Tag Archives: fantasy

What to Read: Red Seas Under Red Skies

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Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch


Summary

Having narrowly escaped their previous caper in Camorr, a battered Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen strike out for Tal Verrar, home of the infamous gambling house, the Sinspire, for what could be their biggest con yet. But nothing is ever simple for these daring thieves. When plans go array, Locke and Jean find themselves embroiled in a feud between powerful parties and hunted by others unknown. The pair escaped Camorr with their lives, but Tal Verrar may not be so generous.

Overall Impressions

A perfect compliment to The Lies of Locke Lamora. This sequel maintains the suspense and laugh-out-loud wit as its original, propelled by the lovably incorrigible energy of its characters. Locke and Jean return as one of my favorite con artist/old married couple duos, and Captain Drakasha is the pirate queen we all aspire to be. Dark, though less edgy than the first installment, I loved riding along side the Gentlemen Bastards on another “insane misadventure”. Lynch easily weaves old threads of plot with the new, and once again has readers ready to follow the Thorn of Camorr to hell and back. Recommended for adult readers of fantasy and adventure.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: Daughter of Smoke & Bone

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


Summary

Art student Karou’s double-life has long been filled with dark magic and strange beasts. Yet her place among her adoptive, inhuman family has always been a mystery. When supernatural events begin to occur around the world, Karou finds herself alone and thrust into the makings of a war. A run-in with one of the angel-like Akiva only leaves her with more questions. Unsure who to trust, Karou must discover the deadly past that has led her present, and face an uncertain future.

Overall Impressions

Gorgeously written, this is one of my favorite YA fantasy series. After book one I gleefully tore through the rest of the series. The characters are highly developed and charming, and I always appreciate books with a strong female lead. Taylor constructed an equally dark and fantastical world to compliment her characters. Suspenseful and romantic, her writing balances a quick-paced plot with elegant style. I recommend the series for lovers of YA fantasy.

Happy Reading!

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Part of That World

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Every book lover has had that “Little Mermaid” moment. That moment where we fall so deeply in love with a fictional world that we’d die happy if we could spend just ten minutes there. But what happens when we’re not just experiencing fictional worlds? What happens when we’re creating them? Creating a fictional world can be challenging, but not to fear fellow mermaids! Here are a few starting tips to leave readers wishing they were part of that world.

Defining Borders 

As discussed in an earlier post, setting is a powerful tool, so it’s important to use it to its full potential. When designing a fictional world, making borders is a great place to start.Building land-based borders can help define the edges of a character’s world. These edges can be limited to something as small as a single street, or as vast as a universe. There may be entire continents that make up your world, but the ones that really matter are the ones that effect characters.

There are other ways to define borders as well. Unless it’s a Doctor Who-ish world where anything can happen at any time, there are usually basic laws to how things work. Consider: What are the physical limitations of the story and characters? For example, in my novel some people like Rumpelstiltskin use magic, but they can’t go around doing whatever they want. There are lines that cannot be crossed, which adds drama by creating consequences for people who try to overstretch their limits.

Creating Cultures

Who lives in your world is a large part of its construction. What do these people value and how does it shape their world? Do they blow apart mountains to get to the other side because they value efficiency, or do they avoid the mountains because of folklore? Culture will determine how characters interact with their environment and each other. When considering creating fictional cultures, it can be difficult to find a place to start. Research can help. I often borrow aspects from already existing cultures and integrate pieces into my work to form something new.

Often culture sculpts character. Much of a character’s personality depends on the values she’s gained from her culture. In many cases, it is then her backstory, the specific events throughout her life, that decides whether a she accepts or rejects those cultural values as her own. Culture can then be used as a form of support or conflict for a character.

Happy Writing!

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What to Read: Shadow and Bone

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


Summary 

Thrown together by war, Alina Starkov and best friend Mal have grown from orphans to soldiers. When their regiment is shredded upon entering the Shadow Fold, Alina unleashes a power she’s suppressed since childhood in order to save her comrades and Mal. But this revelation tears her from the life she’s known, including Mal, to become a Grisha. Far from home and entangled in dark conspiracies, Alina’s magic may be the only thing capable of ending the war. She must decide who she is willing to trust, and what she is willing to sacrifice for her country.

Overall Impressions

This intriguing, chillingly beautiful story captured my attention from the start. The first in the Grisha series, I was struck by Bardugo’s stylistic noir and strong characters. Alina is a true heroine faced with a delightfully sophisticated villian. The Darkling stands out for his elegance and ruthlessness, so much so it was hard to decide whether I wanted Alina to kill him or marry him (read it, you’ll see what I mean). Bargudo has created a world real enough to step into, and who wouldn’t want to explore the enticingly dark yet enchanting world of the Grisha? Well written, suspenseful, and romantic, I adore this entire series. HIGHLY recommend to fantasy fans (and totally going on my Christmas list). Also by Leigh Bardugo: Six of Crows

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: Sunlight and Shadow

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Sunlight and Shadow by Cameron Dokey


Summary

When Mina was born to feuding parents, a deal was struck. She would live with her mother, queen of the night, until after her sixteenth birthday. But her father breaks the pact, setting in motion a dangerous series of events. To bring back her daughter, the queen enlists the help of a young determined prince armed with his wits and a magic flute. So begins Dokey’s masterful retelling of “The Magic Flute”.

Overall Impressions

A light read for fairytale lovers, this book is my version of comfort food. It has everything: humor, romance, an age-old prophecy. Not to mention the charming characters who adventure across each page with wit and tenacity. What’s not to love? Told in true yet original fairytale fashion, I was immediately drawn into Mina’s competing worlds, and after reading it once I was happy to return time and time again (I think the count is somewhere around five?). Sunlight and Shadow speaks to a storyteller heart.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: The Lies of Locke Lamora

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The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch


Summary

You’ll never see him coming. If you do, he planned it that way. Enter Locke Lamora, the Thorn of Cammor and leader of The Gentlemen Bastards. A small operation, Locke and his crew execute intricate capers to steal from Cammor’s high class. But when a faceless man dubbed the Gray King appears in the city and begins murdering gang leaders, no one is safe, and for the first time Locke finds himself out foxed, caught up in a deadly game more complex than any con before.

Overall Impressions

The Gentlemen Bastards are everything you could want from a mischievous band of thieves. Lynch’s use of backstory reveals just enough at just the right moment, propelling the novel forward with page-turning anticipation. Enticed by a trail of delightful revelations, I found myself grinning along on more than one occasion. It’s a long book, but well worth the commitment. I recommend it for lovers of dark fantasy, complex characters, and clever writing.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: The Night Circus

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


Summary

Raised among backstage curtains by her ruthless father, illusionist Celia is trained to compete in an age old rivalry. Her grooming leads her to Cirque de Rêves, a massive and fantastical undertaking like the world has never seen. As strategies unfold and terrible secrets are revealed, Celia and her opponent begin to realize they are competing for more than victory–they are competing for their lives.

Overall Impressions

Ladies and gentlemen, my favorite book, The Night Circus. Nothing prepared me for the absolute marvels inside the iron gates of Cirque de Rêves. Gorgeously written characters from all flocks of life capture the imagination, ignite the wonderment of childhood, and make a home in the heart. But amidst the magic are deeply human struggles. Hunger for power, unrequited love, and sacrifices for the sake of success. I smiled, I cried, and I fell in love with everything about Morgenstern’s magical circus world. Without question, I would recommend making The Night Circus your next read.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: Dorothy Must Die

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Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige


 

Summary

When Amy Gumm lands in Oz with her pet rat Star, she immediately finds herself caught in the middle of a rebellion. Dorothy Gale, Oz’s hero turned tyrannical princess, has been draining the land’s magic. Now, in an attempt to stop Dorothy, the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has enlisted Amy for a dangerous mission. In order to save Oz, Dorothy must die.

Overall Impressions

Oz has never looked so bizarre, and Amy Gumm does a wonderful job of articulating just how up-side-down it is under Dorothy’s rule. I love when stories question traditional characters, and this novel dramatically reimagines Dorothy as a ruthless, petty ruler set on a magical dictatorship. Many other creative, sometimes horrifying characters make up Dorothy’s guard along with the antiheroes of the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. Lovers of retold classics, fantasy, and YA adventures should consider adding Dorothy Must Die to their summer list. 

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: Six of Crows

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The Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo


Summary

A suicide mission. A gang of young criminals. A fortune to be made. Kaz, mysterious criminal mastermind and member of the Dregs, is always twelve steps ahead. While his crew may not always see his end game, they trust him whole-heartedly. Kaz recruits Inej, Nina, Jesper, Wylan, and Matthias for a once in a lifetime job that will either end in riches beyond their wildest dreams (and revenge for unsettled scores) or death.

Overall Impressions

Leigh Bargudo slays, a true queen of fantasy writing. Her storytelling skills shine in The Six of Crows, a dark, unpredictable, and thrilling novel that leaves readers hungry for more. The story is bursting with dynamic characters, both lovable and loath-able. I usually lock onto a favorite character rather quickly, but in this case it was impossible for me to choose. Despite their brutal choices and sometimes questionable morals, their silver linings left me rooting for them until the end. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in this amazing series.

For more by Leigh Bargudo, see What to Read: Shadow and Bone.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: The Demon King

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The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima


Summary

Bad luck has followed young Han Alister his entire life. That doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. When he unwittingly steal a powerful talisman, the ex-streetlord finds himself hunted by one of the most powerful wizard family’s in the queendom. Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir, must navigate the dangers of a fragile court. The queen seems all too ready to lean on the opinions of her advisor, High Wizard Bayar, and Raisa suspects all is not as it seems. With the truce between the wizards and the Valefolk hanging in the balance, trusting the wrong ally could prove costly.

Overall Impressions

Great start for a series! I was hooked from the first few chapters. The characters were dynamic, likable, and well-distinguished. (Personally, I loved the nobel and tender-hearted Amon.) Each character stands on his/her own, and it was fun to see how they crossed paths through interventions of fate and chance. The Bayar family makes a formidable, Malfoy-esque enemy that has the reader squinting and shaking their fist. Chima also crafts a believable, well-mapped world in which her characters live. This fantasy is an excellent addition to the summer reading list for lovers of adventure, romance, and magic. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.

Happy Reading!

 

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