Friday, January 30, 2009

Blue is for Nightmares by Laurie Faria Stolarz (4/5 stars)

This is the first book in the Blue is for Nightmares series; so far there are 4 books in this series. This book was kind of a cross between a mystery and a teen horror flick with a paranormal bent to it. It was a suspenseful and creepy novel that was hard to put down and had a number of surprising twists to it that left me unable to stop reading.

The book is written from the viewpoint of Stacey Brown. Stacey is a practicing Wiccan who has the ability to see the future. Exactly what Stacey's powers are and the consistency of her powers is kind of a mystery, even to her. She starts having nightmares about her best friend Drea being killed by someone. Last time Stacey had nightmares like this someone died. Stacey lives at a boarding school and as such there is a lot of teen angst going on; people are worried about homework and boyfriends more than anything. When Drea starts receiving strange messages from her supposed killer; Drea and Stacey don't know who to trust anymore.

This was kind of your typical teen read, it was well-written and easy to read. Stolarz does an exceptional job of building the mystery and suspense throughout the story. I found myself suspecting a number of different characters of being the stalker but couldn't figure out which one it was until the end. This story was nicely tied up at the end; you wouldn't need to read the rest of the books in the series to enjoy this one.

I had a couple small complaints. The first is that the Wiccan rituals (magic) that Stacey performs are detailed with excruciating detail. I imagine this took a lot of time to research on Stolarz's part. Initially these details are very interesting, but as the story continues I feel that the amount of page space that is lent to detailing these rituals starts to take away from the story. Many times I found myself skimming through these details because they just didn't pertain to the story that much. I also found Stacey's friends easy acceptance of all of the strange things Stacey does to be a little odd, but maybe not that out of place for a young teenage girl.

The second small complaint is a personal issue I have, the story was just a bit too creepy for me. I am not really all that into scary stories, I get nightmares from them. This definitely isn't the creepiest story I've read but it is up there in if you have problems with scary horror stories I would skip this one. This book is definitely more teen horror than it is a paranormal mystery.

The Host by Stephanie Meyer (3.5/5 stars)

This is a very popular and widely reviewed book and opinions about seem to be all over the place. I actually listened to this as an audio book. The quality of the audio book was very good. While I didn't enjoy the book that much, I found it very interesting in parts.

Foremost I have to say that Stephanie Meyer has a very, very distinct writing style. Her writing is a bit meandering and deliberate; and it focuses almost solely on the characters in the book and not on outside events. Her books are very much people books and not event or action books. That being said if you loved the style that the Twilight series was written in then you will probably also love this book. This book is written very much in the same style as that series. If you liked the characters of Twilight, and suffered through the style the books were written in, this is not the book for you.

The book is done from the viewpoint of Wanderer. Wanderer is a Soul (an alien species who has taken over all humanity) who has been placed in the host body of Melanie. There is only one problem, Melanie is still in her body with Wanderer; as such Melanie is caged in Wanderer's head. Melanie was part of a human resistance and the Soul's Seekers (the enforcers of the Soul's society) want Wanderer to try and get information about the rebels from Melanie. Unfortunately Melanie is only concerned about one thing and that is protecting those she loves; specifically a man named Jared and a boy named Jaimie. Melanie begins to drive Wanderer crazy with a need to find out if Jared is okay. Wanderer finally submits and Melanie/Wanderer go wandering through the desert in search of the rebel human faction.

This book, true to the main character's name, wanders a lot. It is slow moving and spends a lot of time dealing with how people feel for one another and how they react to one another. An inordinate amount of time is spend listening to Melanie and Wanderer argue in Wanderer's head; especially in the beginning of the book. Wanderer's tendency towards hysterics when encountered with any, even mild, violence got irritating. I understood the point the author was trying to make, that even though they take over worlds the majority of Souls are not used to any form of violence, but this was driven home so much throughout the story that it got excessive.

The special thing about this story is that it spends a lot of time on the philosophy of humanity. What makes humans, human? How much of what makes us human is linked to our bodies and how much is linked to our minds? What makes humanity unique and special as a species? How does an alien civilization promote themselves as peaceloving yet take over whole worlds of species? As with Twilight, a ton of time is spent dealing on the subject of the strength of love. How much of love is based in body, mind, memories, etc? Meyer continues with the overlying theme that she worked with in the Twilight series; which is love conquers all. I am beginning to wonder if this will be the theme of every book that she writes.

There are also interesting questions in dealing with the society the Souls have set up on Earth; although these are small asides in the story. For example if two Souls in human body have a child and they love that child what will happen? Their society is one based on peace and love; so will the society allow the Souls to keep their child and let it grow up human or will they force the Souls to give up their child so that it can be implanted with a Soul.

I did kind of have to slog through this story. Things moved very slow and very deliberately. Many times I found the characters frustrating. There were some moments that I really loved though. I loved Wanderer's stories about planets where she had previously lived. Although I wondered about the limitation of the planets she had lived on; do we really think humans are that unique as a race? I also loved the descriptions about how the rebel human society lived. The characters made the book, (Wanderer and Melanie were not my favorites) I really liked Jeb and Jaimie though.

Will I read another book if Stephanie Meyer comes out with one in the future? Yeah probably, but if her books continue on preaching the same themes of love conquers all and questions of humanity I might give her up after her next book. The best thing about this book is that it makes you think; the worst is that it is much too long for what it delivers.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins (4/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. While I still didn't find this book to be as good as her novel The Hunger Games, I thought that this book was better than the first one in this series. If you liked the first book, you are sure to like this one.

Gregor is struggling to deal with life after returning with his father from the first book in the Underland Chronicles. His dad is sick and can't work so his family is struggling to make ends meet. In an effort to give his little 2 yr old sister Boots so semblance of a normal childhood he decides to take her out sledding in Central Park. He looks away for a second and next thing he knows Boots has been kidnapped back into the Underland. Gregor follows her kidnappers and finds that she has been kidnapped to in order to ensure her safety. Apparently him and Boots are part of the next Underland prophecy; one in which all is lost if the baby dies and one in which Gregor is supposed to single handidly destroy the evil white rat called the Bane.

I thought that the character development was better in this book and that in general the book was paced better with more engaging action sequences. This book wasn't wrapped up as nicely as the first book; there were still unresolved issues with missing people and stuff like that. A very solid children's book again, with easy vocab, and some violence and scary parts. I liked two of the new characters introduced; both Howard and the rat the accompanies Gregor (I am drawing a blank on her name) really add to the story and are developed as great characters.

My only complaints again would be that this isn't the most creative story. It is also a very straighforward story; there was a small twist at the end but it was nothing that couldn't be foreseen. I wish the plots of these books were a bit more complex. I suppose there is some charm in the simplicity of it too and I guess *it is* a children's book.

Overall this book is a quick read and it is engaging. A great children's book that I think adult fans of fantasy would like too. I am looking forward to the third book.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (4/5 stars)

I liked the book Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins that I got the first couple books in her Underland Chronicles. This is the first book in that series and this series is definitely focused to a younger age of child than the Hunger Games was.

In this book Gregor is forced to skip summer camp to watch his 2 year old sister. Gregor's dad went missing and his grandma is kind of neither here nor there and it is really hot and they don't have basically it looks like his summer it going to suck. Or so he thinks. Then it gets even worse when him and his sister (Boots) are sucked down an air vent into the Underland. The Underland is full of giants bugs, spiders, and rats as well as a race of humans that are trying to survive down there. They think Gregor is the warrior of their prophecy.

This is a solid kid's fantasy book. I didn't think it was super original or exciting; a lot of the ideas and the book can be found in other stories. It was well written though and I think a younger kid would enjoy it. A quick, easy read.

By the end of the story, I found that I was enjoying the story. This is definitely a lower level of reading though than Collins second series. The story was a bit tedious at times too. Overall I liked the book but I wasn't ecstatic about it. I will read the second book and see what I think about that one...then I will decide it I want to read the rest of the series. Definitely not as well-written and creative as The Hunger Games though.

Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield (4/5 stars)

This was a very interesting book that takes a look into the life of a gladiatrix. It is a fictional story, the author explains at the end of the book where he got the story from and how much is based in fact and fiction. Most of the book is fiction with the historical figures being accurate.

Lysandra is a Spartan priestess who is sold into slavery after her ship sinks and she washes up on shore. Her Spartan upbringing serves her well as a gladiatrice and she is quickly found to be ferocious fighter. She finds love where she least expects it and finds a trainer's hatred to be much more dangerous than anything she faces in the ring.

This was a well-written book. It was engaging, with well done action scenes. There is something for everyone here; love, hatred, revenge, action, politics. For some reason when I got the book from Amazon Vine I thought it was a young adult book...I don't know where I got that idea from but it is not.

This book is not for the faint of heart. The arena violence is described in detail, as is subjugation of the gladiatrix, rape, sex both between same sex and opposite sex partners. From time to time I was cringing at the bloody detail.

The author did a great job at weaving this story into what is known about Roman history. It was very believable sounding. The ending takes an ironic twist that was delightfully surprising and somewhat realistic.

I was a little disappointed that so much of the story was spend setting Lysandra up as the general of an army for an outlandish arena spectacle, and then nothing was really ever done with that. I guess maybe it was part of the irony of the story but it seemed like that was a waste of plot. Other than that I enjoyed the story.

Great book I look forward to more books from this author.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Holy Smokes by Katie MacAlister (4/5 stars)

This is the fourth, and so far last, book in the Aisling Grey Guardian series. This book follows much in the same vein as the third book in the series. It is light, easy to read, and an entertaining story. Although there are strong aspects of romance to this book; I think fans of the paranormal genre who like action more than romance will also like this book.

The book starts with Aisling getting stood up at the alter by Drake. Of course it's not Drake's fault. Again Aisling has many things coming at her from all directions. She is pregnant, they are at war with the red dragon clan, she has been proscribed and is trying to get rid of her dark powers, her guardian mentor-ship is on hold, and she has to perform duties for the blue dragon clan. All of this is complicated by her family being in town for the wedding.

As with the other books, a lot happens in this book. I was happy that the plot was very finely crafted and all of the intertwining events made sense and were resolved. There are still some cliff hangers at the end of the book, but they have more to do with other characters than with Aisling and Drake.

Aisling is a little bit less of an airhead in this book. She actually gets things done, as opposed to just screwing them up. Her and Drake make more progress towards a decent, modern-day relationship, so at least they aren't as messed up as in the previous books. Aisling, herself, is not my most favorite character but the side characters more than make up for her shortcomings.

Previous to this book I said the third one in the series was my favorite, well now this one is my favorite in the series. I plan on reading the Silver Dragons series by Katie MacAlister too. These are fun books for a quick read when you want something light. They don't really overextend your brain and are a nice vacation from heavier reading.

Poison by Chris Wooding (5/5 stars)

This was a surprisingly good book. I have never read a book by Chris Wooding before, and although I had to slog through the first chapter, the book really picked up pace from that point on.

Poison lives in a swamp with her step-mother, father and baby sister. Poison is an outcast, she can never understand why the people of the swamp village put up with living the way they do, she can't understand why someone doesn't change things. When Poison's sister is stolen by the Phaeries it is the last straw. Poison leaves the village with the local wraith-catcher determined to get her sister back.

This book starts out as a wonderfully Gothic and classic Brothers Grimm-like story. These is not your Disney fairy tale but the dark and scary fairy tale that stays true to a Grimm fairy tale. Initially you think this book is just a very well written story about a girl on a quest to save her sister. As the story progresses it ends up being about so much more. There is much more at stake than Poison's sister. Poison quickly finds out that reality is not what it seems; and deeper questions come up as to who weaves the stories that are a person's life.

This was a delightful book. The details are magnificent and the story is very creative. The plot weaves irony in and out of the story and you will say "huh, wow that was clever." Poison is a strong character and the side characters are also intriguing. Wooding has developed an interesting world where humans are on the bottom of the food chain, except in one aspect.

This is not a book for the faint at heart. Although it is appropriate for preteens and young adults; it is a creepy and scary book. I would put the creepiness right up there with Joseph Delauney's Spook's Apprentice series. This is a wonderful young adult horror though.

I also have the book The Storm Thief by Wooding and I am very much looking forward to reading that book. I am definitely going to look into acquiring more of Wooding's books. He is a great storyteller. I don't think I have gotten such delight out of a fairy tale since I read Ironside by Holly Black. Although this tale is set in a different world; the characters are just as engrossing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Eternals by Neil Gaiman (5/5 stars)

Okay I will start by saying I am a huge Gaiman fan. So, I really like his stuff. When I saw that this had been released I stuck on my wish list and finally got it for Christmas!

Supposedly this is a revamp of The Eternals as done by Kirby back in the day. I never read any of the originals but this still looked pretty cool.

The drawing is fantastic; the super heroes and Eternals have undergone a revamp and are now sleek and updated. I thought it was fun that some classic super heroes made appearances in here, the appearance of Iron Man was especially timely.

The Eternals themselves were made into mysterious and curiously deep characters. In the beginning I was a bit confused about who was "good" and who was "bad'. Of course that was the point the Eternals don't take sides, they just are. As usually Gaiman made the story go deeper than the overall plot; bringing in questions of mortality, eternal youth, and the origin of life.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel. I am very happy I read it. The only thing I was really disappointed in was that Gaiman did all this work to set up these great characters and this great story and then it was over! I hope that there are more additions to this set.

The Forests of Silence by Emily Rodda (3/5 stars)

This is the first book in the Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda. I think the series is 8 books in length but I am not certain. These books were about what I expected them to be. They say they are aimed at the 9-12 year old age and I think they are really much younger books than that.

These books were a super easy read. I read a lot of young adult books and I think these would be classified more as childrens' books; kind of beginner chapter books. They are written very simply. The writing is easy to read and the vocabulary used very basic.

I thought the the character conversations were very forced. They all sounded awkward, like the characters were reading from a bad script. I know the author is trying to keep vocab easy but especially the beginning of the book was hard to get through.

The story itself is also not that creative. It is a very classic evil lord takes over the realm and young boy must collect the seven magical gems to overcome him story. The characters are very stereotyped; I felt like I was reading a session of Dungeons and Dragons where the players weren't all that interesting or creative.

Despite the fact that I didn't enjoy the book that much, I think a younger kid might. This book would be a good starter chapter book and a good entry into the fantasy realm for a kid just starting out reading on their own. In many ways it reminded me of the choose your own adventure books I read as a kid; except you couldn't choose anything in this book.

There was some charm in this being such a classical type of fantasy adventure story. I just honestly think that they are many better fantasy books out their for both children and young adults. This is a good starter series nothing more. I don't think I will read any more of these. I will keep this book around for my son though and when he is older he can read it and see if he wants to continue with them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (4/5 stars)

This was a really good book. A very good young adult fantasy book. So far there are three books in this series that I have seen called "The Queen's Thief" series. This is the first of the three.

In this book Gen is languishing in prison after bragging about stealing an important item from the king and getting caught. The King's magus comes to promise that he will free Gen if Gen can find and steal the magus a very important item.

This book is well-written and is written in a very straight forward, easy-to-read, style. It is definitely a fantasy adventure; the world the story is set in will remind of the middle ages a little bit with the exception of some additional bits of technology thrown in (guns, clocks, etc). This book is just a good book until you get to the end. The twists thrown at the reader at the end of the book are very well done and make this an exceptional book.

I was disappointed when the book ended...I really want to read more about Gen's adventures. Luckily there are two more books out there that I can read!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pirates! by Celia Rees (4/5 stars)

I picked up this book because I had be seeing it on shelves for ages and was curious. It ended up being a pretty darn good book.

This book tells the story of a young girl, Nancy, who is the daughter to a sugar plantation owner. When Nancy's father dies. Nancy is spirited away by her brothers to live on their sugar plantation in Jamaica. Upon her arrival she finds that she has been promised to a horrible man for marriage. Certain circumstances come about and Nancy ends up fleeing for her life and signing up to be serve as a pirate on a pirate ship. The majority of the book is spent on her adventures.

This was a very good book. The writing style is very straight forward, the whole book is from Nancy's perspective. The plot moves slowly at the beginning with the the first third of the book telling about how Nancy and Minerva got onto the pirate ship. The pace picks up from there and hurtles from adventure to adventure. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

I have one small complaint about the book and that was that it dealt with pirates from a very romantic point of view; the violence of a pirate's lifestyle is somewhat muted. I think young girls would have been hard pressed to serve as women on a pirate ship in reality. Of course, this isn't reality, it's just a very good story that definitely sways toward fantasy. It reminded me a lot of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It is a very solid young adult novel.

I liked the book and will be checking out more books by this author.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Light my Fire by Katie MacAlister (4/5 stars)

This is the third book in the Aisling Grey Guardian series by Katie MacAlister. I thought that this book was much better than the second book and much more on par with the first book.

Aisling is moving to London to start her Guardian training with Nora. Once again right from the beginning things start going wrong. She finds out Nora is being called in for questioning which could lead to Nora losing her rights to mentor Aisling. Then on her first outing with Nora; Jim eats the imp king. Now the imps are out for Aisling's blood. As if this wasn't enough Aisling finds out Drake is in town, the Red Dragons have declared war on Green Dragon sept, the London community wants Aisling to take over as Venediger (sp?), and everyone keeps telling Aisling she is pregnant (which she just can't believe).

This book was much better than the last book. I felt like the plot made a lot more sense. Many of the problems Aisling ran into were wrapped up nicely. Aisling and Drake actually start to have a decent relationship with each other. The problems Aisling gets into with the demon princes and with the dragons were interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

As with the other books this is a light, humorous read, that shouldn't be taken too seriously. Aisling gets too whiny at some points, and suffers a bit from being a damsel in distress more often than not. Drake is irritating with his need to control her; but in this book that is tempered some and we see Drake gaining some humanity. This is a quick, easy, and amusing read. There are a lot of sex scenes but they are creative and tastefully done. I am actually very excited to read the next book (which is something I couldn't say after the second book).

If you liked the first two books, this book shouldn't disappoint.

Castle by J. Robert Lennon (2/5 stars)

I got this book through Amazon Vine as an uncorrected proof; it actually isn't released until April '09

This book was not what I expected it to be. It starts as a chilling mystery. Eric moves to a secluded town and purchases 600+ acres of land there. He works to renovate the house and eventually learns that there is a small portion of land in the middle of his property that he doesn't own. Here starts the mystery on his journey to find out exactly what is out there on that land and who owns it. As the book continues it, in my opinion, degrades into a commentary on current society and military institutions. If you are shaking your head wondering how we got from point A to point B here...well I am kind of still trying to figure that out too.

This writing style of this book is difficult to explain. Personally I found it very hard to start reading the book but once I had started reading the book grabbed me and pulled me onto the next chapter. I found this happened every time I would start reading the next part of the book. I think maybe there was just too much description; Eric describes every little action he takes. Sometimes this description adds to the story but most of the time it seemed a bit over the top. I also thought that the dialogue between characters in the book was poorly done. I know Eric is supposed to lack social skills; but even the people he talked too had very unnatural and stilted sounding dialogue. I also agree with other reviewers that have said the last 1/3 of the book was strange and kind of ruined the book for me.

It is somewhat difficult to fully review this book without some spoilers so in the section below I will discuss a couple things that bothered me that are SPOILERS; so skip it if you don't want to know.

****************SPOILER START****************
I found it very odd that Eric had no idea who Dr. Avery was initially but then all of the sudden he starts having all these childhood memories about Dr. Avery. I guess we were supposed to see that Eric suppressed these childhood memories? I am not sure and this could have been better conveyed.

The details of what happened to Eric in the military really didn't need to be laid out like they were. It would have kept the mysterious tone of the novel if the readers were allowed to use there own imagination. I thought throwing this part in at the end forced this novel into being a social commentary, it took a good suspenseful novel and tried to force it to be something more. It seemed silly.
***************SPOILER END******************

Overall this book was a difficult and, in the end, disturbing and uncomfortable read. It didn't entertain me as much as it irritated me; I was grateful that it is a relatively short book. Still the book did pull me through once I got into it; at least in the beginning. I just think people should know that this book is a commentary on society and government rather than an entertaining read. I don't see myself reading any of this author's past or future work; this type of book just isn't my thing.

The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe (3/5 stars)

This was a beautifully written and captivating book, but don't be foolled by the reviews that say this book crosses genres. This book is a romance. There are some fantasy elements, but this book is without a doubt a romance.

The books starts in one of the lost cities of the drakon where we meet an outcast half-breed named Clarissa and the marquess Christoff. The book then jumps 15 years later to deal with a young lady named Rue who is the Smoke Thief.

Much to my disappointment minimal time is spent on the Smoke Thief's antics. Almost immediately Christoff enters the picture and begins to woo Rue. Here starts your very typical romance type of plot. Rue is willful, Christoff loves her but is too overbearing and controlling, Rue struggles with her attraction to Christoff. I won't spoil the outcome but if you know the typical outcome of a romance then you already know this story.

Despite the above complaint it is a very well-written story. It is a beautiful love story. There is some action but I found the action scenes to be far and few; this may have been a blessing in disguise because action scenes do not seem to be the author's strong point. Abe is very adept at writing about lush surroundings and beatufiul descriptions. Her love scenes are magically written and well done. If you like Victorian style romances this is definitely the book for you.

Overall I liked the story and it was a quick read. I was pulled right through it from beginning to end. I guess I just felt a bit misled from what I have heard about this being a magical fantasy novel. There is a touch of that but it does not by any means dominate the love story. I'll repeat one more time, this is a romance...a beatifully written and lush romance.

I have the second book from this author which is called The Dream Thief. It looks like this second book deals with some of the side characters from the first. I am still looking forward to reading it but I don't know that I will read many of the books beyond this one.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Out of Time by John Marsden (3/5 stars)

I am not quite sure what to say about this novella. It was very well written. But it was more of a collection of short stories that were loosely tied together than an actual novel.

James is a quiet boy who has befriended an old physicist. When James inherits a time machine he begins to travel through time only to find out it's not all it's really cut out to be. This is woven with the story of a girl who was knocked out during a bombing and has lost her family. These two stories are constantly interrupted by other brief stories. The only thing they all have in common is that the people aren't where they should be or don't know where they should be. I was not sure where the other brief stories came from; I think they are stories that James read, although they could have been things James experienced.

If the above sounds kind of confusing, well it was. The writing itself was exceptional and even the briefest of stories drew you in and developed the characters in great depth. The way the story was put together was confusing, and the constant interruption of the main story with unrelated side stories, made the whole book seem a bit schizophrenic. Trying to figure out what was going on as I read the book was difficult, I finally just decided to enjoy reading the stories for what they were individually and trust that everything would come together and make sense in the end. Well, my trust was misplaced. Some of the things made sense, while others were left dangling. At one point James' sister herself is reading a Book of Unfinished Tales, where the stories are left dangling with apparently no meaning. I almost felt like Marsden added this part to excuse his own collection of dangling stories.

So while this was an intriguing and well-written book; I thought it was organized poorly and kind of only got halfway to where it was trying to go. It is a slow and meandering read, although the book itself is very short. The writing was good enough I might check out some of Marsden's earlier books; I wouldn't really recommend this book though.

The Heart of Stars by Kate Korsyth (4/5 stars)

This is the third, and final, book in the trilogy Rhiannon's Ride. This book was a good balance of adventure and intrigue. I didn't think it was quite as good as the first two books; there were parts of the book where things got a little tedious and I had to drag myself through them. Those parts were far between and short though; so overall I really enjoyed this book.

Rhiannon takes off to rescue the twins from the Lord of Fettercain while the Keeper of the Keys must travel back through time to prevent the Lord of the Ravens from being raised. This book was, for the most part, fast paced and engaging. Forsyth's greatest strength is in characterization; even the characters with small roles seem to come alive.

As I said, this book switched between the two parties chasing down the bad guys and scenes at the court of Lusescere. Bronwen plays a huge role in this book as she steps up to rule Lusescere in her husband's absence. Lewen plays a much smaller role in the beginning of this book, with Rhiannon really coming into her own on her rescue mission.

This was a great book and a wonderful conclusion to the series. The plot of intricate and finely woven, the switches between viewpoint were well done, overall this was a wonderfully crafted story. A very solid fantasy. I can't wait to read more of Forsyth's work!

The Shining City by Kate Forsyth (5/5 stars)

This is the second book in the trilogy Rhiannon's Ride. This book was full of much more intrigue than the first book (it takes place at the Royal Court). There is not much action in the first half of the book; this change of pace does not make the series suffer though, I actually though this book was even better than the first one.

Rhiannon, Lewen and crew show up in Lucescere and things turn out as awful as Rhiannon thought they would. Rhiannon is thrown into prison while her friends try to comfort her and plead with the Righ for her to have a more lenient sentence. Meanwhile darker things are afoot than Rhiannon's trial. The kingdom is being thrown topsy turvy by dark magic and events are drawing together to create the most dire situation possible.

This book was much darker than the first. There was much more time spent with court intrigue than with adventure; yet the court intrigue was very well done. You can really feel the despair of the characters. At times I was angry that so many bad things were happening to the character; just the fact that the author makes you feel so upset for the characters is a testament to the quality of this book. It is an amazing book. It never once got boring and I was pulled through the book unable to put it down at the end.

Once again my only complaint would be that the book ends with a number of issues being resolved. Basically it ends mid-story and if I had not had the next book I would be grinding my teeth in frustration. My recommendation would be to make sure you have the third book before reading the second one. A great series, I will definitely take a look at the first series Kate Forsyth wrote.

The Tower of Ravens by Kate Forsyth (5/5 stars)

Kate Forsyth is best known for her last series the Witches of Eileanan which I haven't read. This book is the first book in her latest series; Rhiannon's Ride. Rhiannon's Ride is a trilogy. Overall this was an excellent and very solid fantasy. For me it fell somewhere between and epic type of fantasy and an adventure fantasy. The first book is more of an adventure fantasy.

This book starts out with No-Horn a half-satrycorn girl who is in danger on being killed by the satrycorn tribe because she has not yet grown a horn. No-Horn manages to kill a prisoner and steal his goods; she captures a black-winged horse and flees the tribe. She ends up in the forest near Lewen's parents' land. Lewen finds her tied to the horse and helps to heal her. Lewen and family decide to name her Rhiannon. The remainder of the book deals with their adventures on their way to the Shining City of Lucescere.

This was a great book. There was a lot of action, the plot is complex and deep. The world is magnificent and is developed to great detail. There are a number of different races of creatures and there is a very complex history behind the story. I am guessing that some of the history and backstory were developed in the Witches of Eileanan series. Rhiannon and Lewen are wonderful characters who come across as believable both in the heroism and their humanity. The supporting characters are also rich with personality and history. Reading this book really made me want to go back to the first series and read more about all the fascinating characters in the background.

That being said, I found this to be a stand alone series. Although I am guessing you might understand the motives of some of the supporting characters better if you knew their history from the first series. That being said this is *not* a stand alone book. The first book stops basically mid journey. I was extremely grateful that I had purchased the next book in the series already.

This really is one of the best straight fantasy novels I have read in some time. There is action, adventure, intrigue, true love, and magic. The intricacies of all of the customs of the different races are fascinating but never overbearing.

In summary a wonderful read. My only complaint would be that the book does not wrap anything up before its conclusion. I would recommend buying all three books if you opt to read the first one; otherwise you will be fretting about what is going to happen to Rhiannon while you wait to get the next book. I can't imagine reading the first book and not reading the second and third one. This book made me want to go out and get all of the books in the Witches of Eileanan series too!