Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders # 1) by Robin Hobb

618211Wizardwood, a sentient wood. The most precious commodity in the world. Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds. But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more.


Ship of Magic is book one in The Liveship Traders series. It tells the story of the Vestrit family of traders from Bingtown. The story starts with the death of the patriarch Ephron Vestrit who dies on the Vivacia. The Vivacia is the family ship and a liveship, a magical ship made of Wizardwood (a substance that gives the ship its magical properties). When Ephron dies on board of the Vivacia, it allows the vessel to “quicken,” meaning the ship comes to life and becomes a sentient being. Althea is Ephron’s youngest daughter and the one who should have inherited the ship, but much to her surprise Ephron gives the ship to his older daughter Keffria who subsequently gives it to her husband, Kyle. Althea and Kyle cannot stand each other, and since the Vivacia needs a blood relative of the Vestrits to operate, Kyle orders his son Wintrow, who wanted to become a priest, to come on board of the ship making the boy’s life miserable. Parallel to this story, we meet Kennit, an ambitious pirate who dreams of one day uniting all pirate townships and conquering all pirate ships including the Vivacia.

If the 80s American soap-opera Dynasty had a nautical version, it would be called Ship of Magic. The amount of family drama in this book is unlike anything I have read in a long time. The first fifty percent of the book is just bickering between all members of the Vestrit family, especially between Althea and Kyle.

The pace of the book is irritatingly languid. To quote Stephen King, ” When a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring’, the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with the powers of description and lost sight of his priority…” Indeed the majority of the book is descriptions of people and places to the point you wonder if anything is ever going to happen in this novel, or if this story even has a plot. Ship of Magic does have a plot, and things do eventually start happening but much later in the book, and by then I had read several other novels in between.

At a hefty eight hundred and eight pages, at the end of this book, you feel like you have been reading about Kyle, Althea, Wintrow, Vivacia, and trade families for years. That might have been Hobb’s idea all along since this is book one in the series and the introduction to all the characters and this magical, nautical world. I was happy to have stuck with it, and I actually loved the story all things concerned. However, if you enjoy your fantasy books a little faster paced, Ship of Magic might not be for you.


Format: Hardcover, 880 pages
Published: February 2nd, 1999 by Spectra (first published March 1998)
ISBN:0553575635
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

82192Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father’s true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift – the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning – the coming of King Arthur.


The Crystal Cave is book one in the Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart. Written in 1970, this is a book about Merlin. The famous wizard who played a crucial role in the birth and legend of King Arthur. I have been a fan of Arthurian stories for quite some time, and I was surprised that it took me so many years to read this book.

The book starts in Wales with Merlin still a child and the illegitimate son of a Welsh princess who refuses to name his father. Merlin grows up being ostracized for being a bastard, for having dark features (dark eyes and dark hair), and precognition abilities. All of these characteristics fed the myth that Merlin was the son of a demon. A claim that Stewart addresses later in the book.

The structure of the novel follows a first-person narrative told by Merlin and covers Merlin’s life from age six to when he becomes a young man. The book is divided into five parts. A prologue, part one (The Dove), which covers Merlin’s childhood, part two (The Falcon), a description of Merlin’s escape from his family, and his introduction to his magical studies by the hermit Galapas. Part three (The Red Dragon) relates to his time working with the High King Ambrosius and his rebuilding of Stonehenge. Part four (The Coming of The Bear) is the final part that relates to Merlin’s helping Uther Pendragon to seduce Ygraine, leading to the birth of King Arthur.

I truly enjoyed this novel and Stewart’s take on Merlin’s life. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

As to how this will be, it is with God. I can only tell you what I know. What powers is in me now is from him, and we are in his hands to make or to destroy. But I can tell you this also, Ygraine, that I have seen a bright fire burning, and in it a crown, and a sword standing in an altar like a cross.


Format: Hardcover, 527 pages
Published: June 1970 by William Morrow & Company Inc. (NY) (first published January 1st, 1970)
ISBN:0688013988
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy

The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

2495567Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.


The book starts with the protagonist, Kvothe, living a low-profile life as an innkeeper at the Waystone Inn and going by the name of Kote in the fictional world of Temerant. Kote runs the inn together with his assistant Bast. When Kote saves a traveling scribe known as Chronicler from being attacked by spider-like creatures called scrael, the Chronicler immediately recognizes Kote as the renowned Kvothe—an unequaled sword fighter and magician. The Chronicler asks permission to record Kvothe’s story. After pondering about it, Kvothe agrees to tell his story to the Chronicler but warns him that it will take three days to tell his story. The Name Of The Wind corresponds to day one of Kvothe’s story in the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy.

It’s hard to believe that a book of this magnitude was Patrick Rothfuss’s first novel. Granted it took him several years to write it while he was pursuing his B.A. in English. The Name Of The Wind is not only an incredibly creative fantasy book, a coming-of-age like nothing I had read so far, but it is also a very well-written book. I loved the narrative, the poems, and songs in the story. Rothfuss’s use of a story-within-a-story format is what sets this book apart. To imagine an entire six-hundred-and-sixty-page book being day one in Kvothe’s story is mind-blowing, but it works because Rothfuss is so creative and descriptive with every scene in the book. I felt like I knew Kvothe on a personal level. You follow him from his early beginnings with his family—a troupe of traveling performers, through meeting his first teacher—Abenthy (Ben) to his years in the University. I’m not going to deny that as much as I loved Kvothe as a character, at times, I was annoyed by how good he was at everything. Even with this small flaw, Rothfuss still manages to make Kvothe a likable character who endures many challenges. Kvothe’s life is far from easy. He loses his family at the hands of evil mystical beings, the Chandrians, at a very early age, and his early life is plagued with violence and hunger.

When I first decided to read this novel, I remember being extremely skeptical. The Name Of The Wind is probably one of the best-rated fantasy books on Goodreads, right along legends such as Tolkien’s LOTR The Fellowship Of The Ring, with a rating of four and a half stars and more than five hundred thousand ratings. I have to admit after finishing book one in this trilogy that the hype is real and very well-deserved.

I’m definitely reading book two, The Wise Man’s Fear, and together with the fandom, I will anxiously await the release of the third book.

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” 


Format: Hardcover, 662 pages
Published: April 2007 by Penguin Group DAW (first published March 27th, 2007)
ISBN: 075640407X
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Red Sister (Book of The Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence

 

25895524At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old blood show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”

And so starts Red Sister–my first book by Mark Lawrence. What a fantastic debut it is! I have many of his books in my TBR list, and I’m slowly chipping away at them. Red Sister is a book that came highly recommended to me by a friend, and I must admit I’m so happy I decided to read it.

The book starts with Nona at age eight and about to be hanged. She is saved at the last minute by a nun from the Convent of Sweet Mercy, a convent known to train chosen girls to be assassins. Most of the book is about the training, the fantastic fights, and the friendships that develop. Part coming-of-age, part YA fantasy I loved the way Lawrence created this world. His narrative is detailed, and he does a phenomenal job at developing his characters, especially the protagonist Nona.

This fast-paced, page-turner was a great introduction to the world of Mark Lawrence, and I look forward to reading the next books in this series.

“A book is as dangerous as any journey you might take. The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one. Treat them with respect.”


Format: Hardcover, 469 pages
Published: April 4th, 2017 by Ace
ISBN: 1101988851
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy

Captivating Covers

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Captivating covers is a book meme created by Jbelkbooks. Once a week you showcase “captivating” book covers that you come across. It may be a cover that you saw online, at a book shop, or at a library. You don’t have to have purchased the book as long as the cover has  captivated your eyes.

This week as I was navigating through NetGalley I came across this beautiful cover. Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley is a fantasy YA book with an interesting title and great cover.

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Title: Fate of Flames

Author: Sarah Raughley

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Scheduled to be published: November 22, 2016

Blurb

Four girls with the power to control the elements and save the world from a terrible evil must come together in the first epic novel in a brand-new series. When Phantoms—massive beasts made from nightmares and darkness—suddenly appeared and began terrorizing the world, four girls, the Effigies, each gained a unique power to control one of the classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Since then, four girls across the world have continually fought against the Phantoms, fulfilling their cosmic duty. And when one Effigy dies, another girl gains her power as a replacement. But now, with technologies in place to protect the world’s major cities from Phantom attacks, the Effigies have stopped defending humanity and, instead, have become international celebrities, with their heroic feats ranked, televised, and talked about in online fandoms. Until the day that New York City’s protection against the Phantoms fails, a man seems to be able to control them by sheer force of will, and Maia, a high school student, unexpectedly becomes the Fire Effigy. Now Maia has been thrown into battle with three girls who want nothing to do with one another. But with the first human villain that the girls have ever faced, and an army of Phantoms preparing for attack, there isn’t much time for the Effigies to learn how to work together. Can the girls take control of their destinies before the world is destroyed forever?


Review: Lichgates (The Grimoire Saga #1) by S.M. Boyce

lichgates

When Kara Magari uncovers a secret door in the middle of the forest, she discovers (and trips through) a portal to a hidden world full of terrifying things: Ourea. She just wants to go home, but the natives have other plans for her…

Kara is a teenager who one day decides to go for a hike in the woods and encounters a secret door, or lichgate, in the middle of the forest. This lichgate is a portal that takes her to the land of Ourea, an underground world of unique races, monsters and magical creatures.

I want to start by pointing out what I liked about this book. Fantasy books are probably the genre that requires the greatest amount of creativity, and in that part Boyce did a fantastic job. She spent a significant amount of time creating an entire world full of mythical and magical creatures, dragons, shape-shifters, portals and demons.

What I did not like about this book was that it felt a little too long and redundant. I understand that being the first book in a saga there will be a lot of introduction to characters and descriptions. Unfortunately, at times, the transition was choppy. The character of Kara, the protagonist, the heroine, is rather dull and a bit too naive. I didn’t really empathize with her at all. The other character in the book is Braeden Drakonin, a dark prince with a dark secret and who doesn’t get along with his dad–the big evil king. I was hoping for more romance than just the platonic thing that went on between Kara and Braeden. Maybe that will be developed in other books. Overall, Ourea is a complicated world. It is full of details, and kingdoms and species, and although the author did an excellent job at creating this mythical land the rest of the story did not feel well developed.

Lichgates is book one of the Grimoire Saga, and I’m hoping that more of the actual story and characters will be developed in future books. I’m not giving up on this series, and I’m looking forward to book number two.

I’d like to thank Story Cartel for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

3 star

Book Details:

Title:Lichgates /Author:S.M.Boyce/Genre:Fantasy/YA / ISBN:9781939997067/Publisher:Acorn Valley Press/Rating: 3-Stars/Read:June, 2015.