Tag Archives: Fantasy

Book Review: Witch Wraith by Terry Brooks

imageWitch Wraith by Terry Brooks is the latest in the Shannara series, started many years ago with the Sword of Shannara. This is the third and final book in the “Dark Legacy of Shannara” trilogy and continues the adventures of the Ohmsfords, Druids, residents of the Four Lands, and the Demons in their battles.

The story opens with Railing Ohmsford searching for his long lost relative Grianne Ohmsford, formerly head of the Druid order and prior to that the Ilse Witch. The problem now is that Railing has been warned not to search for Grianne as it will not end the way anyone expects.

The quest to heal the Ellcrys and drive back the demons continues with Arlingfant and Aphenglow Elessedil elves of the royal family. They fight against all sorts of enemies trying to stop them, demon and human. If the tree is not reborn, the demons will come out of the Forbidding and destroy everything.

Finally Railing’s brother Redden is trying to find his way home from inside the Forbidding and do whatever it takes to put a stop to the impending demon invasion. He has unlikely allies including some minor demons inside the forbidding.

As with many of Terry Brooks’ Shannara books, we are kept on edge throughout the trilogy wondering how, or even if, the heroes will come through to the end. We’re reasonably sure that the Ellcrys will be reborn, but never quite sure how. Who will survive until the end? How will the demons be defeated? All I can say is that the ending is not quite what you’d expect if you’ve ever read Terry’s Shannara books in the past.

 

My Take: I’m a big fan of Terry’s Shannara books. There’s something refreshing in knowing that good will win out in the end and joining in the journey as the heroes grow, realize their strengths, and triumph over evil. That being said, this trilogy is appropriately named the “Dark Legacy”. The stories have definitely taken a darker turn with more deaths of main characters, tragic turnings, and human failings. I’ll spoil this a little bit saying that good still wins in the end, but with an ending that is sad for long-time readers.

I liked the book, as I do all of this series, but I hope to see less darkness in future Shannara novels. I look forward to what happens next in the Four Lands, and really hope that some form of peace or growth could come in future stories. If you’ve read any of Terry’s books you don’t need my review to know that you want to read this one. If you’ve never read any of his books, this is not the one with which to start. Go back to The Sword of Shannara and read them in publication order until you get here. You’ll appreciate it all the more.

 

Disclaimer: I was provided with this book by the publisher with no expectations on their part. The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by anyone else.

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Book Review: Matt Monroe and the Secret Society by Edward Torba

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Matt Monroe and the Secret Society by Edward Torba starts off with Matt in a field watching lights rise above the field. Turns out that’s a dream, though. Matt runs off to take care of mowing the lawn of a local dentist. We learn that Matt has an older brother, Josh, who is very popular. Matt’s best friend is Zach, an out of shape young man who is very loyal to his friends. Dr. Steel, the dentist asks if there’s still a secret society that meets in town. Matt is surprised, but we learn that the society has been going for some time. It’s time for Matt and Zach to be initiated into the society soon and they’re slightly nervous about it.

As the story unfolds, Matt finds some mysterious wooden tablets and a ring. The adults in town convene a meeting and we meet the rest of the friends of Matt and Josh. It turns out that there is a larger secret society – of Dentists. They have worked to protect the world for some time against an evil fairy who wants to eliminate all of mankind. It’s now fallen on Matt to stop the villain and save the world or die trying.

Matt sets off with his friends and Josh and his friends. Along the way, we learn that the Tooth Fairy is actually real and in charge of fighting for humanity. The secret society of dentists was formed to help humans partner with the fairy world and maintain the balance. Will Matt save the world? Will his friends survive the quest or fall along the way as Matt reads in a prophecy?

My Take: Overall, I enjoyed the book. While the idea of a Tooth Fairy and secret society of dentists does tend to stretch disbelief quite a bit, it works well for the story. There were a couple of minor twists in the story that work well for this YA novel. The dental references seemed silly at times, but the story underneath was enjoyable. The story flowed pretty well from the beginning through to the end and I think that it could be a decent read for its target age range.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a preview copy of this book with no explanations on the part of the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by anyone else.

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Book Review: Bloodfire Quest by Terry Brooks

Bloodfire Quest is the 2nd of three books in the Dark Legacy of Shannara series by Terry Brooks. We take up the adventures of Redden and Railing Ohmsford and their companions as they try to rescue their friends and stop the Forbidding from crumbling. Some of their friends are trapped inside the Forbidding along with the demons and their army. If the Forbidding should come down, the demons will sweep over the Four Lands and decimate everything in their path. The Ellcrys, the magical tree that powers the Forbidding, is dying and only young Arlingfant Elessedil can carry her seed to the Bloodfire so the Ellcrys can continue. She reluctantly leaves on this quest with her sister, the druid Aphenglow.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Shannara story without opposition and help from unexpected sources. Arling and Aphen are aided by Cymrian, a strong elf who has a crush on Aphen. They are also given use of the Elfstones to help them seek out the Bloodfire before it’s too late. They are stalked by forces from the human-led Federation who want to know what they are doing and possibly stop them.

Redden and Railing command the magic of the Wishsong and are trying to find each other. Redden is trapped in the Forbidding with the Ard Rhys Khyber Elessedil, leader of the Druids. They encounter creatures of Faerie – goblins, dragons, and far worse – all creatures bent on destruction. Railing is hurt and under attack in the Four Lands, barely able to help defend himself and the party with him and unable to follow after his brother.

The story progresses as the characters try to accomplish their various tasks and are hindered by creatures, monsters, or magic. At times, they are left wondering what to do next. Many hints are dropped that Grianne Ohmsford, the Ard Rhys from 100 years before who has been missing for a century, must be found in order to set things right. The King of the Silver River appears to say that this might not be the case and provides some assistance that we’ll likely see revealed in the 3rd book when it is published. The heroes seem to meet with trials and we’re left wondering how they will emerge victorious as the odds keep stacking against them.

My Thoughts: Fans of Terry Brooks will likely feel as if they’re treading somewhat familiar territory. We’ve been inside the Forbidding before, been on a quest to the Bloodfire, and faced overwhelming odds with seemingly little hope of emerging victorious. At the same time, the situations are different and we see the darkness that Allanon’s shade hinted at in the first book. In earlier stories we had some hints about how the characters might survive and overcome evil, but here we’re left with the idea that we’re not seeing the bigger picture and that the ending will be very different from what we expect. This is definitely a middle book in the series and I wouldn’t read this by itself. I’d recommend reading this after being familiar with the Shannara world because there are many references to past events, people, and magic. That being said, the story works to move us toward the conclusion in the next book and I look forward to seeing how the characters fare and the changes that will come to the Four Lands as a result.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a preview copy of this book, with no expectations on my part. The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced in any way by others.

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Book Review: The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead

The Spirit Well (Bright Empires, #3)

The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead is the 3rd book (out of 5 planned books) in Bright Empires series. Mr. Lawhead includes a short summary at the beginning of the book, but your understanding will be quite a bit better if you read the series in order, starting with The Skin Map and The Bone House. Once again, we enter the world where Ley Lines can take people from one time and place to another. We take up the adventures of Kit, Wilhelmina, Lord Burleigh, the Flinders-Petrie clan, and even meet some new ley-travelers as we go along the journey. Kit wanders out of his encounter with the Spirit Well into more modern times. Mina keeps searching for Kit and Cosimo only to meet Kit in very odd circumstances – before she (presumably a future version of herself) rescues Kit and Cosimo. We learn a little more of Lord Burleigh and how he started his ley-line travels. We also learn more about the descendants of Arthur Flinders-Petrie.

The most interesting people introduced in this book to me were Cassandra Clarke, an archaeologist who accidentally discovers ley travels, and the Zetetic Society. The Society is made up of other ley-line travelers who are dedicated to finding whatever Arthur Flinders-Petrie discovered in his adventures. They know that it’s something important and want to find it before Lord Burleigh. They know that Lord Burleigh would abuse the Spirit Well for his own purposes. The society recognizes a higher power and wants to serve the good purpose they detect in it. Stephen Lawhead isn’t always overt about the Christian themes he puts into his books and he doesn’t make a huge deal about it here, either, other than to note the “Habiru” in ancient Egypt and references to God when the Zetetic Society meets to induct Cassandra.

When I started reading this, I had assumed that this was the final book in the series so was a little surprised when I got to the end of the book. The ending was either a really ironic ending or it was a cliff-hanger. I was pleased to realize that there will be 5 books in this series and the 4th is scheduled to be published later in 2013.

My Take: I really enjoyed this book. While I felt that The Skin Map got off to a somewhat slow start, the series quickly picked up after that to make for an interesting read. We jump from character to character, time to time, and place to place, but the stories are all interconnected. The characters all have their own motivations for exploring the ley-lines and they all make sense in this context. I wouldn’t recommend this for most younger readers, but figure that late teenage years and up might do well with the series. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Mr. Lawhead’s writings or who enjoys time-travel fantasy.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book with no expectations on the part of the publisher. The opinions in this review are my own and were not influenced by anyone else.

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Book Review: The Traveling Restaurant by Barbara Else

The Traveling Restaurant: Jasper's Voyage in Three Parts The Traveling Restaurant by Barbara Else is a book written in three parts telling the story of Jasper Ludlow. Jasper is a young man who has just turned twelve at the time the story opens. He lives with his parents and baby sister Sibilla in the land of Fontania. We know that something isn’t right when the story opens and Jasper meets a stranger at the door who inquires about Jasper’s age. His mother, Lady Helen, quickly intervenes to tell this journalist that Jasper is 11 while Jasper tries to tell people that he’s really 12. Shortly afterwards we’re introduced to Lady Gall, the “provisional monarch” of the land. We see that she rules with an iron fist as a young boy interrupts her speech and guards quickly move in to make their presence known and quell further interruptions.

Jasper’s family attends a big party thrown by Lady Gall and while there Jasper sees Lady Gall feed his little sister something. She becomes sick after that and Jasper tries to tell his parents that Lady Gall gave her something, but can hardly believe that someone would intentionally make his sister sick. Jasper’s uncle comes to the house and things quickly escalate with the family trying to leave before Lady Gall comes for them. Jasper gets separated from his family and ends up aboard The Traveling Restaurant, a boat that seems to have m-gic (the word that should not be spoken for fear of Lady Gall’s retribution) properties. The Restaurant seems to be able to escape danger and keep its passengers safe while its quirky crew do all they can to throw off any interest in their boat/restaurant.

Ms. Else takes us on a great ride through the land of Fontania to slowly reveal more about Jasper, his family, the people he meets along the way, why magic is a forbidden word, and why Jasper is running in the first place. The characters may seem slightly silly at times, but fit well with the story. I never felt that there were contrived moments to move the story forward. We’re taken on a journey that has a great pace to introduce the characters and back-story.

As an adult reader, some of the names for things felt slightly silly, but they worked well with the story. I read this to my daughter and she ate it up. She wanted to know what happened next and it was a hard book to put down when reading together. There were a couple of longer chapters in the book, but they were generally a good length to read one or two before bed. I didn’t have to worry too much about language or scenes that were too intense for a young child which was great for me as a parent. There was just enough silliness in the story to have my daughter rolling a couple of times, but balanced with the story telling to keep her interested in the people and their plight. I’m going to go with the kid’s rating for this and say that it was a good book for later Elementary ages and up.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy with no expectations on the part of the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced in any way by the publisher.

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Book Review: Wards of Faerie by Terry Brooks

Wards of Faerie (The Dark Legacy of Shannara, #1)Another start to an adventure in the Four Lands by Terry Brooks. This builds on the previous Shannara stories as hints are uncovered to where the lost Elfstones may be found. Once again, the Ohmsfords are called on to help the Druids find the lost magic. This first book in the series introduces us to the new generation of Druids, Ohmsfords, and Leahs as well as setting the stage for new intrigue in the human-run Federation and the Elven Kingdom.

I hate to say that this is formulaic, but it does follow a standard Shannara story for the most part. Unknown magic, unknown peril, power-hungry politicians, science vs. magic, and a journey into unknown dangers. That doesn’t detract from this being an entertaining story. Terry sets up an interesting quest and leaves us right at the edge wondering how our protagonists will proceed and what the next move of their enemies will be. Of course, the biggest downfall to this is waiting for the next volume to be released so we can continue the story.

I really liked the book even though it pretty much follows the normal Shannara pattern. To me, there’s a reason that pattern works and why I keep reading the series. I enjoy the characters, the magic, the quest, the conflict, and the internal struggles of the players. I like learning more about this world with its mix of science, magic, and hints of the past. I would definitely recommend this if you’ve read Terry’s work before, though probably not as a starting place to jump into this world.

You can pick up a copy of Wards of Faerie at Amazon.

Disclosure: I was given an advance copy of the ebook by the publisher with no expectations on their part. The reviews written here are my own and were not influenced in any way by the publisher.

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