest book review. It’s been a busy month between family, work, and NaNo; that doesn’t mean I can’t offer another informative review from yours truly.

A writer friend recommended this series to me, and I decided it give it a go. Needless to say, I enjoyed the read and plan to read the following books at some point.

—The Phoenix Unchained—

Premise

The Phoenix Unchained is an immersive story with a rich amount of lore and enjoyable cast of characters. Book one includes staple mythology like dragons, goblins, mages, and unicorns. What I found most interesting was the magic system and how it weaves into the character arcs—but more on that below.

Length

The book is around 380 pages. Chapters can be long, but are broken down with several scene breaks that alternate between character perspectives. Personally, I enjoyed the many scene breaks, as it makes it convenient for taking breaks or stopping for the day.

Characters

The other week, I submitted a short story for an online Publishing company called Havok. The submission had what was called Dynamic Duos, or two characters that interact with each other (e.g. Frodo and Sam).

The two protagonists in the Phoenix Unchained strongly share this trait. One is soft-spoken and thin, the other is hot-tempered and burly. I enjoyed the character interactions and especially the dialog; it left me amused and satisfied, as any good cast should.

Magic System

The magic in the Phoenix Unchained initially comes off as generic and uninteresting. However, I was amazed at how the authors cleverly wove it into the character development for one of the protagonists. It even plays a part in the antagonist’s arc. The lore behind the magic system is deep and left me interested.

Conflict

The tension is a rollercoaster of stressful encounters to peaceful resolutions, as I expected in any fantasy thriller. What caught me by surprise was the death of a main character halfway through the book.

The monsters and demons are portrayed excellently, some at a Stephen King-grade level that left me shaken and worried for the protagonists.

—Overall Summary—

The Good

The Phoenix Unchained is a great read for fantasy buffs with its rich amount of lore, tension, amusing characters, and clever magic system.

The Bad

Despite its enjoyable dialog and immersive environment, several prose errors caught me off balance. At other times, I felt like I was reading a manuscript that wasn’t well edited. It wasn’t so much as finding a typo as it was the excessive amount of adverbs used. The POV also wasn’t as detailed as it could as been, leaving some distance between reader and character.

That said, the prose concision was poor, lacking a fine polish that you may find in another fantasy novel.

The Ugly

There is a lot of travel involved in the plot. The authors failed to include a map that would have been helpful as I read through the story. There was also no chapter index—but that’s a minor nitpick.

—My Rating for The Phoenix Unchained: 4/5 stars—

This is a solid book for anyone interested in fantasy. As long as you don’t mind lacking a world map and the plethora of adverbs—and prose concision for that matter—, then you should enjoy the story. The characters will entertain you and some scenes will leave you at the edge of your seat.

I may do another review when I get through the second book.


Thanks again for reading. Remember to hit that “follow” button below. I really appreciate the likes and comments you leave below. Cheers.

 

 

Book Review: Bridge of Birds

 

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Welcome, my readers, to another book review. This time I went for a more exotic pick, delving into Asian mythos. I figured this would help me write Tempest of the Dragon since both stories are based in East Asia.

—Bridge of Birds—

Premise

The story of Bridge of Birds is set in ancient China. The themes presented in the book include adventure, humor, and fantasy. Many of the Chinese mythoi are fascinating, and the author did a superb job weaving them into the plot.

The main character, Number Ten Ox, leaves his village to discover a cure for a disease afflicting his village. During his journey, he encounters a host of bizarre and unusual enemies throughout ancient China. Surviving assassins, ghosts, sultry concubines, and immortal dukes, Ox and his partner unearth the legacy of a fallen goddess and how to save her from damnation.

Length

The book is around 280 pages and chapters are straightforward and short; although I would have appreciated a table of contents to guide me through it. Oh well.

Characters

The characters in the story are amusing and oftentimes comical. Number Ten Ox is a youth built for strength and not so much for wits.

His adventuring partner, Master Li, is the opposite: an experienced old man with a “slight flaw in his character”. He comes off as a wizened individual who is both wise yet daring.

The side characters make brief appearances throughout the story, adding amusement in creative ways. There are a few gruesome scenes and deaths among the characters, but the overall story remains jovial.

Magic System

Bridge of Birds makes full use of Chinese mythology with its inclusion of ghosts, alchemy, ancient medicine, and other Taoist concepts like immortality. The magic system may appeal more to historical fiction buffs than fantasy fans.

Romance

The romance in the story is undeveloped and shallow, as the protagonist often jumps from one partner to the next. However, the author often incorporates elements of comedy into these engagements and I never took each romance scene too seriously.

Conflict

The tension in the story is present but lacking, offset by myraid comedy relief that lightens the story. At first, many of the obstacles faced by the protagonist seem dire, but a creative or amusing solution always result a page or two later.

—Overall Summary—

The Good

Bridge of Birds has excellent comedy relief with a sense of whimsical adventure that grabs the reader. Its good balance of themes makes each chapter a fulfilling read. The characters are engaging and fit their roles well.

The Bad

The prose construction was sloppy in several areas, leading to verbose paragraphs and a dearth of descriptions in others. The protagonist’s emotions were not well internalized, as the story was told from a third-person distant narrative.

The Ugly

A few scenes had graphic detail, which was surprising for a book that wavers between jovial themes and gruesome concepts so readily.

—My rating for Bridge of Birds: 4/5 stars: a decent read—

Bridge of Birds is a pleasant book, with its lighthearted spin on a fantasy adventure. It is very entertaining with its cast of characters, themes, decent pacing, and East Asian mythology.

Parts of the story were weak from a dearth of descriptions, emotions, or character development, but the ending was very satisfying and worthwhile.

A reader looking for an amusing fantasy novel that isn’t too serious should enjoy this story.

 


Thank you again for reading and remember to hit that “follow” button below. Enjoy the fall weather! 🙂

 

 

I’m not dead!

 

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Hey there, my loyal readers. No, I haven’t been hit by a bus or anything. I’ve been quite busy with work and other things at home. I also took some time to rest and heal myself—something I’ve neglected for far too long. When things settle down, I plan to get back to my blogging routine.


If you missed it, I did some poetry from my WIP, Dragonsblade. It’s called The Ballad of Atläs. The poetry details some of the events within the world of Atlas, namely with the protagonist.


Are you interested in alternative health and conspiracy theory? If so, I did a fantastic review of Edgar Cayce’s work. The book was a blast to read through with all the outlandish ideas it presented. I also did a review of the Law of One series.


How does a writer make his or her work more concise? In an article by a fellow blogger, I shared some of the most devilish words you should avoid. I followed guides like this and I shrunk my WIP from 140,000 words to 130,000 words if you would believe!


A while ago, I did a tutorial on basic map making for fantasy scenarios. The process requires only freeware digital art programs (and a little elbow grease).

For those who don’t want to mess with digital art programs, you can use an online website like Inkarnate. This website allows you to design fantasy maps free; for premium, you have access to additional features.


That’s all for now, my lovely readers. I have some amazing ideas to share with you when my writing juices start flowing again—sooner rather than later. Stay awesome. 🙂

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Fantasy Book review, Mistborn #1: The Final Empire

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Hello to my readers. Cheers to another book review. I read a fascinating series weeks ago and thought I’d share my thoughts on it. I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum.

With that said, let’s delve into Brandon Sanderson’s world of intrigue, magic, and adventure.

Mistborn, the Series

Premise

Mistborn is an epic fantasy series that spans multiple books. The story also incorporates some dark fantasy elements. Each book is long—and well worth it. Expect to invest time in each installation if you so desire.

If I could describe Mistborn in three words, it would be—gloomy, epic, and intricate. There is a strong sense of adventure too, though most of the plot takes place within a capital city. This didn’t stop Sanderson from developing detailed worldbuilding.

Characters

The main character, Vin, struggles to understand herself in a turbulent world of war, oppression, and darkness. She meets many characters in her journey, most that popped out of the page for me, the reader.

Sanderson did an excellent job with the characters. The cast came off as likable and amusing. There were a few scenes where I laughed and had to reread for the fun of it. Sanderson knows when to cut the tension with old-fashioned comedy relief—an essential element in manuscripts, by the way.

The villains were sadistic enough—and arcane enough—to warrant interest. The antagonist in book 1 is practical a god who survives decapitation, experiences immortality, and can manipulate thousands of people at will. Talk about a challenge for the protagonist!

Magic System

The magic in Mistborn is intriguing—an alchemical system where a person burns metals within the body. Each metal provides a specific power when burned. The effect is usually temporary and limited by the metal resources at hand.

Superhuman feats are common in Mistborn, so, expect some Avengers-grade thrills. The action blew me away and kept me reading. It is refreshing to see supernatural action mixed it for once rather than the usual sword or gun fighting.

My one complaint is that the action is a little confusing with all the unique terms. Brandon Sanderson could have improved on the readability during these scenes. I sometimes skimmed over the fight scenes because they weren’t easy to follow.

Romance

The romantic interest for the main OC, Vin, starts late in the book and builds up gradually. It may not read like the best romance novel—and came off a little flat to me—but it fits in well enough with the plot and characters.

Romance does play a stronger role in the second book, Well of Ascension; admittingly, Sanderson did a better job of it in the second installation.

Conflict

Mistborn is rife with conflict—another good detail of the book. I couldn’t go ten pages without feeling sympathy, pain, or anticipation. Sanderson knows how to keep the pages turning—never a dull moment.

I sometimes compared the feeling to Dragonlance—another favored series of mine.

Overall Summary

The Good

The characters, magic system, conflict, and atmosphere of the book are my favorite elements of Mistborn. It set the proper tone for a dark fantasy epic novel. I imagine I’ll be rereading it again in the future.

The Bad

The action/combat scenes were confusing, and the romance was not deep enough. I feel Sanderson could have developed these scenes more. Regardless, they weren’t terrible and never impeded the book’s flow beyond a few pages.

The Ugly

There were a few graphic scenes in Mistborn, some which made me pause (not in the wrong way, mind you). I’m all for gore and blood if it helps add dimension and immersion to a book. That said, this book isn’t nearly as extreme about it as Song of Fire and Ice (another excellent book, by the way).

Still, Mistborn isn’t for the light of heart. After all, it is a dark fantasy novel to some degree—and I still enjoyed it.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars—outstanding

Thank you all for reading. This review post was a first for me. If you have any feedback, comments, or suggestions, let me know in the reply boxes below. Love and gratitude to my readers. 🙂


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Book Review: The Faded Sun Trilogy

 

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Hello again, my lovely readers. Spring is in full swing, and I have another book review to share. A writing colleague recommended the series The Faded Sun by C. J. Cherryh. It’s a science fantasy three-book series. I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum for any interested readers. 🙂

The Faded Sun Trilogy

Premise

The Faded Sun series is a sci-fi story with subtle elements of fantasy in the background. Each book is average length—around 250 pages.

If I could explain The Faded Sun in a few words, it would be—sci-fi, desert, and culture. The premise reminded me of Dune by Frank Herbert, with the desert setting, science fiction elements, and how one of the characters becomes indoctrinated into a desert tribe.

While the idea beyond the book didn’t feel completely original, Cherryh put her unique spin on it with the sheer depth and description of alien races and their ethics.

Characters

There are two main characters: Niun, a young mri (one of the alien races in the desert worlds) and arrogant desert tribesman, who struggles to find his place among his people; and Duncan, another youthful human soldier, who becomes attached to the mri, eventually joining the desert tribes.

The dialog exchanges between the main characters felt dry at times and difficult to follow. There were a few excellently written spots, of course, which invested me, emotionally in Niun and Duncan.

One of the best facets of The Faded Sun is the relationship between Niun and Duncan, how it evolves over the course of three books. They begin as enemies in book one, distrustful of each other. By book three, they are bonded through kinship as brothers.

The villains were a lawful alien species called regul, who viewed the mri as a threat and wanted to wipe them out. That said, there was no fixed antagonist, rather, it was a faction of regul that changed from book to book. Because of this, I had trouble bonding (as a reader does to a villain) to the antagonist group.

Magic System

There wasn’t any magical system in The Faded Sun. I honestly felt a little disappointed, as this was listed as a science fantasy book. I suppose you have to expect that in a purer breed of sci-fi. I wrote a guest post on science fantasy and magical systems, if you’d like to check them out.

Romance

Again, being a strict sci-fi book, The Faded Sun did not include any romantic elements. Although there was a strong brother-to-brother relationship between Niun and Duncan, which I found to be adorable and well-written.

Conflict

This is where The Faded Sun shines. Chapters are filled with tension-inducing paragraphs, and Cherryh finds clever ways to challenge her characters; in particular, Duncan’s ordeals when he goes from human to mri are rife with conflict—and an interesting illustration of how adaptive and resilient humans can be.

Overall Summary

The Good

The relationship between the main characters, the conflict, and the sheer depth of alien culture presented in this book are the best aspects of The Faded Sun. This set the proper tone for a sci-fi trilogy—and it was, in some ways, philosophical.

The Bad

The dialog exchanges were usually dry, too long, or lacked sufficient emotion from the characters. Other segments of the trilogy felt like filler without much going on—parts that could have been removed or rewritten for better effect. The prose was okay, but I caught a handful of typos—and the pacing was mediocre. The antagonists also felt ambiguous and were hard to “love to hate”.

The Ugly

Parts of The Faded Sun read vaguely similar to Dune, and the side characters lacked sufficient background or emotion for the reader to sympathize. I would have also liked a more unique and fully explained technological system, rather than “generic” or “taken for granted” sci-fi technology.

My rating for the trilogy: 3/5 stars—average

The Faded Sun isn’t anything special, but if you’re a writer or sci-fi geek, you will enjoy the explanation behind the mri and regul culture. It personally gave me some ideas for my own alien races, and how to convey them to the reader. I would recommend this book for that facet alone; just don’t expect amazing dialog or characterization.

Thank you all for reading. Have you read The Faded Sun? I would love to hear your opinion on it in the comments below. Love and gratitude to my readers. 😀


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