Random Musings by Frodosco

Posts tagged “Magic

Fade to Black by Francis Knight: Frodo’s Review

Fade to Black

Summary From GoodreadsFade to Black

From the depths of a valley rises the city of Mahala.

It’s a city built upwards, not across—where streets are built upon streets, buildings upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from the sunlit summit, and where the forsaken lurk in the darkness of Under.

Rojan Dizon doesn’t mind staying in the shadows, because he’s got things to hide. Things like being a pain-mage, with the forbidden power to draw magic from pain. But he can’t hide for ever.

Because when Rojan stumbles upon the secrets lurking in the depths of the Pit, the fate of Mahala will depend on him using his magic. And unlucky for Rojan—this is going to hurt.

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When I decided to buy Fade to Black it was for a few reasons; I really liked the cover, the idea of the city built upward to a greater extent then even what we have today outside of perhaps some Asian countries, but most of all I thought this would be a really interesting and fast-paced action story with some magical elements. I certainly got what I bargained for with the first two areas, the cover is still a really nice design and looks great on my shelf, and the descriptions of the city were excellent and gave me a vivid depiction in my head as I went through the adventure.

However, the aspect I had been looking forward to most, the action story with magical powers, was not quite what I had in mind. I knew with a title like Fade to Black that the odds were this story would have a darker edge to it, and I was actually quite pleased to find that was the case, but it was the action parts that were somewhat lacking.

The beginning of the story is very slow and Knight is incredibly methodical in how he sets up the later stages, and while he does a good job in foreshadowing, there is almost too much build up and not enough substance to keep me going save for my desire to see where this went based on my feelings prior to reading. The characters are somewhat interesting and the world itself is certainly intriguing and I wanted to know more, but I didn’t feel a tie to anything that was going on. Simply put, I had very little emotional investment for the first third of the book or so.

Let Me Love You

Rather than having the reader organically develop feelings and connections with the characters as they go along, it seemed like Knight felt or understood that there was little there to create any empathy, and so instead they threw a very disturbing and gut-wrenching scene in and figured that would do the trick. I can’t say that it did, all it achieved was ensuring what I already had assumed, this book is dark at its core.

While it may seem like I didn’t like Fade to Black, and for quite a while that was the case, toward the latter half of the book I did finally connect with some of the characters and when the action picked up I was swept up and brought along for the ride. The displays of magic near the end of the story were great and the tension was very real and impactful. The romantic aspects as well as the fear and hope concerning the people of the Pit were excellent and their agony became my own.

Life is Pain

“What about the main characters?” you might ask. Rojan is kind of a sleaze-ball, and only the horrible things he sees first hand were able to bring any kind of good character out of him, but he sticks to character and there is something to be said for that even if he isn’t someone you really root for or like. Jake is a traumatized woman who turned to weapons and the classic icy exterior in order to cope. She also has the stereotypical softer core, but I guess there are stereotypes for a reason because it works for the most part.

that's nice i guess

Pasha is the last “main” character, but I don’t want to say too much about him because it would give a lot away. Unfortunately, Pasha does bring the religious undercurrent that permeates the book, and not in the best of ways either. I couldn’t tell if Knight was on a particular side when it came to that, and maybe there wasn’t a specific religious message given, but the way it was done felt slimy and not at all satisfying (Lion King anyone?).

Eww, gross

Overall the book was alright, but nowhere near meeting my expectations for it. The beginning was too slow, the characters too often were stereotypes and cliches and little else, and by the time the action and magical elements picked up most readers will probably have checked out from boredom or the seedier bits that weren’t expressed in the summary. It isn’t one that I would recommend, but not a “don’t read” either. Thanks as always for reading.

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Penny for Your Debts by Zoe E. Whitten: Frodo’s Review

Penny for Your Debts

Summary From GoodreadsPenny for Your Thoughts

When eight-year-old Penny Sterling becomes the child bride of Nicholas Rumpelstilts, she expects the worst. Instead, she’s free to go to school, to have friends, even to see the mother who gave her to Nicholas before her birth–and her new husband never lays a hand on her. But however pleasant the cage, she’s still a prisoner.

As Penny grows, she learns why Nicholas may want her: she’s a witch. She must hide her abilities or risk the world’s fear and hatred. Penny always thought Nicholas was the monster, but when a real monster leaves her scarred emotionally and physically he is the one who offers safety and comfort in a world where she’s likely to find neither.

When Nicholas disappears in dangerous circumstances, Penny faces a hard choice: take her freedom, or search for a captor she’s come to love.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Penny for Your Debts was an interesting read for me. The book is designed to be thought provoking as it examines issues like Stockholm Syndrome and child brides. In this Penny for Your Debts is a complete success. Is it better for Penny to have a choice over her fate even if the possibilities each have major downsides? If she never found out about her true identity would she have been better off? How real are the effects of Stockholm Syndrome in this case, were Penny’s feelings her own and is Nicholas a monster or not? Penny for Your Debts forces you to answer all of these questions and more and I give major credit to Whitten for being able to pack all of those discussion points into one piece.

As for the story itself it was pretty good. The magical elements were well incorporated and the variety of supernatural creatures made for a rich and intriguing world that I would love to learn more about. There were cool power displays, daring rescues and awesome battles that kept the balance between action and thought provoking story even and the pacing smooth.

My only major complaint was with Penny’s character. It is important to remember that despite seeing her character grow and mature as the story goes on that she does start off as a child of eight. The issue I had was she simply did not think or speak like you would think someone at her age would. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t exceptions to any age group, and perhaps she is just exceptionally bright, but there were many, many parts in the story where the thoughts she had seemed far too advanced. Penny was reading people and understanding the meaning of their feelings and then trying to react in a way that would best appease them and while that may seem natural on the surface it was the level that she appeared to understand them that was just odd. I don’t know how else to explain it except to say that the thought processes she had at eight or nine were often just as advanced as those in her teenage years which doesn’t add up. She is either incredibly bright, insanely perceptive or just flawed in being realistic. I’m favoring the latter as the most likely.

Overall Penny for Your Debts was a pretty solid read. The issue with Penny’s character being believable at times was irritating but the other elements in the book (pun intended) allowed me to overlook those flaws most of the time. The magical and supernatural aspects really worked well and the transition Whitten made and the world she created were wonderful. I loved the ending, I wouldn’t mind a sequel one bit though that seems to be out of the question given this was written in 2011. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a thought provoking read set in a magical world. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #120/200; Mount TBR Challenge #68/150; 2013 TBR Pile #68/50

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Review: My Sister’s Reaper by Dorothy Dreyer

My Sister’s Reaper

Summary From Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Zadie’s first mistake was telling the boy she liked she could bring her dead sister back to life. Her second mistake was actually doing it.

When Zadie accidentally messes with the Reaper’s Rite that should have claimed her sister Mara, things go horribly wrong. Mara isn’t the same anymore—Zadie isn’t even sure she’s completely human, and to top it off, a Reaper is determined to collect Mara’s soul no matter what. Now Zadie must figure out how to defeat her sister’s Reaper, or let Mara die … this time for good.

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Another mixed bag type of book for me. I really thought the premise was interesting and that if done the right way it could make for a great book. I mean bringing your sister back to life, reapers chasing you and magical powers make for a pretty good combination on paper. The execution here though…well I’ll just get into it.

My major issue with My Sister’s Reaper, unfortunately, is the main character Zadie. You know that proverbial box of rocks so many people seem to be dumber than? Ya, you can add Zadie to that list. Funny thing is that multiple times in the book other characters comment on it, and if they are aware of her…lack of brilliance, you can sure bet the reader will be. Why the author felt the need to constantly poke fun at how dumb Zadie is, even if it is in jest, is beyond me, it demeans your own MC. However, it isn’t just that she isn’t overly intelligent, she also feels very flat. Oh sure, she’s got the stars in her eyes going on with the main love interest, but other than that? Nada. Her sister is essentially a walking zombie for the majority of the book (not in the literal sense, emotionally) and while she shows some initial concern eventually she just let’s her do her zombie-esque routine. Um, you are leaving her at the house alone? Especially with some of the things she’s been doing? Ya that’s smart, very loving, whatever. I don’t like her, nuff said.

The sister is in the previously mentioned zombie mode for most of the book so we don’t glimpse much of her personality. I’m guessing that we’d see more in a second book but we really get no feel for her character at all. The love interest is loyal enough in the end but he has borderline stalker tendencies and he’s not the most trusting, oh and he is prone to jealousy, bleh.

Insta-love. If you follow me at all you know my stance on this. I don’t like it, at all, I never want to see it. Also, weak attempt at love triangle you do not amuse me, go away as well.

While the lore of the magical world behind the scenes is done in a little too much of an info-dump style for my taste it was interesting. There were multiple types of magical creatures introduced, some combinations that either aren’t in many books or are completely Dreyer’s own and they incorporated elements into the mix which I’m all for doing. The displays of magic are pretty cool as well, if a bit repetitive. While this is likely the strongest part of the piece it seemed like it was more for setting up another book. The little experimental phases, the training (very repetitive), and a few other details made it clear that if Dreyer wants to she can extend the series no problem.

Final battle. Without giving spoilers I will say that this was well done if only quite obvious in its execution. The displays of magic here are, of course, the coolest as they have to be bigger and stronger than ever. As an ending it works and is the strongest section of writing in the piece.

Overall this book was just meh for me. I didn’t hate it and as I was reading the book I didn’t lose interest or anything. However, the characters and I never meshed, especially Zadie who I found plain annoying. The pacing was good but the love interest that fueled all to much of the plot wasn’t great and he was a bit creepy to be honest. Cool magic-fueled ending was the highlight both in the writing and plot but it couldn’t save the piece for me. Not one I’d recommend personally but I didn’t dislike it strongly enough to say flat out don’t read it either. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #104/200

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Day 50: The Crossover by Larry Kollar

Day 50

Summary From Goodreads

The warrior-mage Chelinn and his friend Lodrán have visited many strange places. But when a curse goes awry, sending them to a world where mundane devices have supplanted magic, nothing is familiar at first. Then, after rescuing a merchant, they find themselves embroiled in a far more dangerous situation.

As hundreds of lives hang in the balance, two heroes and their new friends must use all their talents to foil an evil plot — and survive until they can catch a rainbow and return home.

The Crossover brings classic fantasy characters into a modern-day setting. Neither Earth nor Termag will ever be the same!

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I received an eBook copy of The Crossover from Larry Kollar in exchange for an honest review, this in no way affected my opinion of the piece.

It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The Crossover is a fun-filled novella that explores travelling to a different world, only in this case it is from one called Termag to our own. That reversal of the norm allows for new ideas to come into question such as if there is still magic in a world that is so filled and reliant on technology. If there is what is its purpose, who can use it and to what ends? That is part of what Chelinn and Lodrán have to figure out as they try to become accustomed to the strange ways of Earth.

The main characters are wonderful. The banter between Chelinn and Lodrán is often hilarious and the different things that they are unaware of once transported to Earth make for more humorous displays. The novella does start a bit slow with the talk aboard the ship, and there are some things I didn’t care for at that beginning stage (the song lyric changes most notably felt corny/childish). However, that is all soon forgotten when the battle scenes begin, which I must say were done splendidly, Kollar definitely has a knack for them.

I thought that there were a lot of possibilities for this to continue into another story or two, or even a full length novel if Kollar wants to go that route. The characters are easy to latch onto and enjoy, the plot was fun and the idea of magic in our world is always a crowd pleaser. I recommend this to fantasy fans as well as anyone who likes a quick and enjoyable read. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 51!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #50/365

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Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Review: The Raven Boys

I received an eBook copy of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater via Netgalley.

Blue Sargent never could see what her clairvoyant mother did when they made their yearly visit to the churchyard where the ones that will soon be dead reside. This year that changes as Blue not only sees, but speaks with a spirit who goes by the name of Gansey. Blue discovers that Gansey is one of the rich kids that go to the local private school, the emblem of which is a raven. She knows that means he can only be trouble but every time that she encounters this soon-to-be dead boy she feels drawn to him, to what he has; friends, money, even good looks. Blue has been warned her entire life that if she ever kissed her true love they would die, but despite that advice when she discovers Gansey and his friends are on a quest, one that could change all of their lives forever she finds it impossible to stay away. Can Blue overcome her fate or will the raven boys prove to be just as dangerous as she initially feared?

Right before I read The Raven Boys I read the hilarious (and somewhat disjointed…alright, very disjointed but hilarious) review by two of my favorite bloggers Nikki from Fiction Freak & Eileen from Singing and Reading in the Rain which you can read here. I don’t think their review necessarily influenced how I feel about The Raven Boys, but it did pique my interest in it even more so that I could, somewhat, compare how I would feel about it to how they did (hopefully they don’t mind terribly that I’m writing about them o.o). In case you don’t want to (or are too lazy to) check out their review which I do recommend you do I will say that they had mixed feelings (I believe ended up somewhere between a 2.85-2.9/5) and mostly just enjoyed the world building. Anyway, onto my thoughts. >.>

I actually enjoyed The Raven Boys quite a bit. What I will say though is that I don’t mind a slower buildup in order to get to the action. I really enjoy Stephen King’s work and he is probably one of, if not the best example of a writer who takes a long time to get to the more uptempo parts of the book. If you have read Black House you know what I mean. So while The Raven Boys definitely takes a while before the explosion of action does occur I was enjoying the intricate characters that were being built up in the mean time.

Speaking of the characters, there were a lot of them. However, as with the comparison in plot buildup, Stephen King is known for having a large amount of characters in many of his books, most specifically Under the Dome which I enjoyed. So when it comes to a large amount of characters I have no issue with keeping track of them all. The Raven Boys built up these characters very well, none of them seemed to be lacking depth or purpose so it was clear that their involvement was not a detriment, but rather something to look on positively. I connected with Blue, she clearly just wants to fit in with her family and to feel normal despite the clearly unusual type of normalcy that she is surrounded by. Gansey was another character that I thought was very well done. He has a thirst for being part of something more, not to put himself on a pedestal but just for the sake of being part of something that is greater than what he has previously encountered in his life.

Going back to the plot, it really takes off later in the book and it will make your head spin! As for the part (admittedly the majority) of the book which is slower I felt that there was good reason for it to be at that pace. Simply, it is because that part of this book is actually quite realistic. These are kids with the lives of students, sure there are many things that are not “normal” when it comes to what they do or encounter along the way, but in most ways they have to continue to lead their normal lives while trying to complete this quest that they are on. If the plot was sped up too much during the beginning and middle parts of the book then the characters wouldn’t be as developed and you wouldn’t have as good of a feel for the world that they live in, something where The Raven Boys excels.

As for that world building it was excellent. You could truly picture the areas that they were going to and living in. The scenery was vivid and the descriptions of some of the places that the group went to on their quest definitely made me want to jump into the book and explore myself. I won’t spoil anything but some of the scenes where magic is present and combined with the world around them were superb. The details you glean during the slower parts of the book more than make up for the speed at which the plot develops.

I will agree with Nikki and Eileen that the romance in The Raven Boys was a bit on the bizarre side. This is mostly because the main romance is with people, or at least a pairing that you wouldn’t envision after reading the summary. It does throw you a bit off but I don’t think that it detracts necessarily, it is just a twist from what you expect. I have a feeling that in the next book that particular romantic situation will end up resolving itself, there doesn’t seem to be any way for it not to lead to the expected result. I know I’m speaking in code but you need to read it for yourself! ^.^

Overall I enjoyed The Raven Boys, even if the romance was a bit odd. The flurry of action leading to a somewhat confusing ending was also a little hard to take and the combination of those two things kept The Raven Boys from being a five star book for me. I would suggest that fans of books that do run a bit long with some buildup definitely read this book, but if you are looking for fast paced action throughout it may not be for you. Thank you as always for reading, I hope you enjoyed my review and leave a comment if you did! Oh, and if you have time you really should check out Nikki and Eileen’s hilarious joint review (links above), I guarantee you’ll enjoy it! 🙂

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Review: Dark Light of Day by Jill Archer

Review: Dark Light of Day

I won a 10$ Amazon giftcard in a giveaway and used it to buy Dark Light of Day which I had been desperate to read after reading the first three chapters in an Ace/Roc Sampler that I had won previously.

Dark Light of Day by Jill Archer is about a world where the apocalypse has already occurred and the demons actually won. Despite this change in power the way of life has barely been altered. In fact, it has been so long since Armageddon that the truth about much that happened in that war has been lost or forgotten. Enter Nouiomo Onyx, or Noon as she is better known, who has waning magic, something that no female was ever supposed to have. Some would shun her, or possibly much worse,  if they knew of her unique power so she is forced to hide it until she is accepted and forced to enroll in St. Lucifer’s, a demon law school. There she must declare her special powers or risk death. Will she hide her powers and risk everything, and could there be a way for Noon to reverse them?

I was so excited to dive into Dark Light of Day after being teased with the sampler of the first three chapters so when the book arrived it took all my restraint not to immerse myself in it immediately! I loved that the author chose to have the demons win the war as it was a perspective I had never seen before, at least not where the world was intact and mostly unchanged afterward. I was easily able to connect with Noon and her plight as she dealt with being an oddity at best, an abomination at worst. As those of you who read my blog know, if the character development is excellent I can forgive anything, and though there wasn’t much to forgive with Dark Light of Day the characters were superb for the most part and allowed me to dive into this new reality.

There was one thing that kept Dark Light of Day from reaching its full potential, at least as I see it, and that was the lead male character Ari. I’m not a fan of the controlling, do-as-I-say type of male characters, especially when they are supposed to be appealing. It is that “appeal” he supposedly had that made the situation worse, he was practically irresistible  and that included when he was putting on his dominant male act which I despised. Let me clarify, I don’t have an issue with a strong male character whatsoever, but when it comes to them ordering people around, forbidding them to do certain things and on top of that it supposedly is a sexy thing for the female character? That’s where I have a problem. Ari exhibited signs of uncontrolled jealousy, stalker-like tendencies and all before he really even knew Noon. Not cool.

Outside of Ari and his domineering I did enjoy the book. The plot had plenty of well executed twists and turns and even when it slowed down to cover some of the details in the classes at St. Lucifer’s I never felt like I needed the pace to quicken. The scenery on the campus and the atmosphere that the author created was vivid and breathtaking, which I don’t find is easily done. Having been on a beautiful college campus myself I could envision the different places that were depicted and never felt as if they were contrived. Oh, and without giving too much away, the battle scenes, oh how I loved them! They were exquisitely done. ^.^

I really enjoyed reading Dark Light of Day, and if it weren’t for Ari’s chauvinistic tendencies I easily would have given this an enthusiastic five smiling frodo rating. With that nagging annoyance throughout the book, however, I will give it a very satisfied four. =)  I hope you enjoyed reading my review, make sure to comment and let me know what you think about chauvinistic characters, or if you have read it what you thought about Dark Light of Day! Thanks for reading!

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