Category Archives: shape-shifters

Review of KINDLE Ebook #Talon – Book 1 of the Talon series by #Julie Kagawa #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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It was the fabulous cover of this book that first caught my eye – and the fact it was about dragons, so when I had some money in my hot little hand to spend on books, it was a no-brainer that I would get hold of this offering.

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser. Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

The first thing to say about this one is that it is YA through and through – including a love triangle. So you have the first person viewpoint of a teenage protagonist who is very conflicted. That said, I think she’s probably entitled to be a tad more conflicted than many young heroines in that she is a shape-shifting dragon, who has come to the end of a long and testing training programme designed to allow her to fight an underground war with humanity against the elite Order of St. George. Ember and her twin brother are ostensibly on a beach holiday and mixing with other teenagers who are completely unsuspecting about the true identity of the attractive couple.

Ember is a sympathetic protagonist, despite being a rebel and a rule breaker, because the people looking after her don’t show any affection or compassion. The only person who cares about her is Dante, her brother, who is equally concerned on building a successful career within Talon. I think I would be sneaking out until midnight under those circumstances, too.

I liked the way Kagawa introduces the hidden world of dragonkind within the story. It is deftly done without compromising the pace and is added in bits and pieces as we need to know so that by the end of the book, we have a clear picture of how the dragons operate without humanity mostly being aware of them. For me, the highlight of the book has to be when Ember shifts and flies the coast – an extremely forbidden act. Kagawa’s prose really took off at this point, and I could easily imagine the beauty and power of the flight. Once I was well into the story, I was more or less able to predict where it would end up. There was a twist near the end that I didn’t see coming, but the writing packs a punch and the ending is sufficiently dramatic. Recommended for YA fans who enjoy shape-shifting dragons with some romance.
8/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook #The Hyena and the Hawk – Book 3 of the #Echoes of the Fall series by #Adrian Tchaikovsky #bookreview #Brainfluffbookreview

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I’ve enjoyed the first two books in this fascinating, shape-shifting fantasy series and was looking forward to reading the final slice of this adventure – see my review of The Tiger and Wolf .

The Hyena and the Hawk is the third book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s epic fantasy trilogy, Echoes of the Fall, following The Bear and the Serpent. From the depths of the darkest myths, the soulless Plague People have returned. Their pale-walled camps obliterate villages, just as the terror they bring with them destroys minds. In their wake, nothing is left of the true people: not their places, not their ways. The Plague People will remake the world as though they had never been. The heroes and leaders of the true people – Maniye, Loud Thunder, Hesprec and Asman – will each fight the Plague People in their own ways. They will seek allies, gather armies and lead the charge. But a thousand swords or ten thousand spears will not suffice to turn back this enemy. The end is at hand for everything the true people know.

Anyone who has read my reviews for any length of time will know that I am a fan of Tchaikovsky’s writing, and this one did not disappoint. Once he has written a really good character, he doesn’t let them slip through his fingers. One of my problems with some epic fantasy stories is that a character I have strongly bonded to in the earlier books simply fades away or is dismissed in a couple of hasty paragraphs within the final instalment. Not so with Tchaikovsky. I loved Maniye, Loud Thunder, along with a number of other strong, nuanced characters who had powered the previous two books in this engrossing story, so I was delighted that all these characters took precedence in this desperate struggle against an overwhelming enemy.

While the action rolls forward in multiple viewpoint, Tchaikovsky manages to transition between the characters without any sense of jarring. This is harder than he makes it look. I am regularly slightly aggravated when been forced to pull away from a character, or find myself skimming one protagonist in favour of another. This simply doesn’t happen to me in a Tchaikovsky novel.

As for the story – as this is the third book in a tightly written series. I am not in a position to write much about the action, except to say that throughout this series, I kept waiting for the impetus and narrative to drop away slightly, as so often happens in epic fantasy stories – and it simply didn’t happen. This excellent series deserves to be far more widely read and is highly recommended for fans of gripping epic fantasy tales.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Do not go gentle…

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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 and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring night, or the dark, so I’ve chosen Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Book 1 of Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden.

 

This cover, produced by Puffin in April 2016, is not my favourite, but like all these covers it is a strong contender. I like the fact that Denizen looks the right age and as the light pours from his hands, the creatures lurking in the gloom are suitably menacing, thus accurately reflecting the content in this outstanding children’s fantasy series. I love the strapline, but I’m not a fan of the title font, which is rather boring.

 

This edition was produced by Puffin in January 2017 has a more grandiose backdrop, though the boy looks older which I think is a bit of a shame. That said, the excellent writing and great adventure ought to be enjoyed by anyone in their early teens, as well as younger children. The title font is still rather boring, but reasonably inoffensive and the cover still accurately reflects the content.

 

Published in August 2016 by Random House, I really like this cover. The sword wreathed in blue coruscating fire glows from the cover, as the dark roils in the background. As for the title font – that’s just what a cool title like this needs! The title now delivers depth and suitable awesomeness that promises – and delivers – a cracking adventure you won’t easily forget. This is my second favourite cover.

 

This German offering, published in April 2016 by Sauerländer ticks all the boxes as far as I’m concerned. I love the cover as it features the depth and breadth of the world, with Denizen standing in the middle. I also like the font, which is attractively displayed and again, reinforces the impression that this is a strong series with a gritted struggle between Light and Dark. This cover is my favourite. What about you – which of these is your favourite?

Series I Have Continued or Completed in 2017 – Part 1

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Over the past year, I’ve becoming increasingly conscious that I’ve getting into the habit of plunging into a series with a book that has caught my eye and simply not getting any further. Given my go-to genres heavily feature series books, which are always part of a longer narrative, this is a habit I’d like to break. So this year, I’ve decided to make myself more accountable by recording my progress with series that I have either completed, or brought right up to date – hence this post now that we’re more than halfway through this year.

The Tide Dragons duology by Sarah Ash
The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice and Emperor of the Fireflies
This delightful fantasy series is strongly influenced by Japanese mythology and culture, so as well as the wonderful dragons of the title, there are kitsume and demons, emperors and generals and a formidable goddess all weaving through this richly textured world. I loved it and Emperor of the Fireflies is one of my outstanding books of the year so far.

 

The Wayfarers by Becky Chambers
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit
This science fiction space opera series made a big impact with the hit debut book which had a real vibe of the hit TV show Firefly as an ensemble piece, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The second book featured one of the ship’s crew and a waif who needed refuge and while it is set in the same world as the first book, you don’t need to have read it to appreciate what is going on. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these two books and am keen to discover where Chambers next takes this series.

 

The Witchlands by Susan Dennard
Truthwitch and Windwitch
This epic fantasy initially features two young witches, Safi and Iseult, who manage to get themselves into an almighty scrape at the start of the first book, entangling them in a major plot. I like the fact that their friendship is one of the main emotional drivers throughout the story so far and that the magical system is structured with clear rules and involves a high price from magic-users. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the third book, Bloodwitch, due to come out next year.

 

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne
I love this sand and sorcery adventure! Hamilton’s punchy writing style and vivid scene setting means both of these books have stayed with me as memorably enjoyable, exciting reads and I’m very much looking forward to the next book, which will hopefully arrive next year.

 

 

Echoes of the Fall by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Tiger and the Wolf and The Bear and the Serpent
This epic fantasy adventure takes place in a pre-agrarian world where clans divide depending on what animal they shape-shift into. Both books are full of incident and tension, along with splashes of humour as Tchaikovsky’s vivid, three-dimensional characters leapt off the page and into my heart. I’m very much hoping there is going to be more of this amazing story…

 

The Falconer trilogy by Elizabeth May
The Falconer; The Vanishing Throne and The Fallen Kingdom
This riveting series features a young, well-bred woman, Lady Aileana, who leads a double life – by day she is the wealthy heiress in an alternate Victorian society, while by night she hunts and kills the fae after witnessing her mother’s brutal murder. Violent and enthralling, this trilogy is one of the reading highlights of the year so far.

 

 

The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu
Twelve Kings and Blood Upon the Sand
This sand and sorcery epic fantasy is set in a brutal world ruled by twelve kings possessing great magical power – and the efforts of one lowly-born girl to overturn their stranglehold on the desert city-state. I loved the story so far and will be looking out for the third book, A Veil of Spears, due to be published next year.

 

Planetfall by Emma Newman
Planetfall and After Atlas
This dystopian science fiction series is amazing. Both books are set in the same world, but on different planets and can be read as standalones – I loved each one, though the tone and mood were quite different. After Atlas is my book of the year so far and I will be pouncing on the next book, Before Mars, just as soon as I can get my hands on it.

 

 

Luna by Ian McDonald
New Moon and Wolf Moon
This duology envisages that the industrialisation of the Moon has been divided between five families, all ruthless entrepreneurs who have taken capitalism to the extreme as they continue vying for yet more power – with shocking consequences. McDonald has called this series ‘a game of domes’. I loved the brutal, detailed world and the charismatic characters.

 

Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Penric and the Demon; Penric and the Shaman; Penric’s Mission; Mira’s Last Dance
This series is a joy. Each one of these engrossing, beautifully written stories gives us another slice of Penric’s adventures as he copes with the demon he accidentally acquired while helping an elderly woman at the side of the road. Fortunately, Himself is also a serious fan and immediately buys up these gems as soon as they published. Quite right, too.

 

 

Peri Reed Chronicles by Kim Harrison
The Drafter and The Operator
Harrison explores a fascinating premise in this military science fiction thriller, where black ops agents are able to shift small amounts of time to kill or dodge attacks. The snag is that as they alter the timeline, they forget chunks of their lives with the aid of a drafter who helps them avoid a catastrophic neural overload that occurs if they remember more than one version of reality. This is really well done and I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining duology.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes
This lush, eastern-influenced classic fantasy duology is another one of those which is set in the same world with a few linking characters, but follows different storylines. Each one is a delight, full of incident and beautiful descriptions that pinged off the page and lit up cold rainy days as I read.

 

 

The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
An Accident of Stars and A Tyranny of Queens
This delightful portal worlds adventure is gritty, wise and astonishing. It is one of my favourite series with its emphasis on a number of nuanced, feisty female characters of all ages. This one has lodged in my head and won’t leave – particularly the poignant ending…

 

There are more to come – but I’ll be rounding up the others in another article.

Sunday Post – 12th February 2017

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Sunday PostThis is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Another busy week with the Northbrook courses going well and my sessions with Tim now less pressured with the extra session. The catch is this week Himself’s shift pattern meant I had to pick him up from work at stupid o’clock in the wee small hours. A lot of the time that isn’t too much of an issue but this week, for some reason, I wasn’t getting back to sleep all that quickly so I’ve been rather sleep-deprived – even for me. As a confirmed insomniac, I’m used to functioning on not much sleep, but I only managed three hours on Thursday night/Friday morning.

On Thursday, Mhairi and I got together for a writing day – we work really well together and manage to get a great deal done. It’s also helpful to have someone you know and trust to bounce ideas around, along with lots of tea and laughter. It was the West Sussex Writers’ monthly get-together on Thursday night. This month was the manuscript surgery followed by an excellent Open Mic session where a variety of amusing and thought-provoking prose and poetry highlighted just what a talented membership we have. The Friday morning planning session regarding Tim’s progress went really well – intense, but we realised we are on track and now just need to focus our efforts on moving forward.

This week-end we have the pleasure of the grandchildren staying over. As ever, they are a joy – which is more than can be said about the bleeping weather. Oscar is suffering with a heavy cold and bad cough, so taking him out and about in the bitter cold – yesterday it was snowing quite heavily though thankfully it didn’t settle – won’t be doing him any favours. We nicked out to get a few vital supplies, but are mostly hunkering down for cosy indoors activities.

This week I have read:
The Bear and the Serpent – Book 2 of the Echo of the Falls series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

thebearandtheserpentManiye, child of Wolf and Tiger, has a new soul and a new shape. But as Champion of the Crown of the World, does she represent an opportunity for the North – or a threat? Travelling as a bodyguard to the Southern prince, with her warband of outcasts, she hopes to finally discover her true place in the world, though she is quickly pitchforked in the middle of a crisis that puts her at the eye of a political storm.

I loved the first book in this shape-shifting epic fantasy set in a largely bronze age society, The Tiger and the Wolf . My firm advice is to tuck into this one before you reach for this offering as you are simply missing too much wonderful worldbuilding and rich character development if you plunge into this series with this one – which proves to be another real treat.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartlessCatherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

This prequel to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a respectful and skilful addition to this famous classic that provides a fascinating take on what has happened to some of the major characters in the story. Highly recommended.

 

How To Cheat a Dragon’s Curse – Book 4 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Reluctant hero Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III must rescue his best friend, Fishlegs, from the deadly howtocheatadragonscursedisease Vorpentitis. The only cure is rare and almost impossible to find…a potato. But where will Hiccup find such a thing? He’ll have to dodge the terrible Sharkworms, battle Doomfangs, and outwit crazy Hooligans if he’s going to be a Hero. Again.

Oscar and I completed this slice of Hiccup’s madcap adventures that takes him into the territory of one of the Hooligan tribe’s deadliest enemies in an effort to save Fishlegs’ life. Once more we giggled and gasped through this adventure together. Being a granny gets to be so much fun with books like this to share…

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 5th February 2017

My 2016 Reading Year – the Statistics

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Bear and the Serpent – Book 2 of the Echoes of the Fall series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – The Turn – Prequel to The Hollows series by Kim Harrison

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – The Bear and the Serpent – Book 2 to the Echoes of the Fall

Friday Faceoff – Diamonds Are Forever… featuring Diamond Mask by Julian May

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
12 Thoughts Every Book Lover Has Had At Least Once https://athousandlives01.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/12-thoughts-every-book-lover-has-had-at-least-once/ This amusing post had me grinning and nodding in recognition – especially numbers 1 and 11…

8 Useful Computer Shortcuts and Hacks https://anaslair.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/8-useful-computer-shortcuts-and-hacks/ These commands Ana has compiled can save a lot of time and frustration – I’ve certainly bookmarked them.

Booklovin’: What It Is and Why You Should Be Using It https://bookishnessandtea.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/all-abloglovin/ Ava’s excellent article helps those of us who enjoy reading blogs but have problems keeping track of our favourites.

The Best Poems for Valentine’s Day https://interestingliterature.com/2017/02/10/the-best-poems-for-valentines-day/ In preparation for a certain date coming up next week, those fine folks at Interesting Literature have a stock of romantic poetry to wow that special person in your life…

Proverbs from Africa https://siuquxebooks.wordpress.com/2017/02/09/www-siuquxebooks-wordpress-comproverbs-africa-josbons/ Josbons has compiled these favourite African proverbs, which make fascinating reading.

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Bear and the Serpent – Book 2 of Echoes of the Fall series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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Regulars to this site will know that Tchaikovsky is a favourite author of mine and last year I read and reviewed the first book, The Tiger and the Wolf, in this latest epic fantasy offering and loved it.

Maniye, child of Wolf and Tiger, has a new soul and a new shape. But as Champion of the Crown thebearandtheserpentof the World, does she represent an opportunity for the North – or a threat? Travelling as a bodyguard to the Southern prince, with her warband of outcasts, she hopes to finally discover her true place in the world, though she is quickly pitchforked in the middle of a crisis that puts her at the eye of a political storm.

For those of you tempted by the cool cover to plunge in and pick up this one without reading the first book in the series, my advice would be don’t. Though Tchaikovsky provides a ‘Story So Far’ – a development that I thoroughly approve of – the first book is a tour de force and you’ll miss far too much of the wonderful richness of this amazing world. A world where people are defined by their clans and what they shape-shift into when they reach puberty. A world riven by constant wars and fights between the clans. A pre-agrarian society, where the secret of smelting iron belongs to the Wolf and the rest of the clans make do with bronze weapons.

While The Tiger and the Wolf mostly features the adventures of Maniye, the outcast child of the Wolf, this sequel branches off and we have another main protagonist, the Champion of the Bear, Lord Thunder. He has been dragged unwillingly right into the middle of the ferment caused when catastrophe overtakes the Seal people. A rather grumpy character possessing great strength and a short temper, he has no desire to become any kind of leader. I like the humour that comes from his struggles to deal with the political in-fighting, while he yearns to retreat once more into solitude – though that humour is tempered by the undertow of threat that runs through the book.

In common with much epic fantasy, there is Something Nasty and Worldchanging the prophesies are all saying is just around the corner. And indeed, Tchaikovsky’s talent for writing gripping action scenes and battles comes in handy as the book builds up to a page-turning climax that meant I read far into the wee small hours to discover how it all turns out. Anyone who has read Tchaikovsky’s Spiderlight and Children of Time will know he’s the master of unintended consequences, and while the main storyline is satisfactorily concluded in this action-packed book, there are some intriguing plotlines left dangling for the next in this series. Classic epic fantasy isn’t my favourite sub-genre, but Echoes of the Fall has a place in my heart – I dreamt of it when I finally fell asleep. So it comes very highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of The Bear and the Serpent from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 7th February, 2016

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tuesdayTeaser 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 Bear and the Serpent by Adrian Tchaikovksy
31% It had not Stepped, but it flew, wings shimmering from its back. It cursed Yellow Claw andthebearandtheserpent cursed all of them with nonsense sounds as it hovered up near the cave’s ceiling, before the horrified eyes of the priests. The gaping emptiness within it dragged at their souls, jealous for what it could not have.
Loud Thunder did not sleep that night, and he reckoned the rest wouldn’t either.

BLURB: Maniye, child of Wolf and Tiger, has a new soul and a new shape. But as Champion of the Crown of the World, does she represent an opportunity for the North – or a threat? Travelling as a bodyguard to the Southern prince, with her warband of outcasts, she hopes to finally discover her true place in the world, though she is quickly pitchforked in the middle of a crisis that puts her at the eye of a political storm.

Yet all the while, an enemy from the most ancient of times prepares for conquest, and could destroy everything in their path…

This is the sequel to Tchaikovsky’s impressive The Tiger and the Wolf , released last year. If you like epic fantasy and also enjoy shape-shifting protagonists, then  track down the first book in this excellent series. This sequel is shaping up to be every bit as enjoyable and full of incident as it takes our cast of characters onward through this adventure. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.