Tag Archives: magic

Review of Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith

from Towers Trilogy

Radiant tells a coming-of-age story set in a dystopian world where magic is the Radiantcurrency of power. The heroine’s apparent power, seeing ghosts, gets her more trouble than any food or shelter she could trade for its use. She is shunned by most, even residents of the lower city. This makes her more than just a lonely orphan. She’s desperate. Her deep longing for companionship leads her to defending a ghost who’s powers have lasted beyond death. The ghost’s future may be as a zombie in another person’s body, if Xhea doesn’t help. A powerful high tower in the upper city wants the ghosts magic to run their complex. Xhea willing puts her life on the line for the ghost, Shai. As they work together Shai teaches Xhea how to unlock her power. Dark magic flows through Xhea. Not the type of magic the towers want for good, and not a power Xhea wants used for bad.

Chapter 1 Analysis of Radiant

For those interested in writing: A well turned phrase is a wonderful talent and Karina Sumner-Smith uses plenty of them. Although not flashy, they imbue the narration with her unique style.

Review of Radiant by Karina Sumner-SmithRadiant (Towers Trilogy, #1) by Karina Sumner-Smith
Series: Towers Trilogy #1
Published by Talos on September 30th 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400

Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.

When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.

With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.

Book Review, The Other Wind by Ursula LeGuin

An EarthSea Story,

The Other Wind (Earthsea Cycle, #6)

The Earthsea series by Ursula LeGuin enchants many readers with well reason. The addition of TheOtherWind follows suit. This story evolves around Alder, a young sorcerer who dreams of his dead wife. He becomes tempted to breach the wall entrapping her in the world of the dead, but fears the consequences. 

Alder’s dreams of his wife’s ghost persist. He wants to break down the wall between the dimensions, but tearing it down may cause a riff in Earthsea by freeing all dead souls, not only his wife. To find a solution Alder goes on a journey to see Ged, once Archmage of EarthSea. Then he travels to Havnor to find the king who  takes Alder to talk to a dragon in the form of a woman. Only she can mend the riff in the wall caused so many years ago, when dragons and humans parted ways. 


In many of LeGuin’s books, including the EarthSea series, she creates characters with humane issues, then she places them in a strange and wonderful fantasy world. She takes us on journeys where people are tempted, ache to do the right thing, but fear the consequences of their actions. Humane themes drive LeGuin’s stories. In TheOtherWorld she deals with issues of the death of those we love.

The Other Wind stands on its own as a story, although reading earlier books in the series definitely fill in references made in this book. A tale with dragons, wizards, kings and a journey woven within very humane challenges. What more could I ask in a fantasy story?

Ursula LeGuin’s written many short stories and five novels based around her fictional world of EarthSea. Wikipedia lists them all.

Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin Book Review

From Annals of the Western Shore,

Gifts by Ursula Le GuinGifts is all about power. Le Guin explores both mental and physical aspects of it. People born with power, the illusion of power and creating the illusion of power where none existed before. She probes how people use power, abuse it and are distracted by it. How people enslave others with it, fool themselves by it and accept or reject power whether in themselves or others.

Le Guin accentuates the effects of powers on society by creating a world where magical powers inherited through one’s blood lines range from killing people to turning rocks to dust.

The powers depicted in Gifts include: ‘wasting people’ so they die within the year; twisting limbs; blinding or making people deaf; taking people’s will; making people follow you or become subservient to you; rendering people brainless idiots and being able to talk to animals. Her main character, Orrec’s, power is ‘undoing’ things or dissolving them. It’s considered one of the most odious powers. Odious enough for Orrec’s father to persuade him to blind himself.

The powers Le Guin portrays in Gifts can apply to power in all societies. Power of influence over others, revenge, holding people in line, submission to power or fear of one’s own power.

Both Sides of the Coin

Relief comes from an outsider who questions everything Orrec believes about the powers that bind his world. The outsider explains incidents that occur as natural, but Orrec can’t see the truth. He remains blind, because he believes the lore he was raised within.

Orrec’s girlfriend, Gry, realizes that power works for good and evil. She refuses to use her gift for the family business of calling wild bore, bear and deer to the hunt. Instead she uses her power to talk to animals,to heal them and to train dogs and horses. She questions whether all powers have good and evil possibilities. She asks Orrec to consider the positive use of his power to ‘undo’ things and suggests the power’s original purpose may have been to heal rather than kill.

Le Guin foreshadows the end early in the story, but it comes with a certain satisfaction as the protagonist finally comes to terms with issues of power in his society, family and in himself.

Le Guin: Master Story Teller

I find myself returning to Ursula Le Guin’s books for a thought-provoking-science-fiction story that doesn’t rely on mega battles. She incorporates humane themes within unusual circumstances and environments. The combination equates to a good read.

For those interested in writing: Ursula Le Guin writes Gifts in 1st person POV. Notice how carefully she uses the pronoun ‘I’, so it isn’t overused.  A master storyteller with many awards, Le Guin balances backstory, action scenes and dialogue with the narrators thoughts, emotions  and telling of the story.

You may find more information about Ursula Le Guin at the Nebula Awards website.

Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin Book ReviewGifts (Annals of the Western Shore, #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin
Series: Annals of the Western Shore #1
Published by Harcourt on April 1st 2006
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 286

Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the clans of the Uplands possess gifts. Wondrous gifts: the ability--with a glance, a gesture, a word--to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land. Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness. The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two young people, friends since childhood, decide not to use their gifts. One, a girl, refuses to bring animals to their death in the hunt. The other, a boy, wears a blindfold lest his eyes and his anger kill.
In this beautifully crafted story, Ursula K. Le Guin writes of the proud cruelty of power, of how hard it is to grow up, and of how much harder still it is to find, in the world's darkness, gifts of light.
Includes a reader's guide and a sample chapter from the companion title Voices.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines, vampires versus magic

LibriomancerRedd Becker Book Review

From the start Libriomancer left little ambiguity about what would come. Hines set up sides, defined issues, laid out backstory and engaged in two battles within the first fifty-four pages of this science fiction adventure. From there the novel quickly introduced  a love interest and a mystery.

In the Libriomancer’s world a group of magicians, called Porters, constrain vampires. The Porters, run by Johannes Guttenberg, try to ensure human’s are safe from a vampire’s drive to drink blood. A war between vampires and Porters begins.  No one knows who started it or why, but Isaac is determined to find out. Obstacle upon obstacle thwart his efforts to stop the war, however, while Isaac is caught in the middle, he doesn’t possess any authority to take action.

Hines utilizes his knowledge of literature throughout Libriomancer. References to others’ novels  become incremental to the plot and enhance the read for science fiction buffs. Hines starts with his hero’s name, Isaac. He references numerous details in books that enable Isaac to perform magic, whether real or not. Isaac’s power relies on his ability to pull objects from books, but they have to fit through the pages. Objects range from weapons to potions; such as Alice’s shrinking elixir and a variety of ray guns. Smudge, a pet spider, acts as Isaac’s pet, but also his protector at key times.

The hero, Isaac, serves as narrator. At first the style reminded me of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe narrative, but it soon transformed to Isaac’s voice for me.

Social Commentary in Libriomancer

True to form for a science fiction novel, Libriomancer weaves philosophical ideas into the action. Abuse of power becomes a central theme that Hines attacks on several fronts, from vampire domination over humans to interpersonal relationships.

Hines uses a love interest, between Isaac and a wood nymph, to expound on personal relationships. The nymph offers herself to Isaac, but Isaac balks at the ethical dilemma of her submission. Wood nymphs naturally serve their master’s desires unquestioningly, which is an appealing situation for Isaac, but he fights his attraction to her, while he considers the implications of her voluntary slavery to him. The alternative perspective, however, is for Isaac to understand and respect his lover’s nature, whatever that may be. I felt the end Hines chose resolved the issue well.

Libriomancer: published by Daw

Daw Publishing remains committed to publishing science fiction adventures. True to their mission, Libriomancer doesn’t let readers down. Daw started in 1971 as the first publishing company who devoted itself exclusively to science fiction and fantasy. Science fiction fans are probably familiar with many of over 1000 titles Daw published over the past thirty years

For those interested in writing science fiction: Daw Publishing still accepts manuscript submissions directly from authors, so check out their submission guidelines.

A guest review by CarrieS on Smart Bitches Trashy Books blog covers Jim C. Hines and Libriomancer. For some of the fun pictures she references, demonstrating Hines’ sense of humor you can see some of his interpretation of female book covers.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines, vampires versus magicLibriomancer (Magic Ex Libris, #1) by Jim C. Hines
Series: Magic ex Libris #1
Published by DAW on August 7th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 308

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic. . . .

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Redd Becker Book Review

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1) byI thought The Young Elites was going to be a typical rags to riches adventure, with a prince challenged to take his rightful place on the throne. Although it is a story of both a prince and princess vying for power, I was pleasantly surprised.

The protagonist, Adelina, was not the good girl I expected and yet my empathy was with her all the way. The circumstances of her love interest was more convoluted and obscured then expected.

Lu writes in third person close. Most chapters are in the protagonist’s POV, which helps to build empathy toward her, however, the perspective changes in some chapter provided information and subplots from various angles.

Snippets of literature from their world start each chapter. These provide insights to their world’s culture and an idea of where the chapter is heading. I liked the snippets better than similar headings in some stories.

The Young Elites’ Plot

Children altered by a sickness leaves them with physical defects and sometimes special powers. The king of Kenettra persecutes those effected, the malfettos. His queen decides to take over the throne and kill them. Adelina’s brother, Enzo, the rightful heir to the throne has been exiled as a malfetto. He enlists other malfettos to form the Young Elites in order to overthrow the throne and take his place as the rightful heir.

Adelina’s powers are slow to show, but when she kills her cruel father she is enlisted by Enzo, who saves her from death and enlists her help. Complications arise when Adelina’s sister is taken by the Queens’s assistant as hostage.

For those who like to write: The Young Elites is a wonderful example of subplots, over subplots.

You may want to check out Marie Lu’s final book in this series, The Midnight Star. Or another review of the popular Young Elite’s series at ReadLove.

The Young Elites by Marie LuThe Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1) by Marie Lu
Series: The Young Elites #1
on October 7th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 355

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.
Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.
Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.
Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.
It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.


The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks; a saga where color is magic

Redd Becker Book Review

Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

Brent Weeks uses color as the source of magic in The Broken Eye. Humanoids with special powers to manipulate color, called Chromeria, dominate in their world. Chromeria can manipulate color to form things, change the weather and even render themselves invisible. Guilds formed by those who wield the power of their color work together or against other color guilds The most powerful Chromeria of them all utilizes the full spectrum of colors and is designated the Prism, an honorary figure in their society and highest ruler. Plots run through family conflicts, guilds, renegades to the rulers and court intrigues.

Weeks deftly captures reader’s empathy for his characters, than turns the character around to reveal their more wicked motives. Just as likely, Weeks justifies his villain’s motives. There are plenty of characters for readers to project themselves into, bond with, and analyze, as well as male and females characters who are fully empowered in their rolls.

Brent Weeks writes a saga

The Broken Eye is a long novel. If you are daunted at almost eight hundred pages, this plot-driven story makes it a worthwhile adventure. Chapters jump between characters and locations. At first it’s hard to keep the threads and characters straight, but Weeks never drops the intensity or conflict. Scenes are enticing. They each drive the overall storyline, as well as subplots, forward. There is lots of dialogue and action with just enough description to bring the world and backstory to life. 

It’s difficult to maintain momentum in a long book, especially in the mid sections, but, with the mix of characters, locations and complexity of plot, Weeks maintained my interest.

The book is completed with maps, character list and an extensive glossary.

My Rating five-stars

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks; a saga where color is magicThe Broken Eye (Lightbringer, #3) by Brent Weeks
Series: Lightbringer #3
Published by Orbit on August 26th 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 757

As the old gods awaken, the Chromeria is in a race to find its lost Prism, the only man who may be able to stop catastrophe, Gavin Guile. But Gavin's enslaved on a galley, and when he finally escapes, he finds himself in less than friendly hands. Without the ability to draft which has defined him . . .
Meanwhile, the Color Prince's army continues its inexorable advance, having swallowed two of the seven satrapies, they now invade the Blood Forest. Andross Guile, thinking his son Gavin lost, tasks his two grandsons with stopping the advance. Kip and his psychopathic half-brother Zymun will compete for the ultimate prize: who will become the next Prism.


The Rose Society by Marie Lu

Redd Becker Book Review

The Rose Society by Marie Lu

I enjoy how character weaknesses enhance intrigue in The Rose Society by Marie Lu. Lu builds a compelling world with intriguing characters to drive the story.  A complex interplay of relationships enhances the basic plot-line. Just enough backstory provides an understanding of character motives, but not so much to bog the action down.

In Lu’s world young adults affected by a sickness leave them with physical disfigurements and some with enhanced superpowers. They join into bands, calling themselves ‘elites’ and work to save those like themselves. Their powers are not always good. Some elites struggle with the dark sides of human emotions and attempt to control their powers, with varying degrees of success. Adelina, the white wolf, is one of those few. Her power to create illusions enables her to infiltrate the  palace and confront those more powerful, but she develops a taste for murder. Those who follow her are awed, fearful and glad to have such a powerful leader.

Marie Lu shifts POV with good effect

For those interested in writing: Chapter titles denote shifts between POV. Adelina’s 1st person perspective predominates, while several other 3rd person perspectives present alternative perspectives. The shifts are not as smooth as I like, but it’s certainly a legitimate style.

My Rating four-stars

The Rose Society by Marie LuThe Rose Society (The Young Elites, #2) by Marie Lu
Series: The Young Elites #2
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on October 13th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 395
Buy on Amazon

Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all.
Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she flees Kenettra with her sister to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her.
But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good when her very existence depends on darkness?
Bestselling author Marie Lu delivers another heart-pounding adventure in this exhilarating sequel to The Young Elites.