Storm’s Herald Review

Storm’s Herald by J.W. Golan

Happy Easter everyone! Or just happy Sunday if you don’t celebrate Easter, I hope you have a great day with chocolate regardless. If you want to read these books, Storm’s Herald is free as an ebook on Amazon 10-12th April, and Storm’s Cloud 24-25th April.

I received both Storm’s herald and its sequel, Storm’s Clouds, in exchange for a review. All views expressed are honest and my own. I have a very terrible habit of writing notes while I’m reading a book, then writing the actual review quite a while afterwards. It means that sometimes my notes are very vague and incomprehensible, but not this time. I had so much fun rereading the notes I made, I think they are possibly some of the best notes I’ve ever made. And you can’t have good notes without an interesting book to make them on, so kudos to Storm’s herald. Here’s the synopsis:

A peasant girl who dreams of becoming a sorceress, a boy who imagines himself a knight – trailed by a ruthless mercenary armed with an ancient sword.

All Lynette wanted was to leave her boring village life – to attend the Fae Academy and become a Druid priestess like her teacher before her. Her clumsy attempts at magic are a reminder of how much she has yet to learn. But if they would only accept her, if the Fae Kingdom – closed to human visitors for centuries now – would only just open its doors, she is certain she could become a master of the magical arts.

Yet her journey puts her on a collision course with a reawakened evil – offering a king’s ransom for the recovery of a long-lost relic. Treasure hunters of every variety – werewolves, mercenaries, common thieves and undead alike – are soon locked in pursuit of its promised riches. Together with Baxter, a young squire who fled his own kingdom, and Eirlon, a gnome who trades in rare antiquities, Lynette is drawn unwillingly into the hunt for the elusive relic.

Hounded by goblins, ogres – and darker things – Baxter carries his own burdens: secrets that have made him the enemy of the crown. And then there is Garth, the mysterious mercenary who both frightens and intrigues Lynette: the weapons-master armed with an ancient blade – snatched from the hand of a long-vanished fae prince.

Willingly or not, Lynette, Baxter and Eirlon must together solve the riddles behind the relic – and stay one step ahead of the ruthless killers that pursue them.

Like many a fantasy, and lots of books now I think about it, Storm’s Herald begins with introductions to various different viewpoints over the first few chapters. Quite quickly I understood the basic worldbuilding and the traditional type of fantasy I was reading. Slightly uncommonly, new points of view were introduced throughout the book, sometimes only for one chapter. These were usually to show what was happening somewhere else in the world, but sometimes I found the switching too frequent, so it took me longer than usual to properly get to know the characters. Slowly all of the various characters crossed each other’s paths, and for once there was none of the hiding information from these people are clearly on your side. I was very thankful for that, because nothing irritates me more than a character being unnecessarily reticent as a plot device. The storytelling is not very complicated, but the story was good, and it was fun and easy reading.

Let’s move onto the characters. There were four main viewpoints I could identify, with several minor ones who would appear once or twice like Kalden. The main viewpoints were Lynette, Elise, Eirlon and Baxter. I don’t know if I have a favourite, but I like them all in different ways and by the end of the book I was very interested in seeing what happened next. The story begins with Lynette, a normal girl with magic her half-fae teacher is teaching her to control. After some *events* Lynette sets off to the Fae-gate from which she can enter the fae lands and join the magic school. Lynette is the typical beautiful, magical peasant in many ways and she does get attached to a very dodgy guy, but when he first meets her in the forest and is very creepy (in my opinion), she doesn’t put up with it which I applaud.

Baxter is apprenticed to a knight and is very accepting of his master being a horrible person because of his nobility but apart from that he’s quite a nice guy. He’s just a regular, hardworking human who predictably ends up with a crush on Lynette, but the focus on the romance is very minor. Eirlon the gnome is pretty cool. A chill guy, albeit with a minorly annoying habit to keep things to himself. Elise is the fairy princess, heir to the fae throne. She doesn’t take any rubbish from anyone and despite her insecurities she pretty much does what she thinks is right. I’m down with that. The other character mentioned in the synopsis, Garth, I have a LOT of opinions on but that would be spoilers so that will be going in my next review. The fae are what you would expect of fae in a traditional fantasy, with longer life spans, few children, attuned with nature and big fans of trees.

This is not a particularly descriptive book in terms of physical descriptions of people/settings, but personally I actually tend to pretty much read those and forget them anyway unless they’re long and lyrical, so I didn’t mind. The one thing that threw me in this book was the passing of time. From one chapter to the next 9 months could have passed and there would only be a brief mention of it which was a bit wild, but once I got used to it, I just rolled with it.

When I got to the end of the book, I was very thankful to have the sequel next to me because I really wanted to know what happened next. I was left like what?!?! But ready to read the next one. Would I survive? I think I would, if I stayed out of the way of goblins.

Letting Go Short Review

Letting Go by Cat Clarke

When I ordered this book from the library, I was expecting a full-length book. It turned out to be a novella, which was a surprise but it did make a nice short read. From the blurb I just really wanted to know how Agnes got herself into her situation.

Letting Go follows Agnes as she goes hiking up a mountain with her ex-girlfriend and the ex’s new boyfriend. You can tell it’s going to be awkward, and it is very, but it’s much more than that. It was a lot deeper than I thought it was going to be, and it definitely took a turn. I felt bad for Agnes throughout the story and Cat Clarke managed to set up the characters and their backstories quickly and with enough detail that I cared what happened.  If I say much more, I’ll give away the twist, but I would recommend reading this. It’s a quick, good teen read about relationships and mountain climbing.

I was pleased with the ending. Overall, a satisfactory experience. Would I survive this book? Yes. Although I’m really not sure how I would get myself into that situation.

The Tyrant’s Tomb

The Tyrant’s Tomb by Rick Riordan.

For more of me saying how much I love Rick Riordan, check out my previous post!

‘We didn’t count the dead. They weren’t numbers. They were people we had known, friends we had fought with.”

What a line. Without spoilers, my heart was broken once again in this book. I really wish Riordan would stop writing such loveable characters who you see develop and grow and then doing horrible things to them. I would be perfectly happy to have a book of just daily life at Camp Jupiter and Camp Half-Blood. There’s is no need for all the pain.
I love this new version of Apollo, seeing him reflect on the mistakes he has made and truly regretting them, watching him change from a haughty god to someone who genuinely cares about the people around him. I loved the choice of the song Sweet Caroline. I love the mix of old and new characters, from Apollo and Meg to Thalia Grace. And most of all I love the line ‘We didn’t count the dead. They weren’t numbers. They were people we had known, friends we had fought with’ even though it made me cry. It just seems so relevant.
This book was so readable but never over-simplified, the world doesn’t feel at all tired or overwritten despite the volume of books Riordan has published and the mix of new and old characters and plots is just seamless. Reading this after a while of not reading any of Riordan’s books feels like coming home.
As usual, Riordan has an excellent plot, awesome characters and lots of humour. If you haven’t read these books, what are you waiting for? Go and get Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

A Dangerous Collaboration Review

A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell is one of my favourite characters of all time, so I couldn’t help but love this book. She is intelligent, sassy, honest, open-minded and unashamed of her enjoyment of sex. She is also really passionate about butterflies.
Instead of being so based in London as the previous books of the series are, A Dangerous Collaboration takes place on a private island off the coast of cornwall. The isolated setting, mixed with an old aristocratic family living in a castle with lots of secret passages created the perfect atmosphere for a traditional english murder mystery. Deanna Raybourn pulls together an interesting group of suspects, and slowly reveals titbits of information, enough to give some kind of clue but not so much that the whole plot is revealed. The charming, remote cornwall setting also adds extra mystery with all the local superstitions and traditional country characters, from a wise woman in the village to rumours of a bride being stolen by giants. These mix well with Veronica and Stoker’s scientific efforts to find out what happened.
Not only was there an awesome mystery, the tension between Veronica, Stoker and his brother Tiberius is continued and heightened, leading to some black eyes and lots of exasperation from Veronica. After four books of absolute torture something happens between Veronica and Stoker, although I won’t say what it is or whether it is positive or negative. Veronica pretending to be Tiberius’ fiancee and the frustration this causes to Stoker, added to Tiberius’ mysterious links to the island and the defensive islanders creates the perfect setting for lots of drama and dramatic reveals.
I really enjoyed the ending, and as can be expected from a murder mystery there was a twist. Apart from that my lips are sealed- read it yourself!

A Love Letter to Rick Riordan’s Books

I remember the day that I bought Percy Jackson and the lightning thief. It was a world book day, and we had vouchers that allowed £1 off a book so my mum took my brothers and me to a bookshop where we could choose a book. I spent some time looking around, but nothing in particular caught my fancy. (How?!) Then my mum suggested Percy Jackson. I read the blurb and although I was unsure about having a male main character, my younger self obviously decided it would do because I bought it. I was eight or nine at that point. I am now 17.

I have many memories of Rick Riordan’s books since then. I remember comparing favourite passages of the Son of Neptune with my primary school friends, I remember reading the Sea of Monsters and adoring Circe, I remember the torturous wait for The Blood of Olympus to be released. After that I paused for a while, with no new books and a new school to contend with. Yet the moment I saw that Rick Riordan had released two new series, Magnus Chase and The Trials of Apollo, I set my heart upon tracking them down and reading them ASAP. And even though I am irrevocably changed from the little girl who first read these books, they still retained their magic. I still raced through them, falling in love with the characters, perhaps even more this time because I was a teenager and I understood some of the things the characters were going through. I just finished reading The Tyrant’s Tomb in the Trials of Apollo series and without spoilers, it felt like my childhood was ending slightly, despite the fact there will be another book.

Rick Riordan’s books are a wonder. There is no debating that. I truly believe that anyone, of any age could enjoy them, and that they should. These books are so much more than fantasy-adventure books for children based on Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythology. They mix fantasy and the real world perfectly, with a hefty dollop of humour and sarcasm. No matter how many books Riordan writes in this world (and there’s quite a few now!) it never feels tired or overwritten. It just adds to the awesome.

The range of characters is astounding, each realistic and profoundly individual. You cannot help but fall in love with them, their quirks and habits and hopes and fears. Rick Riordan showed me that things society deems as flaws or disadvantages are not unilaterally so, taking dyslexia and ADHD as common characteristics for demigods because it helps them with reading Ancient Greek and being alert on the battlefield. Riordan has an incredible range of diversity, much more so than I see in most adult literature, and he had it when I needed it most. Characters struggling with their sexuality and hating themselves for it resounded with me deeply as I came to terms with my own, and the hardships that Riordan shows the characters overcoming, from their childhoods and personal lives, showed me that negative events do not have to define my future and there is always hope. Being different does not mean being wrong, or broken, or undeserving of happiness.

Gently, almost imperceptibly, Riordan weaves in messages that I am thoroughly glad I grew up with. It’s okay to be different, everyone has different strengths and together we can be stronger than apart. That it’s okay to be wrong, and what is important is learning from your mistakes, apologising and making reparations for what you have done. That it’s okay to show emotions, and it does not make you weak or unlovable. I am sure there are many more, and one I particularly noticed in the Tyrant’s Tomb was the way Riordan portrays battles. There is an element of fun, because of course these are first and foremost children’s books, of slaying monsters and awesome skills. But Riordan does not shy away from showing the aftermath, the heartbreak and devastation and grief that follows, the pain and destruction war causes. This can be so easily glossed over, making war seem heroic and brave rather than the devastating event that it is. I finally cracked and cried when I came to the line ‘We didn’t count the dead. They weren’t numbers. They were people we had known, friends we had fought with.’ It just seemed so relevant in the world we live in today, full of politicians quoting statistics and percentages like they are merely facts and figures, instead of people’s lives.

This is one of the few series that I have cried at character deaths, and it does not surprise me, for I have grown up with these characters, spent years following their stories. I very rarely reread books and yet my Rick Riordan books all have cracked spines from where I have spent hours poring over the pages, each time noticing some new details that makes me smile. The humour of the books, ever witty and sarcastic is my exact sense of humour and it does make me wonder whether I liked the books because of my sense of humour, or if I developed my sense of humour liking the books. Hearing of a new Rick Riordan book being released fills me with excitement every single time. They are so easy to slip into and get carried away by the story, so disappointing when they finish. Over the years they have been my solace, my guide and my reassurance that everything is going to be okay.

So, thank you, Rick Riordan. Thank you for the books that have shaped my life as I know it. I cannot imagine life without them, and I wouldn’t want to. Even if sometimes I love your books so much it hurts, reading them feels like coming home.