Review League of Dragons by Naomi Novik

#9 in the Termeraire Series

Naomi Novik skillfully writes the tension of opposing forces. Termeraire #9 by Naomi Novik Whether dragon cooperating with humans or allegiances between world nations, she hits her target. League of Dragons explores the internal political struggles between rulers and military forces as allies fight for rule of the world.  When Napoleon promises dragons worldwide new rights previously deprived of them, the balance of power may be at en end. The allegiance of dragons with humans is key to political tranquility.

Novik creates an alternate history of Europe where dragons are common and Napoleon’s forces attempt to take over the world. As #9 in the series, this story begins with Laurence and his dragon companion, Termeraire, trying to locate Napoleon. Although they have successfully rid him of Russia they believe he’ll soon return.

Novik incorporates wonderful historical details that add authenticity to her world view. Her depiction of Russia’s climate captures the frigid chills of their northern land.

This novel rounds off the Termeraire series at nine. I have not read the previous, however I believe all novels should stand on their own, regardless of their part in a series.

Although character’s were well defined in this novel, they didn’t go through much transformation. Their reactions appeared immediate rather then transformative This may be attributed to it being the end of a long series in which Termeraire played a central role. My expectation, however, follows the assumption that going through an adventure with a character implies that I will learn while the character learns. This story did not provide that feeling.

Since the character’s arch was not emphasized, our understanding of war strategies becomes enhanced. Novik takes this to the ultimate conclusion with her ending in this novel.

Naomi Novik’s Gamer Perspective Comes through in her Termeraire Series

The focus on military strategies and alliances is only one aspect of how Novik integrates her gaming background into her storytelling. She professes a love for computer technologies and helped build the Archive of Our Own for fan-fiction.

Chapter 1 Analysis

Novik appears to have fun playing with language. Similes are sprinkled throughout the story and she uses lots of alliteration (words that begin with the same sound) throughout the first chapter. It quickens the pace of sentences and creates a fun read. One line in the first paragraph uses alliteration in three places to punch it up. “Laurence saw its small hard shining eyes peering patiently out from beneath the brambles.” What a fun line to read.

Novik likes color and she ensures we see what we imagine in color. This provides detail, but it also correlates to emotions we associate with those colors. We often associate red with blood and military uniforms, while gold imparts images of wealth and regal illusions.

I’ve learned a great deal from Novik’s first chapter, although her style is not my favorite. Using Nancy Pearl’s Four Doors to Book Reading, I believe League of Dragons’ primary focus is world building or setting, then plot, specifically military conflict. My favorite books develop character at the forefront, however, that is a matter of taste. For those who enjoy setting oriented novels with a penchant for military conflict, the Termeraire series should captivate you.

Power Words Power the Chapter

Naomi Novik’s extensive use of power words rings true in her tale of war, where militaries clash, Napoleon is king and dragons rule the sky. One can read only the power words to obtain a clear picture of events. In the leading paragraph: dead – scavengers – raucous – dragon’s – shadow – sunken – hollow – muzzle red, create a picture that draws us in. The second paragraph includes: dead – proud – red – gold – dragon – hunger – frozen – snow – corps – peasants – epaulets, all reinforce the action. The third paragraph goes on with: descending – corps – Napolean’s army – racing – escape – Napolean – dragon – reinforcements – safely – devouring – war – no end – slaughter. Wow.

Margie Lawson teaches a wonderful course on using power words and rhetorical devices in language. You are sure to learn a lot from her.

Review League of Dragons by Naomi NovikLeague of Dragons (Temeraire, #9) by Naomi Novik
Series: Termeraire #9
Published by Del Rey on June 14th 2016
Genres: Alternate History, Fantasy
Pages: 380
Goodreads

The final adventure in the New York Times bestselling Temeraire series that started with the beloved His Majesty’s Dragon which has won fans of Napoleonic-era military history, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, and Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring adventures.

The deadly campaign in Russia has cost both Napoleon and those allied against him. Napoleon has been denied his victory…but at a terrible price. Lawrence and the dragon Temeraire pursue the fleeing French army back west, but are demoralized when Napoleon makes it back to Paris unscathed. Worse, they soon learn that the French have stolen Termeraire and Iskierka’s egg. Now, it is do or die, as our heroes not only need to save Temeraire’s offspring but also to stop Napoleon for good!

Book Review, The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson

Jaleigh Johnson  gives us an adventurous heroine and a by Jaleigh Johnsonprince who befriends her in this steampunk adventure. Lina, an archivist’s apprentice has a penchant for getting into trouble. Small, agile and inquisitive she wanders the archivist’s underground city where she stumbles upon lost treasures, information and a prince-in-hiding.

Johnson provides a wonderful setting amidst a culture of archivists who study artifacts of unknown origin and puts them in museums. I particularly like the prince’s tour of the archivist’s museum. A magical cat who causes a conveniently-timed fire and a sentient ship named Merlin also provide intriguing twists.

The plot, although thinly veiled beneath Lina’s antics, revolves around a prince deprived of his rightful place in the palace. Simon, a a fellow apprentice, provides Lina clues to the prince’s predicament. Simon’s grudge against her gives him plenty of motive, while his role as lead apprentice gives him the opportunity to spy–or worse. Who is behind the attempted assassinations of the prince remains a mystery until the end.

Jaleigh Johnson writes for Young Teens

Straight-forward language, appropriate for young teens walks readers through each step of action. Johnson covers some details in action sequences too much for my taste. The descriptions can drag scenes, but for those who need or like them they are there.

Point-of-view (POV) plays back and forth between Lina and the prince’s perspectives, sometimes with no chapter delineation. Johnson foregoes the customary chapter change for POV when action within a scene dictates. Sometimes the very next paragraph is from a different point of view. The first time stopped me reader, but I didn’t lose track of the characters and was good-to-go onward.

The power of love appears a prime motivator for Johnson’s characters, including Merlin, the  sentient ship, who remained parted from those of his kind for centuries within the archivists’ mountain.

Book Review, The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh JohnsonThe Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson
Series: World of Solace
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on March 8th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Goodreads

From Jaleigh Johnson, the acclaimed author of The Mark of the Dragonfly, comes another thrilling adventure in the magical world of Solace.    Lina Winterbock lives in the mountain strongholds of Solace. She’s an apprentice to the archivists, the wise men and women whose lives are dedicated to cataloging, studying, and preserving the objects that mysteriously fall from the sky in the scrap towns.    Lina should be spending her days with books, but the Iron War has changed everything. The strongholds are now a refuge, and the people Lina once counted on no longer have time for her, so she spends her days exploring the hidden tunnels and passages of her home. The strongholds are vast and old, with twisting paths, forgotten rooms, and collapsed chambers, some of them containing objects that have been lost and forgotten even by the archivists.    And in one of the forgotten chambers, Lina discovers a secret.    Hidden deep in a cavern is a half-buried airship like nothing she has ever seen before. She’s determined to dig it out and restore it. But Lina needs help, and she doesn’t know anyone she can trust with her secret.    Then she meets Ozben, a mysterious boy who has a secret of his own—a secret that’s so dangerous it could change the course of the Iron War and the world of Solace forever.  

Book Review, The Wish Granter by C. J. Redwine

by C. J. RedwineC. J. Redwine writes with all the ingredients of her craft. She assembles protagonist, antagonist, helpers and obstacles with characters who grow within the telling.

The princess is a fun, food centric, tomboy, who’d rather not have become a princess. When her brother signs a contract with the Wish Granter, his life and kingdom are threatened. Princess Ari decides to save all, but it isn’t easy against one of the most powerful fairies alive.

I loved the food centric bits of the story. They make Ari personable, someone I’d like to know. It’s also refreshing to have an over-weight heroine, that’s compelling in all aspects of her personality.

Can use of POV thwart interest?

Redwine use of point-of-view (POV) interested me.  Writing in first person point-of-view (POV) from multiple characters proves effective in many novel. In The Wish Granter I questioned one perspective.

The story starts with Princess Ari’s POV, who introduces setting, challenges and primary characters. Toward the middle, the young weapon’s maker, Sebastian, becomes vital and his POV becomes more relevant. He introduces the reader to aspects of the world Princess Ari is not privy.

Andrews also choses to include the antagonists POV. Coincidentally, shortly after those sections, my interest in the story floundered. I didn’t care as much about Ari and Sebastion. Fortunately, I returned reading, but I wonder whether adding the protagonist’s POV, in this case, interfered with my commitment to Ari and Sebastian, hence my commitment to the novel at that point.

I particularly liked how Redwine inferred the next chapter’s POV in the wind-up of previous chapters. Although the references are often oblique, for me, they effectively set my subconscious up for the change in POV. As a writer this is worth noting.

C. J. Redwine’s attention to the craft

Redwine has a fondness for double alliterations. Rhetorical devices of this nature lighten the read and help drive descriptions forward. She uses anaphora (repeating words at the beginning of sentences), epistrophe (repeating words at the end of sentences), anadiplosis (repeating words at the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next), and the use of structural parallelism (to enhance the cadence of paragraphs) all freely.

A twist in the plot around page fifty, ramps up the tension. Andrew’s attention to full character development, in all aspects of their lives, brings new interest to this old fairy tale.

For a short version of Rumpelstiltskins click here. For other wonderful fairy tale retellings, check out Elle Enchanted or The Goose Girl.

Book Review, The Wish Granter by C. J. RedwineThe Wish Granter (Ravenspire, #2) by C.J. Redwine
Series: , ,
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 14th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Goodreads

An epic, romantic, and action-packed fantasy inspired by the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, about a bastard princess who must take on an evil fae to save her brother’s soul, from C. J. Redwine, the New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow Queen. Perfect for fans of Graceling and the Lunar Chronicles.

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.

Book Review, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An ancient style Romesets the background for Sabaa Tahir’s world, where an austere life and a harsh regime take their tole. The king orders death as retribution for any sign of rebellion.

From the ashes of this by Sabaa Tahircivilization a girl, desperate to protect her brother, risks everything. By spying on a military commandant, she hopes to gain the information needed to save his life. 

Sabaa Tahir writes An Ember in the Ashes from two protagonist’s point-of-view. Laia lives an impoverished life, while Elias claims the position as the leading student warrior.

Through Elias’s intellect and ability, he rises through theranks of his school, consequently becoming a threat to Laia and the rebells. Although Elias shines as a leader and becomes the apparent ruler for the next dynasty, he doubts his desire to serve the brutal regime.

Romance plays a secondary role to the plot, but romantic tensions entangle Laia and Elias. As with many romances, when they become reluctant alleys, they can’t deny their attraction.

Sabaa Tahir engaged me from the start

Tahir clearly lays out the dynamics of her plot and characters early. In the first scenes we meet Laia’s family including worries, worships and warts. The empire enforces its rules harshly, intimidating its citizens with their all-mighty military. They quickly retaliate in response to the actions of Laia’s brother, which puts Laia between them. Laia’s struggles demand our empathy, and the focus of family creates a tension we all relate to.

This story of friendship has it all including: loyalty, wickedness, romance, jealousy, revenge, betrayal, fear, family, cruelty and hope. Enjoy the ride.

For more information on Tahir check out the interview on Bookstacked and NPR.

Book Review, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1) by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Razorbill on February 9th 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 446
Goodreads

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.   Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.   It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.   But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.   There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

From the Hardcover edition.

Book Review, Remember Yesterday by Pintip Dunn (Forget Tomorrow #2)

Book #2 of the Forget Tomorrow Series,

Pintip Dunn fills every chapter of Remember Yesterday with driving action.  by Pintup DunnWe quickly learn our heroine’s sister, Callie, committed suicide to stop future memory research. The nation’s leader pushes on, however, with her vision to mold a society with precognition. A society that already knows its future because future selves send information backward in time. The chairwoman’s plans include winnowing out anyone who doesn’t have precognition. The young Jessa commits herself to fulfilling her sister’s wish to stop the project.

Jessa makes an intriguing heroine. She’s dynamic, conflicted and opinionated. Since she and her twin possessed the power of precognition, she believes she has a chance of stopping the research.

The tension of romance muddles Jessa’s perspective, however, when she collaborates with the young scientist, Tanner, to save her sister. Jessa is both aroused and ethically repelled by what Tanner represents to her. But the twist at the end puts their relationship in new light.

Pintip Dunn’s story comes full circle by the conclusion. Fresh imagery make this a fun read. This is the second book of the series, and Dunn leaves plenty of room to continue to story.

Pintip Dunn Wins the  RITA

Although Goodreads readers didn’t classify Dunn’s book in the Romance genre, Dunn won the RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America for Forget Tomorrow in 2016. Dunn placed in many other award lists as well, which recognizes her fresh writing style, intriguing heroines and driving plots.

For a list of 25 great paranormal romances, check out the  Best Fantasy Books website.

Book Review, Remember Yesterday by Pintip Dunn (Forget Tomorrow #2)Remember Yesterday (Forget Tomorrow, #2) by Pintip Dunn
Published by Entangled: Teen on October 4th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Goodreads

Follow-up to the New York Times bestselling novel, Forget Tomorrow!
Would you change the past to protect your future?
Sixteen-year-old Jessa Stone is the most valuable citizen in Eden City. Her psychic abilities could lead to significant scientific discoveries, if only she’d let TechRA study her. But ten years ago, the scientists kidnapped and experimented on her, leading to severe ramifications for her sister, Callie. She’d much rather break into their labs and sabotage their research—starting with Tanner Callahan, budding scientist and the boy she loathes most at school.
The past isn’t what she assumed, though—and neither is Tanner. He’s not the arrogant jerk she thought he was. And his research opens the door to the possibility that Jessa can rectify a fatal mistake made a decade earlier. She’ll do anything to change the past and save her sister—even if it means teaming up with the enemy she swore to defeat.

Book Review, Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones

A Charley Davidson Book

Darynda Jones writes cross-genre novels that highlight romance, by Darynda Jonesmystery and the occult. Her writing style captures her protagonist’s sharp, irreverent personality and keeps you in Charley’s mind set. Jones breaks the traditional literary approach, but she punches her story up with fun similes, creative descriptions and unexpected subplots that take the reader on tangents into the world of angels, Lucifer’s children and the afterlife.

The protagonist, Charley, sees ghosts. She inherited the role of ‘grim reaper’ which gives her the power to help souls transition, but additional powers, hinted-at, lurk beneath the surface. With a compassionate perspective and defiant approach, Charley blunders forward resolving crisis for the living and dead alike.

To spice the story up romantically, the devil’s son, Reyes, entangles Charley in his sexy-hot tentacles which creates tension, titillation and intrigue.

For me, a muddled middle of subplots left me wondering. By the end I was left wondering. Many of the subplots don’t resolve cleanly and the ending opened as many doors as it closed. Regardless, plenty more books in the series carry Charley’s tale forward.

Darynda Jones Writes with Wit

Darynda Jones’ fresh writing (as writing coach, Margie Lawson, would say) entertains and keeps the reader captivated. Her characters verge on the hilarious; such as a corpse with a hard-on who rides shot-gun in her car.

A review on the first three Charley Davidson novels at FictionVixen provides the foundation for the series, although it contains spoilers.

Book Review, Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda JonesSixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6) by Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #6
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 20th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 326
Goodreads

Few things in life can come between a grim reaper and her coffee, but the sexy, sultry son of Satan is one of them. Now that Reyes Farrow has asked for her hand, Charley Davidson feels it's time to learn more about his past, but Reyes is reluctant to open up. When the official FBI file of his childhood abduction lands in her lap, Charley decides to go behind her mysterious beau’s back and conduct her own investigation. Because what could go wrong?
Unfortunately, another case has fallen into her lap—one with dangerous implications. Some very insistent men want Charley to hunt down a witness who is scheduled to testify against their boss, a major player in the local crime syndicate. If Charley doesn't come up with an address in 48 hours, the people closest to her will start to disappear.
Add to that a desperate man in search of the soul he lost in a card game, a dogged mother determined to find the ghost of her son, and a beautiful, young Deaf boy haunted by his new ability to see the departed as clearly as he sees the living, and Charley has her hands full. The fact that Reyes has caught on to her latest venture only adds fuel to the inferno that he is. Good thing for Charley she's used to multi-tasking and always up for a challenge…especially when that challenge comes in the form of Reyes Farrow.

Book Review, The Immortal Throne by Stella Gemmell

Book #2 of The City series,

The Immortal Throne by Stella Gemmell portrays a saga of war. As in war, a plethora of characters with conflicting perspectives vie for by Stella Gemmellattention. Gemmell moves in and out of point-of-view in order to connect the reader with the complexities of her characters. The emotional connection with them, however, was not strong for me. I would like more reason to care, besides the complexities of war.

That said, Gemmell’s settings and plot development reflect her strengths as a writer, which are lofty accomplishments. The settings in The Immortal Throne cover a kingdom/city and its environs, but it’s difficult at times to envision the immensity of it through all the details. Regardless, it’s clear the author envisions the settings completely. Her descriptions leave little doubt. If you’ve read my reviews, you know I’m not a fan of books based on setting, but I often read them, because buried within the plethora of descriptions are interesting characters, concepts and plots.

Gemmell Works her Plots

Gemmell doesn’t let you down with plot. She works it like an intricate pattern of lace. Characters find themselves facing a broad array of challenges. Moles, traitors, double spies. Even the innocent  play their part. Greed, loyalty, mythic faith and love bind and drive characters to the end, when Gemmell reveals all. It’s then readers realize the most hidden motives behind the ‘Immortals’.

The final chapter brings the Immortal’s history to light, however, justifications for their actions felt trite and the explanations weren’t required. They added little to the overall story. The message that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely‘ came to life through the Immortal’s actions in the saga. No further explanation was needed.

As a reader, my interest lay in Rubin. The youth opens the story and plays a pivotal role throughout. He ultimately stands as a sort of sentinel at the end.

As with war, most characters came through as pawns of the plot, not drivers of it, but by the end, Gemmell ties up each character’s life. Readers are not left wondering about anyone.

Perhaps a Sequel from Stella Gemmell

The Immortal Throne could have been broken into two books. At 547 pages it is a tome, but new characters and aspects of the city’s complex history and war are introduced so frequently readers remain engaged. The Immortal Throne is the second of a series that could go on indefinitely. For a review of The City check out the foundingfields.com.

Book Review, The Immortal Throne by Stella GemmellThe Immortal Throne (The City, #2) by Stella Gemmell
Series: The City #2
Published by Bantam Press on March 24th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 576
Goodreads

The emperor is dead…long live the emperor! The fervent hope of the victorious rebels and the survivors of the uprising that liberated the City from tyranny is that the accession of Archange to the imperial throne will usher in a new era of freedom, peace and stability. If only that were so... As the the City struggles to return to something resembling normal life after the devastation brought on by the rebellion, word arises of a massive army gathering to the north. No one knows where it has come from or who leads it, but it soon becomes apparent that its sole purpose is to destroy the City and annihilate all - man, woman and child - who live within its battered walls. And while warriors go forth to fight and die on the battlefield in defence of their homeland and all that they believe in, bitter family feuds and ancient rivalries, political and personal betrayals, and mindless murder surface within the palaces and corridors of power: it seems the City is under siege - from both without and within . . . With this new novel, Stella Gemmell brings the astonishing story of the City to a spectacular climax and confirms her place as a master of the genre.