Category Archives: dragons

Friday Faceoff – The moon lives in the lining of your skin… Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is SHAPESHIFTERS, so I’ve selected a book from a cracking series I very much enjoyed – World’s End – Book 1 of the Age of Misrule by Mark Chadbourn.

 

This edition was produced by Millennium in September 2000 – and it was this cover that prompted me to pick this one off the shelves. I love it. That glorious dragon suddenly appearing in the middle of the M4 in the path of a speeding car. The lighting… the rain reflecting the amazing image off the tarmac… a modern landscape in the background… the coruscating light flickering in the sky where the dragon has made his entrance… I think this is a masterful cover and it’s one of my all-time favourites.

 

Published in April 2010 by Pyr, this is another fabulous cover. If I hadn’t already given my heart to the dragon-themed cover above, this would certainly have been my favourite. The sheer threat and majesty of the magnificent being is so well depicted against the appalled figures silhouetted against that lurid green aura… I also love the title font, which works wonderfully well and holds its own with that amazing image.

 

On any other day, against normal covers, this effort would probably be my favourite. I love the image of the leaping dragon on this Polish edition, published by Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie in May 2006. The sheer vicious anger on that dragon face snarling out at us is sufficient to snag my attention – and I also love the beautiful slice of the wing and the way the title is nested within the image – but not quite enough to make this one my favourite…

 

Produced in June 2011, this French edition has gone for a feeling of menace, with the encroaching darkness held back by the small bubble of light over Stonehenge – what a clever choice for a symbol of ancient Britain – and our group of plucky protagonists silhouetted against that light, with an ominous red moon rising… Very cleverly done and far more understated than the previous efforts. Sadly, I’m not a subtle soul and prefer the clamour and excitement of dragons – because they’re – well, DRAGONS, baby!

 

This German edition, published by Feder & Schwert in July 2011, takes an entirely different tack and is another excellent example. The fossilised remains of the dragon, all picked out in glorious shades of gold and yellow, draws the eye. I love the slight spatter of blood – as well as giving extra visual drama, it also provides unanswered questions for the prospective reader… The designer has also taken time to consider how to include the textual matter within the artwork, which is fabulously executed. Another one that was so very nearly my favourite – which one do you prefer?

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Review of The High King’s Vengeance – Book 2 of the Malessar’s Curse by Stephen Poore #Brainfluffbookreview TheHighKing’sVengeancebookreview #TheBacklistReaderChallenge2019

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I loved Poore’s Heir to the North – see my review here. And my firm advice would be that if you haven’t yet had the pleasure and you are all set to tuck into The High King’s Vengeance, don’t do so until you have read the first book. As this book immediately picks up the story, you’ll probably flounder in the opening chapters.

“I am the Heir to the North.”
Malessar’s Curse is broken, the wards around Caenthell destroyed. The Warlock himself lies, exhausted and gravely wounded, in the rubble of his own house. And while the dire spirits trapped behind the wards for centuries are unleashed into the world once more, Cassia is confined to a cell deep in Galliarca’s grand palace. Yet Caenthell calls to her, and Cassia must answer. As Heir to the North, the throne and the power behind it belong to her. But the twisted hunger of Caenthell’s spirits appals her and Cassia vows to do everything she can to defeat them.

This epic fantasy tale is a gripping read – particularly if you have already fallen in love with Cassia. She is now swept up in the terrifying consequences of her own actions, having been systematically deceived and used as a pawn by one of those lantern-jawed heroes that tend to people these stories. I think Poore has masterfully written a protagonist in the grip of a magical curse, by his depiction of her effect on those around her. As ever, Poore takes the genre conventions and flips them around – Cassia Cats-Paw is what Craw the dragon calls her. Once her part in the story is done – unleashing the dreadful curse – she is supposed to be so overwhelmed by the drumming in her head that she either goes mad, or joins the High King’s evil quest in conquering the world. The novel is about her struggle to avoid either fate… and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if she would succeed.

There is also an enjoyable cast of well-drawn characters that I also really cared about – the debonair Prince Rais, who accompanies her throughout her adventures, a complete misfit amongst the band of hard-bitten, weary ex-warriors who also feel compelled to join this desperate quest. I also very much liked the dynamic in which characters who I loathed in the first book were revisited and came across as less vile.

The catch with writing a story powered by a final confrontation is that said battle needs to be sufficiently spectacular to provide a satisfactory conclusion for a reader who has devoured the previous 448 pages to get to this point. Fortunately, Poore triumphantly succeeds in providing a cracking ending to this accomplished duology. If you are a fan of epic fantasy – or even if you’re a bit jaded and fed up with the genre – this one is highly recommended.
9/10

Review of LIBRARY copy Chasing Embers – Book 1 of the Ben Garston series by James Bennett #Brainfluffbookreview #ChasingEmbersbookreview #LibraryLoveChallenge

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The cover snagged my attention, because… dragons! And so I was delighted when I saw a copy of this in my local library.

There’s nothing special about Ben Garston. He’s just a guy with an attitude in a beat-up leather jacket, drowning his sorrows in a downtown bar. Or so he’d have you believe. What Ben Garston can’t let you know is that he was once known as Red Ben. That the world of myth and legend isn’t just a fantasy, as we’ve been led to believe. And he certainly can’t let you know the secret of what’s hiding just beneath his skin…

The clue about this book actually was splashed across the front cover Not all stories are made up and unlike much front cover chatter, this short phrase actually was the key to understanding this book. James Bennett is a principally a storyteller. Yes – I know all writers exhale stories, but storytellers tell… And so while the world is a delightful mash-up, convincingly portrayed and Ben is suitably angst-ridden and vulnerable – what prevented me from completely losing my heart to this one, is that there are large sections written in semi-omniscient and omniscient viewpoint. That isn’t a bad thing – indeed, lots of readers love that way of depicting the action, however I found it slightly distanced me from both the character and the world as I prefer experiencing my reads from the inside out.

That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Red Ben and found the pages flew by as I wanted to know what happened next. This was a strong start to what looks to be an engaging series.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Every great story seems to begin with a snake… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is SNAKES, so I’ve selected a book from one of my favourite series, Tongues of Serpents – Book 6 of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik.

 

This edition was produced by Del Rey in July 2010 and features two snakelike dragons entwined around a porthole showing a ship. I really like the rippled sand as a backdrop, but I do think the fonts are very boring, given what an amazing premise this series offers.

 

Published in June 2011 by Voyager, this is the cover of the book that I read. I confess to loving this series with the black and white etched illustrations relating to incidents within the book and featuring amazing dragons. I also like the coloured font that is in keeping with the strong period feel of the cover and nicely pops against the black and white. This is my favourite.

 

Produced by Pocket in March 2013, this French edition follows the theme of the dragon coiled around a porthole or some sort of orb. I love the font – I think it works beautifully and picks up the gilding around the porthole very effectively. However, the stormy backdrop isn’t sufficient foil to the dark crimson/brown dragon and while those half-furled wings are wonderful, I’d rather the head was more of a feature. I’m also rather distracted by the shadow of the dragon against the clouds – surely that shouldn’t be happening?

 

This German edition, published by Penhaligon Verlag in 2010, is my favourite of all the similar designs where a dragon is coiled around some sort of globe. For starters, this dragon looks properly fierce and I love the way it has grasped the patterned globe, which is also beautifully patterned in colours that contrast very well with the hot reds and oranges of the dragon and the scaled background – another nice feature. It was so nearly my favourite, but I found the font both plain and a poor contrast to the rest of the cover.

 

This Polish edition, published by Rebis in October 2010 is the cover that gave me the chance to actually choose this book. Instead of dragons, we have two snakes battling on this cover. While it all looks very dramatic, I’m not sure the snakes are all fully in proportion – it seems one of them is rather on the short side, but perhaps the hidden part of the body conceals several coils… Once again, that rippled sand effect is a great backdrop, but disappointingly this Polish cover has gone down the route of also duplicating the very dreary, if clear, font from the Del Rey cover. Which is your favourite?

Teaser Tuesday – 8th January, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
The High King’s Vengeance – Book 2 of Malessar’s Curse by Stephen Poore

p. 295 There was too much in her head. Her father. Her grandfather. Hetch. The remnants of Guhl’s Company, bound to her service now. The shieldmen, two hundred walking reminders of a man she thought she had loved. All the stories she had ever heard her father tell; those Baum and Malessar debunked or expanded upon. The dragons of Lyriss, and their uncertain allegiance. Craw – the damned beast still knew more than it would tell her, and where was it now her gamble was approaching the endgame?
And all of that was accompanied by the constant thrumming of Jedrell’s wardrums, a sound that only she could hear. Sometimes she thought it was all she could hear.

BLURB: “I am the Heir to the North.”

Malessar’s Curse is broken, the wards around Caenthell destroyed. The Warlock himself lies, exhausted and gravely wounded, in the rubble of his own house. And while the dire spirits trapped behind the wards for centuries are unleashed into the world once more, Cassia is confined to a cell deep in Galliarca’s grand palace.

Yet Caenthell calls to her, and Cassia must answer. As Heir to the North, the throne and the power behind it belong to her. But the twisted hunger of Caenthell’s spirits appals her and Cassia vows to do everything she can to defeat them.

I loved the first book in this epic fantasy story – Heir to the North. Poore takes all the major ingredients of an epic fantasy tale, gives it a good shaking and sets it on its head. So it’s an itinerant storyteller’s daughter who finds she is the unlikely inheritor of a terrible curse, not the well-groomed, handsome prince accompanying her. As in the first book, I’m finding this one an engrossing read as the classic tropes within epic fantasy are playing out in unpredictable, interesting ways.

Review of PAPERBACK How To Steal a Dragon’s Sword – Book 9 of the How To Train A Dragon series by Cressida Cowell #Brainfluffbookreview #HowToStealaDragon’sSword

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I’ve had a bit of a gap since I treated myself to the next in the series – partly because my young grandson is busy reading books all about footballers instead of dragons these days. But those of you who have visited before, know of my love for these fabulous books – see my review of How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale here.

Viking Berk heir, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his dragon, Toothless are target of dragon rebellion — filled with the meanest Razor-wings, Tonguetwisters, and Vampire Ghouldeaths. Only a King can save them, a champion with all of the King’s Lost Things. Hiccup will have to outwit a witch, fight his arch-enemy, and beat back an army of bloodthirsty dragons with just one sword.

There is still a madcap quality about some of the adventures besetting Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, but also a certain melancholy, given that the tales of derring-do are being told by a much older and sadder Hiccup rather than the skinny, desperate boy struggling to stay alive against mountainous odds. That doesn’t stop the characters from pinging off the page and this story – like all the others – take off in all sorts of unexpected directions. Though there is a dreadful inevitability about the terrible war between humans and dragons that seems to be on the brink of breaking out.

It was still fun to read about the crafty witch Excellinor and her wicked plans to overthrow the Vikings and have her son crowned as King of the Wilderwest – and Hiccup’s attempts to prevent her from doing so. As well as satisfyingly wicked antagonists, Hiccup is also hampered by a lantern-jawed hero in the shape of Flashburn, the greatest swordsman of his time. And while Fishlegs, his asthmatic friend, is mostly loyal, he isn’t all that much use in a fight, while his other staunch companion, Camicazi, is an adrenaline junkie incapable of keeping a secret.

Cowell’s plotting is brilliant at keeping the pace up, so that restless small boys who would rather be kicking a football around instead of sitting still and listening to a story, nonetheless pay attention, because said story is THAT good. So if you have any small boys or girls in your life who are in need of a gripping series, then this is the one for you. If they’ve wandered off to play football, then this is still the one for you – because once you’ve started reading this one, you won’t want to put it down until you’ve discovered what happens to the likes of Toothless, Hiccup, Fishlegs and Excellinor.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc A Muddle of Magic – Book 2 of the Fledgling Magic series by Alexandra Rushe

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One of my book blogging buddies was looking forward to this one (sorry – I can’t remember who!) so I nipped across and requested it, not realising – again – that it was the second book in the series.

What’s a nice Southern girl doing in a place like this?
Whisked from humdrum Alabama to the fantastical land of Tandara by a mage who won’t take no for an answer, Raine Stewart finds herself tangled in a muddle of magic. A Dark Wizard is out for her blood, a demonic golem has orders to dispatch her . . . and she stinks at magic. Being a wizard, even a baby wizard, is harder than Raine thought.

This is an amazingly rich, detailed world – and I was a bit more adrift than was ideal, given I hadn’t read the first book. But this portal fantasy adventure was great fun with a wealth of magical beings – there are dragons, giants, a rich variety of trolls and fairies, wizards, seers, ghosts and shape-shifters. I enjoyed Raine’s character and while there were times she was a bit overwhelmed, she mostly coped with the major culture shock extremely well. Since she arrived in this fantasy world, she has managed to make a number of friends with some powerful beings – sufficiently successfully so as to draw down some very unwelcome attention from a powerful dark wizard. So with a huge price on her head, she is also having to be continually guarded – which she finds especially irksome, given that before she was yanked into this portal world, she was an invalid with a poor prognosis.

While the adventure is mostly in Raine’s viewpoint, there were moments when suddenly we would get someone else’s pov, which I found a bit jarring. That niggle aside, I really enjoyed this world. It is very much a classical fantasy adventure in the Tolkien tradition with a rich variety of different creatures and Rushe is deft at giving us plenty of description without holding up the pace too much. I loved her serpent Flame, while the puzzles surrounding a number of the other main characters kept me turning the pages and enlivened a long train journey.

There was plenty of snark and humour thrown in amongst the plots, kidnappings, brutal fights, snooty courtiers and lantern-jawed heroes. My favourite is probably Gertie, the foul-mouthed, drink-loving troll who takes Raine under her protection and is full of smart-mouthed opinions about the outraged courtiers and haughty queen who hates her. And in amongst the banter and nonsense, there are some poignant moments of loss and heartache in the form of unrequited love and a desperately unhappy marriage.

I’m impressed that Rushe has managed to pack so much vividness and detail into a book just shy of 400 pages – she achieves this by also ensuring the pace keeps moving forward as fantastical creatures, magic artefacts and scheming wizards spin through her story. And there might be a muddle of magic – but there is nothing muddled about the storytelling. While I obtained an arc of A Muddle of Magic from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 5th September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – A Muddle of Magic – Book 2 of the Fledgling Magic series by Alexandra Rushe

#portal fantasy #adventure #feisty heroine #magical monsters

What’s a nice Southern girl doing in a place like this?

Whisked from humdrum Alabama to the fantastical land of Tandara by a mage who won’t take no for an answer, Raine Stewart finds herself tangled in a muddle of magic. A Dark Wizard is out for her blood, a demonic golem has orders to dispatch her . . . and she stinks at magic. Being a wizard, even a baby wizard, is harder than Raine thought.

Raine and her companions find sanctuary amongst the famed warriors of the snow-capped nation of Finlara, and Raine is reunited with her dear friend, the frost giant Tiny Bartog. In short order, she unearths a magic mirror, a dread curse, and a tragic, ill-fated love affair.

Safety, however, is an illusion. The dreaded Magog’s Eye is still missing, and war looms. It seems an entire world hangs in the balance, waiting to see whether Raine will be able to harness her magic. But with a little help from her friends, she’ll survive . . . she hopes.

This one is great fun, with lots of magical creatures and Raine’s happy knack for making friends keeps her alive in this vibrant, fascinating but lethal world where she has made a very powerful enemy. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and will be reviewing it in due course.

Friday Faceoff – Behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week the theme to feature on any of our covers is masks. I’ve selected The Masked City – Book 2 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman. I loved this one – see my review here.

 

This edition was produced by Tor in December 2015. It is the default cover and is the one on the book I read. The maroon, leather effect is striking, especially with the details standing out so clearly in a white silhouette. Overall, this cover has a classy, period feel which nicely echoes the book. If I have a slight issue, it’s that it might be mistaken for a straight historical adventure, though perhaps the detailing of the dragons in the corner should dispel that impression.

 

This German edition, produced by Bastei Lübbe in August 2016, has chosen to depict the cover as an old map. The detail is lovely and the rather scuffed, battered effect to replicate ageing is a nice touch. However there are two issues with this version – it simply looks a drab mess in thumbnail size and once again, there is very little to guide the reader that this is actually a fantasy book.

 

Published in November 2017 by Omega, this Czech edition is also beautiful. The gold against the navy blue gives this cover a glorious, luxurious feel, harking back to the days when books were so exclusive and expensive, only the rich could afford to own them. I love the title font, which echoes this splendid opulence. However, the caveat I raised with some of the other offerings still stands – more so, as there isn’t a discrete dragon outline in a corner to give a prospective reader a clue that this is a fantasy adventure.

 

This Italian edition, published by Fanucci Editore in April 2018 is my favourite. I love that beautiful, eye-catching mask which sings out of the cover, giving this one extra focus and impact that I think is slightly missing from the more restrained efforts. If I have a niggle, it’s that the title font could be less boring.

 

This cover, published in February 2017 by Wheeler Publishing Large Print, is back to the sumptuous, old fashioned feel of most of the others. Though this time around, there are more clues for readers. While I generally dislike lots of chatter on covers, there isn’t any artwork to be obscured and the recommendation by N.K. Jemisin should provide a hint that we are dealing with a SFF book. Once again, the effect is elegant and eye-catching. Which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – When icicles hang by the wall… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week featuring on any of our covers is ice and snow. I’ve selected The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin.

 

This edition was produced by Starscape Books in October 2017 has a great font and a lovely illustration of a dragon. So why they decided to squash that glorious artwork into a small box in the middle of the cover and surround it with a midnight blue block defeats me. What a shame.

 

Published in October 2014 by Tor Teen, this glorious cover doesn’t make such a fundamental mistake. A fabulous dragon, all ice and fury – it makes me shiver just looking at it. It is matched by that beautifully shaded font which perfectly captures the mood and content of the book, while also easy to read. This is my favourite cover today. In fact, this has to be right up there as one of my all-time favourite covers, along with that wonderful cover for Green Rider by Gollancz I discovered a few weeks ago…

 

This Spanish edition, published by Montena in October 2012, is another well crafted effort. The artwork makes this version more of a wyrm rather than the icicled, spiky creature of air and blizzard depicted on the previous Tor Teen cover. While I don’t like it as much, it is still a strong cover.

 

This German edition, produced by CBJ is another wonderful effort. I love the way we have the dragon in mid-wingbeat, so that the wingtips sweep across the top of the cover. And that wonderful font is also a joy. This week’s covers have set the bar very high!

 

This is another German cover published by CBJ in 2009. Again, the artwork and detail is beautiful with lovely shades of blue and the orange font is attractive and really pings against the icy artwork. The only thing against this one is that ugly gold blob in the middle, which rather spoils the effect. I’ll be fascinated to see what your favourite cover is this week – there are so many really strong contenders in this selection that I think it’s purely down to personal preference.