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Friday, February 12, 2016

"Truthwitch: Witchlands Novel 1" by Susan Dennard (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit Susan Dennard's Website Here

OVERVIEW: In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

FORMAT: Truthwitch is a YA high fantasy/adventure novel. It is the first novel in a proposed series of books titled Witchland. It stands at 416 pages and was published on January 5, 2016 by Tor Teen.  

ANALYSIS: Truthwitch was a highly hyped, almost to the point of being classified as overhyped, YA fantasy novel that was to be released right as the new year rolled in. It was being compared by promoters and individuals to the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas – who just so happens to be a good friend of the author of Truthwitch.

Being a fan of Throne of Glass, I was curious to see how Truthwitch turned out. Does it live up to the hype or will it turn out to be another overly hyped up novel that falls flat? After completing Truthwitch, I can say that in some aspects – yes it does live up to the hype. However, there are certain areas within the book that could be worked on and improved.

Truthwitch for fans of Throne of Glass will be an absolute amazing hit. It is adventurous, has extremely strong – and sometimes aggravating – main heroines, and the magic system (which sort of reminded me of something similar to The Last Airbender) is absolutely amazing. That doesn't mean it isn't without its flaws.

Truthwitch started out relatively slow. There was an annoying habit of talking about places, people, and even parts of the magic system, as if we the readers should know what was going on. Upon the start of the novel, I had to look up whether this was in fact a first novel in a series because I felt confused and a bit lost. Eventually, I decided to just continue to read and see how it turned out. When I did this, I realized that things slowly start to unravel and make sense.

Unfortunately, the confused and rather dropped in feeling readers may have at the beginning of the book might be enough to turn people away. While it is great to unravel and reveal things throughout a story, if readers are unable to connect and understand what is going on, it might cause people to stop reading. Things do work out in the end, but this was one of the problems with Truthwitch.

Another problem with Truthwitch was the plot. Ultimately, the entire novel chronicles the adventurous journey of Safi and Iseult as they are running away. Yes, there are other elements thrown in – warring territories, evil kings/emperors, romance, and a bloodwitch – thrown in, but those elements aren't really fleshed out. If you are looking for a fleshed out three-dimensional story, Truthwitch is probably not going to be for you.

For example, there is a long standing truce that has been struck between the many different territories. This truce prohibits people from harming and hurting each other and brought peace to the world during a time of war. That truce is now almost up and war is on the horizon. That is really all that is given. If you are wondering why the truce might not be resigned or what this big war is on the horizon, you aren't going to find out – at least not in this book maybe it'll be explored in the other novels.

Of course because this big war is coming up or possibly coming up, it means that people are in need of a rare truthwitch – which is what Safi is and happens to be the only one in the territory. Unfortunately, because there was no real explanation for why the war was coming up or what was going on, it made it hard to understand why all the nations were fighting to get their hands on a truthwitch. It sort of makes sense at the end of the book, but even then if you try to dive deep into it there aren't really answers to some of the questions that many people might have.

I found myself constantly asking multiple questions in an effort to understand some of the reasons why certain things or events were happening in the novel. Unfortunately, I never got answers. I don't expect all my questions to be answered in a single novel, but it was a bit frustrating to walk away with thousands more questions than answers.

Even though there were some definite drawbacks to Truthwitch, it doesn't mean it was a horrible book. There are plenty of elements that made it a pleasant novel and will make it a top 2016 novel for some people.

One of the strongest parts of Truthwitch was the amazing bond between the two main characters. Safi and Iseult are best friends forever, which in the Witchlands is considered Threadsisters. They would do anything for each other and each one watches the other's back. They are polar opposites to each other, but somehow they complement each other and make their characters almost lift off the page.

I found it refreshing to see such a strong bond between two female lead characters. All too often it is easy to make females fight amongst each other, and yes our characters do squabble and argue occasionally, but it was amazing to see their relationship portrayed so well. It was their friendship that really made me continue to read the novel until the end.

Overall, I will say that Truthwitch is a great start to what will be a promising series. It certain had a few hiccups along the way, but nothing that can't be worked out or eventually overcome as more novels are released.

If you weren't a fan of Throne of Glass – the sappy romance, following a sometimes frustrating and naive main character, and the obvious YA tropes thrown in – then Truthwitch is certainly not the book for you. Those who loved Throne of Glass will love Truthwitch and be relieved to have another amazing series to follow.

I personally will still follow this series. While it might not be one of my top novels for 2016 – it is still too early to tell – it had enough going for it that I would love to return to the world and characters.
Thursday, February 11, 2016

GUEST POST: 2015's Ten Best Fantasy Novels (According to Me) by Charlotte McConaghy

Visit Charlotte McConaghy Website Here 
Find Limerence on Amazon Here

Fantasy Book Critic is excited to welcome Charlotte McConaghy to our blog. Charlotte is promoting her newly released novel Limerence: Episode 1. Limerence is a dystopian NA (New adult) novel that has the perfect mix of action and romance.

About Limerence

No injection can cure love. Only life can do that.

Deep in the darkest tunnels hide the last of the resistance fighters. Hunted by the savage Furies and the ruthless Bloods, they live in constant peril. The only means of survival is to seek strength in family and find courage in love. So what happens when love is cured, scoured away, leaving death in its place?

In the final battle for freedom, there are no lines that won't be crossed. And for Josi this means becoming the creature she fears most of all: the girl with a blood moon heart.

The gripping conclusion to the dystopian trilogy The Cure, Limerence is a love story for the monsters within.

Perfect for fans of Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater.

Today, Charlotte has stopped by to talk about her favorite books from 2015. Please welcome her to Fantasy Book Critic! 


2015’s Ten Best Fantasy Novels
(only according to me, of course)

As we begin a new year I’ve been – unsurprisingly – reflecting on the last. While 2015 was a big output year for me as a writer, I realised that I couldn’t have written so much if I hadn’t been hugely inspired by the books I was lucky enough to be reading. So to celebrate the release of my own novel, Limerence, I’ve decided to share my ten favourite fantasy novels from 2015 in the hopes that they’ll inspire you, too!

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  1. Golden Son, by Pierce Brown
This is such a great series. Red Rising remains one of my favourite novels, so I was relieved when its sequel captivated me just as much. Though the set up isn’t quite as interesting as the first book’s – the war games challenge in Red Rising was exciting beyond belief – and though it took me a little longer to get into the story of this book, by the time I’d finished Golden Son I was deeply embroiled in the twisting plot and the struggles of the main character, Darrow. Pierce Brown has created a highly imaginative, action-packed world, but not only that, he’s created a wonderfully conflicted, loveable protagonist whose voice is undeniably charismatic. When I wasn’t gasping aloud I was swallowing the lump in my throat.

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  1. Magonia, by Maria Dahvana Headley
I was blown away by this book. I feel like I’ve been waiting for a story about a girl who was born in the sky, and whose life on earth was so unnatural it caused her to drown on the air. The rich poeticism of Headley’s prose is truly gorgeous, and such a treat to read, while the mix of real world and fantasy elements is elegantly handled and didn’t feel in any way jarring. Romantic, imaginative and poignant, my only complaint is that Magonia was over too quickly.  

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  1. Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
What a triumph of a novel! I can honestly say I was not interested in reading a book made up entirely of gathered files. I’ve tried others like this and they usually fall way flat. But Illuminae is the exception. I was astonished at how true and complex the characters felt from page one – they leapt off the page, and that’s no easy feat when you’re not telling the story from either of their perspectives. Kaufman and Kristoff have created a funny, emotional and savagely smart read – it’s a real page turner.

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  1. Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
A fantastic read. Clever, suspenseful plotting, an intriguing world and the best part of all? Wonderful, beautifully drawn characters – several of them! The story of a team of criminals on a suicidal mission into enemy territory works mostly because of the dynamic between the characters, their individual complexities and the skillful way they interact with each other. Also, I must admit I was surprised at how well the prose was written. Can’t wait for the sequel!

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  1. The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle
It’s so refreshing to find a mainstream novel not written by an American. Irish Fowley-Doyle has created a sweet, honest, magical world with The Accident Season, one that swept me away into my imagination but also kept me grounded in the real. Her main character is so engaging you can’t help but love her, and her forbidden romance in no way felt clich├ęd or tired, but true and gentle. Fowley-Doyle has dealt with a difficult subject matter by seamlessly – and sensitively – immersing it in a world of strange beauty. Well worth a read.

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  1. A Darker Shade Of Magic, by V.E. Schwab
This is another one that surprised me. I hadn’t read any of Schwab’s work before, and was pleased to find her writing engaging, fast-paced and a lot of fun. I read A Darker Shade Of Magic while living in London, so it was extra special for me, as the book takes place in three fantastic versions of London, each vastly different to the other. With two strong lead characters, you tumble through the hasty, imaginative events, through the skillful character arcs and their moving sacrifices, and are left wanting more.

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  1. The Darkest Part Of The Forest, by Holly Black
I’m a huge fan of Holly Black’s work, having come to it via the Curse Workers Trilogy, so I was extremely excited to discover her latest. It didn’t disappoint! Black has a wonderful knowledge of fairy lore and mythology, and this novel is rich with spine-tingling, swoon-worthy detail. The strangeness of the fey world makes up the heart of it, while the gorgeously odd characters navigate their way whimsically through it. You sort of get the sense that they shouldn’t tread too heavily, lest they wake the dark and dangerous creatures waiting in the forest, while at the same time knowing these characters are well and truly brave enough to deal with whatever they find.

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  1. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
I think my favourite thing about this book is the fact that it’s about one hell of a female character, and she doesn’t rely on her romantic lead to guide or motivate the action – she spends the book making her own choices, following her instincts, plunging into danger alone and generally being pretty damn kickass. That said, I did totally adore her love interest – he was great too. Full of magic and adventure, Uprooted was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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  1. Menagerie, by Rachel Vincent
I kept putting this book off, and I have no idea why – I really wish I didn’t because as soon as I started it I couldn’t put it down. What a wonderfully, weirdly imaginative world. I love monsters, and Menagerie is full of them. Though frightening or grotesque, Vincent has imbued her mythical creatures with true beauty and an undeniable kindness. My heart broke for each of them again and again, and I was so on board with the protagonist’s fury. At it’s heart, Menagerie is a poignant story about cruelty, compassion and the terrible treatment of those who are different.
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  1. The Infinite Sea, Rick Yancey
Although this book technically came out in late 2014, I didn’t get to it until last year, so I’m including – just because. The Infinite Sea’s prequel – The Fifth Wave – was such a fun read that I couldn’t wait for the second book. Not only is this dystopian world full of danger and excitement – and a whole lot of really cool action sequences – it’s also a heartfelt and insightful look at what it means to be human. I connected so deeply to the characters that the stakes rose even higher, and my nerves could hardly take the danger they were constantly shoved into. Get in quickly and give it a read before the film adaptation comes out this month.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ex-Isle by Peter Clines (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
Order the book HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic Interview with Peter Clines 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Ex-Heroes 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Ex-Patriots 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Ex-Communication 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Ex-Purgatory
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Junkie Quatrain 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of 14 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Fold
Read I See Dead People by Peter Clines (Guest Post) 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Peter Clines was born and brought up in Maine, he moved to California when he grew up and worked in Hollywood for a number of years. He has also been a prop master for several movies and TV shows. He has published several pieces of short fiction and countless articles on the film and television industry. He has previously written reviews for the Cinema Blend website and for the Creative Screenwriting magazine as well interviewed many famous film personas such as Frank Darabont, Paul Haggis, Kevin Smith, George Romero, Akiva Goldsman, David Goyer, Mark Herman, Nora Ephron among many others. He currently lives in Southern California.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: It’s been years since the tidal wave of ex-humans washed over the world. Since then, thanks to St George and his fellow heroes, the community known as the Mount has been the last known outpost of safety, sanity, and freedom left to humanity.

But even for the Mount, survival still balances on a razor’s edge—and after a disaster decimates the town’s food supply, the heroes must make a risky gamble to keep its citizens from starving. And then the news arrives of a strange, man-made island in the middle of the Pacific. An island populated not just by survivors, but by people who seem to be farming, raising children, living—people who, like the heroes, have somehow managed to keep the spark of civilization alive.

Paying this place a visit should be a simple goodwill mission, but as the island reveals itself to be a sinister mirror-image of what the heroes have built at the Mount, the cost of their good intentions becomes dangerously high.

FORMAT/INFO: Ex-Isle is 400 pages long divided over a prologue, thirty-one numbered/titled chapters, and an epilogue. All chapters are either divided into “Then” or “Now” sections. Narration is in the first-person for all “Then” chapters and in third person for all the “Now” sections. The POV's both first person and third person are via George Bailey (St. George), Madelyn Sorenson, Danielle, Zzzap (Barry Burke), and a few other characters. Ex-Isle is the fifth book in the Ex series. And it wouldn’t be a good idea to start reading the series from this book.

Ex-Isle will be published in paperback and e-book format on February 2, 2016 via Broadway Paperbacks (Crown Publishing) in the US.

CLASSIFICATION: Mixing zombies with superheroes in a desolate world, Peter Clines’ Ex series is George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead crossed with The Avengers (Marvel).

ANALYSIS: Ex-Isle is the fifth book in Peter Clines’ exhilarating series, which has an interesting take on superheroes and zombies. So far I’ve been a big fan of the series and Peter has wowed me with each volume. So when this book was announced, I was very excited to see where he would take the story after the tumultuous event of Ex-Purgatory.

This book has two plot threads, the first one focuses on St. George, Zzzap and Madelyn the corpse girl who undertake a mission to look into an island made up of ships. On another track, we have Danielle, Cesar and the super soldiers who decide to take a sojourn out into the country to try to see if they can scrounge more help in the food department. The story takes its turns twisting both threads and upping the tension.

The main story deals with a new group that’s discovered which is ruled by a person who can be best described as this world’s Aquaman. But he’s not the benevolent kind and neither is the group. Our heroes find themselves in a quandary as the folks they decided to help look at them with scorn and distrust. Back at the outpost, Danielle is trying to overcome her PTSD and imagine life without being in the cerebrus armor. Life is made doubly hard when the exes are just on the other side of a chainlink fence and the super soldiers are acting a tad weird.

Overall this story was something that falls short of the high standard that has been set by the previous four books. Ex-Isle tries to go with a different track but ultimately isn’t quite able to shake off the malaise that hangs around the story. Yes the story is fast paced and very exciting but so far we don’t get something new and feel it’s a bit of the same. St. George and Stealth’s relationship isn’t explored much and after Ex-Isle I was hoping to see more of them together. Madelyn does get a lot more page time, which is tremendous. Her character is one of the most tragic ones and she has quite a baptism by fire within this book.

Overall Ex-Isle is a pleasant read, it doesn’t have the suspense or mystery of the first 4 volumes. It does have a charm to it and thereby making it a fun read. As a reader I’ve enjoyed reading more about all my favorite characters but as a fan I’ve come to expect so much more from Peter Clines.

CONCLUSION: To sum it up, Ex-Isle is a good read but doesn’t match the high of its preceding volumes. I’m still a fan of Peter Clines and will gladly recommend the Ex-Heroes series one and all as Peter’s writing and characters are what make this series a special one.

Monday, February 8, 2016

GUEST BLOG POST: Children in Fantasy by Duncan Lay

 Amazon Link for The Blood Quarrel: The Complete Edition Here

Fantasy Book Critic welcomes Australian fantasy author Duncan Lay, author of the Dragon Sword Histories and The Empire of Bones series. Duncan Lay recently released a thrilling fantasy novel The Bloody Quarrel.

In his guest blog post, Duncan Lay explores the use of children in fantasy series and the role they play in plot development. He explores how they are used in his novel and his opinions on this topic.

Summary for Bloody Quarrel:

Fooled by the treacherous King Aidan, Fallon has shot down the one man he trusted to save his beloved nation of Gaelland. And yet, when the King could grind Fallon underfoot, he draws the simple farmer and fighter closer, making a hero of him.

Embroiled in plots beyond his comprehension and weighted with the guilt of the prince's murder, Fallon must tread carefully if he is to accomplish the task that first brought him to the cursed capital: rescue his wife, Bridgit, and the rest of his village from Kottermani slavery. If he and his hopelessly ensnared men can survive, they may yet find redemption.

Meanwhile, across the ocean, Bridgit is rallying those around her to spring an escape. But who can be trusted? The ever-present danger of traitors and liars among the slaves, and even among her fellow Gaelish, is poison to her plans.

With an ocean between them and fouler nightmares looming, Fallon and Bridgit will be driven to their very limits to escape their prisons, find each other, and bring justice to Gaelland.

This epic fantasy is perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Joe Abercrombie.

A huge thank you to Duncan Lay for stopping by today. 

Children in Fantasy by Duncan Lay 

Children don't tend to get a good run in fantasy. If they're not being hunted for sport (Hunger Games)
or chosen for sacrifice (Harry Potter) they don't even get a line of dialogue above the occasional grunt (Feral Kid in Mad Max 2). If someone is going to fall over in front of a monster, it's usually a child. Scream at the wrong moment? A child. Get used to move the plot along in an unconvincing manner? A … well, you get the picture.

I didn’t set out to give a voice to children in fantasy or anything remotely noble. I just wanted to write a story that appealed to me, a tale of a man in a dark place, coming back from that through the love of a small child. But, with my third trilogy now out, I have discovered there is a common theme running through my work. Children aren’t there just to motivate the heroes or salivate the monsters.

In The Dragon Sword Histories, Karia’s powers allowed her to physically save Martil, while her love emotionally saved both Martil and Merren. In Empire Of Bones, Sendatsu’s desire to get back to his children first drove him across Vales – and then his children changed the way he looked at the world. Their view of life changed his.

Now, in The Arbalester’s Trilogy, Kerrin will also fundamentally affect the story. In The Last Quarrel, his mother, Bridgit, was prepared to sacrifice herself to protect him. Afraid of the dark, not very healthy, he was unable to save her. In The Bloody Quarrel he needs to save his father. Fallon is lost after being tricked into killing his beloved Prince Cavan. He’s unable to help himself, let along save his son. It’s time for Kerrin to step up and help his father, if the pair of them are going to get Bridgit back from Kottermani slavery.

In The Poisoned Quarrel, the third and final book of the trilogy, he’s going to have to – ah, but that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Now these are children in an adult world, learning that life gives them no concessions because they are smaller. Mistakes can kill you or the ones you love. Just because they are small, doesn’t make anything cute and cuddly. I enjoy writing children because I always enjoyed telling stories to my own children. They changed me, so of course I believe they can change the characters in my books. And I write them because I feel it is a theme that can reach across the ages, as well as the divide between a fantasy setting and our own world.

Fantasy is always better when it comes with a bedrock of reality. If you believe the characters, then you are prepared to go on a journey with them and accept whatever strangeness may come their way. You are required to suspend your disbelief when you crack open the cover of a fantasy book but that’s far easier to do when you believe in the characters. Love of a child, love of a parent, wanting to protect your children, see them grow up in a safer place – these are all themes that anyone can relate to.

Apparently there are only seven basic story archetypes. Yes, it’s great to throw in twists and turns and shock endings and have the reader wondering what will come next. But, realistically, there’s not too many plot twists that haven’t been tried before. When it comes to characters, however, there is no limit. You can give them all the foibles, the mannerisms and the mistakes you see among your friends and family. Creating these characters is one of the real joys of writing. I just happen to like making some of mine smaller than usual.

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