Category Archives: dragons

Review of KINDLE Ebook Within the Sanctuary of Wings – Book 5 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan #Brainfluffbookreview #WithintheSanctuaryofWingsbookreview #2019TheBacklistReaderChallenge

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It’s been far too long since I finished the fourth book in this series, In the Labyrinth of Drakes – and I realised that I had been putting off completing this series simply because I didn’t want all the fun to stop. However, all good things must come to an end…

After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent–dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field. And yet–after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia–the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure–scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland’s enemies–and what she discovered there, Within the Sanctuary of Wings.

The other issue, of course, is after whisking us around the world, where Lady Trent endured desert, biting cold and torrid jungle in her search for knowledge about the various species of dragons, would this latest adventure managed to measure up to the previous cracking reads? The answer is yes. Now at a stage in her career where her exploits have given her a worldwide reputation, Lady Trent still is not wholly accepted within the scientific circles of Scirland. So while she is constantly in touch with fellow academics, corresponding around the world on the subject of dragons and respected as a leading authority, she is also becoming increasingly restless. Those of you who have read any of these books won’t find it a huge surprise that when reports of the remains of a completely new species come to her attention, she quickly organises an expedition to travel to the inhospitable range of mountains where this frozen corpse was last seen.

I love Lady Trent. She is the embodiment of a host of plucky Victorian ladies who ventured across the globe in long skirts and boned stays on a variety of scientific expeditions that subsequently were often erased from history. Brennan, by now knows her heroine very well, so we can relax into the adventure that befalls her – Lady T is something of a disaster magnet – which also takes the whole series into a completely different direction.

Does this final adventure adequately bring this whole series to a satisfactory conclusion? Oh yes – I thought this culmination of Lady T’s eventful life of scientific exploration was very well handled. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading this delightful series and enjoy the opportunity to read a different sort of book about dragonkind, then this one comes highly recommended. Whatever you do, though, don’t start with this book – go back to the beginning of the series and pick up A Natural History of Dragons see my review here. I only wish that I was also able to turn the page and experience the pleasure of the first book for the first time, again.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Poison Song – Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePoisonSongbookreview

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I have thoroughly enjoyed the ongoing adventure in this excellent trilogy – read my reviews of The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins. The progression of this story, taking it from a straight epic fantasy adventure into a science fiction mash-up was masterfully handled, as are the steady revelations of new twists about aspects that we previously understood to be facts…

The very nature of the way Williams crafts her books makes it unlikely that you will be able to fully enjoy what is going on unless you read them in order – and as those of you who are regular visitors to my site know, I habitually crash midway into series without turning a hair. However, I wouldn’t want to make such a move with this series and strongly recommend that you don’t attempt it.

Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia.

And that’s the blurb. It won’t make much sense if you haven’t already read the previous books… I had thought that this final episode wouldn’t be able to deliver yet more surprises about the key figures in this full-on adventure – but I was wrong. We learn a lot more about the winnowing flame through Noon, the rebellious young fell-witch whose actions deeply affect those similarly cursed or gifted, depending on your viewpoint… And once more, Hestillion and the Queen of the Jure’lia manage to shock and repel me by their actions. I’ve grown very fond of all the characters in this adventure over the duration of this series – but for me, it’s Vintage who is my absolute favourite.

So… given that the first two books were so very good – has this finale lived up to expectations? Oh yes. Once more, we are immediately whisked right up into the middle of the action, so I’d also recommend that if you read The Bitter Twins a while ago and can’t quite recall exactly what is going on – flit back and remind yourself of who is doing what to whom – Williams doesn’t give you much breathing space before plunging you back into the thick of the plot.

In amongst all the mayhem, the recurring theme is about identity. Are we who we are because of what befalls us, or because of our genetic heritage? I was interested to note that Williams answers this question quite firmly by the end – and I was also interested to see which side of that discussion she favours. Not that the plot drifts off as this is discussed in any way – there simply isn’t room in amongst all the world-changing battles and soul-searing adventures.

As I don’t want to give away any spoilers, my comments regarding the unfolding story are necessarily vague, but I can report that the handling of the pacing, the conclusion of all the main character arcs and the climactic final battle is brilliantly done. I loved the bittersweet nature of the ending, though I was a tad devastated by the outcome regarding one of the main characters. And finished this one feeling a bit shattered, uplifted and with a lump in my throat. That doesn’t happen to me all that often, these days. But despite the fact that I have over half of 2019 still to run – I know I have just completed reading one of my outstanding reads of the year. While I obtained an arc of The Poison Song from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 26th March, 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 Poison Song – Book 3 of the Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams
42% The wine they’d found in an actual cellar, and it was very fine indeed. She watched her worm-brother’s face carefully as he sipped at it, trying to spot if he enjoyed the taste or note, but his face, as finely crafted as it was, was still difficult to read. Twice now she had taken him back to the pools and pushed her fingers back into his flesh, seeking to make him closer to the vision she had in her head.

BLURB: Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this sci fi/fantasy mash-up – The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins. There’s aliens… huge worm-like monsters… dragons… entertaining and feisty heroines – and did I mention the dragons? As well as a gripping tale. As you can see, I am just under halfway through and I can’t see how anyone other than those nasty old monsters are going to prevail. So I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next!

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?

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