Tag Archives: fantasy

verena's whistle

Book Review: Verena’s Whistle, by K. Panikian

K. Panikian sent me a copy of her book, Verena’s Whistle for review. verena's whistle

The meteor brought more than space dust.

Verena is a grad student living in Alaska when she receives a phone call that changes her life. Her family has been keeping secrets. Soon, she’s on a mission to save the world from Chernobog’s demonic beasts. Will she master her new magic in time? Will Owen, a man with his own demons, help her in her quest, or will he break her heart?

As she crosses the world to the snowy Ural Mountains, Verena must decide if she’s ready to lead or if the price is too high.

I think this has an interesting premise, but is too slow paced. Which is notable because a previous reviewer said it “is very fast paced (maybe slightly too fast paced).” The odd thing is I perfectly understand what she meant. You see, I call it too slow because there is an awful lot of talking about, planning, training, traveling to, and preparing to do things and very little actual doing of things. But when things do happen they happen quickly.

For example, one character is sent from America to France to find something with very little information. But he finds it (and more) after going to one cemetery and speaking to one priest. The loves are instant. Several times the perfect person shows up to help at the perfect time. Every battle is won with a single ‘brilliant’ idea, etc. So, one person calls it too fast paced (because the events feel rushed) and another says it’s too slowly paced (because there is too much between each important event). So, let’s split the difference and say the pacing is inconsistent.

Outside of that, I enjoyed the characters, setting, Slavic mythos, and writing. The editing is pretty good too, up until the end when I noticed an increase in errors (though they weren’t overly disruptive even then). All in all, I’m going to call it a middle of the road read for me. But, of course, your mileage might vary.

Gods of jade and shadow

Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

As fate would have it, I ended up with two copies of Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s Gods of Jade and Shadows. I won an ARC through Goodreads initially, and then someone left a copy in the Little Free Library.
gods of jade and shadow

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

my review

Oh, I thought this was marvelous. And I don’t even think I realized, as I was reading it, how much I loved it. It is after all a bit on the slow side, with quite a lot of exposition. It was only in finishing it and looking back at the journey as a whole that I sighed in true contentment.

We’re given a strong, competent heroine who gets everything she wished for—if not in the way she imagined it—by doing the right thing in difficult situations. We have a villain who is recognizable and realistic. We have two gods and a whole cosmos of divinity that are inhumane but relatable. They are, after all, gods, not humans. We have a subtle romance based in the heart, not the loins. And the whole thing is steeped in shades and tones of oral history, as if this is a myth being told.

True, the sudden shift in Hun-Kame and Vucub-Kame’s attitudes at the end are jarring and hard to believe. But, as the book repeatedly reinforces, symbolism and myth-making are important. And the inner workings of gods, when influenced by the imagination of man is beyond the mundane.

And lastly, my favorite part is right at the end. I just need a chance to vocalize it because I’m having all the feel about it. But it’s a spoiler, so skip this paragraph if you haven’t read the book yet. Hun-Kame sent Casiopea a final gift, ostensibly the bag of black pearls he’d promised her. But I don’t actually think the pearls were the gift. He sent them via Loray and I think he’s the unspoken gift—a companion, someone worldly and open to usher and assist her in finding her feet in her new free world. And there is just something wonderful about that.

shards of a shattered soul

Book Review: Shards of a Shattered Soul, by S.C. Stokes

I purchased a paperback copy of S.C. StokesShards of a Shattered Soul (Strife of Souls, #1).

shards of a shattered soul

Bathed in Dragon’s fire, Vera Sandrinas has stared into the jaws of death and lived. 

With her dying breath she pleaded with the Allfather for her life, and it was granted.

But when war breaks out in heaven, the magic dividing the realms of the living and the dead is torn asunder.

As the undead rise, Vera learns that divine mercy always comes at a price.

Can Vera seal the rift between realms in time? Or will her debt cost her everything?

my review

This was an OK read, but I have a couple complaints. First off, I didn’t know it is a spinoff series when I bought it. (This annoys me so much. Why can’t authors make this more obvious?) And while I could read and follow it, I 100% felt I was missing a lot having not read the A Kingdom Divided series first. I wouldn’t suggest reading this on it’s own. You feel you’re missing a lot and then it’s not a complete story arc. So, you feel you’re missing both a beginning and an end.

Second, the description suggests Vera is the main character. I would posit that she, in fact, is not. Tristan, who appears to have been the main character in the A Kingdom Divided series (according to the blurbs) is the main character here too. Vera is a side character through whose eyes we get to see the gory that is Tristan. Maybe that will change as this series progresses, but as of the end of this book that’s my opinion.

Lastly, the whole thing is a little thin. You can see Stokes building a huge arc in what is a 225 page book. That means there isn’t a lot of depth to most of it. Some of this is, again, because it’s a spinoff and that needed character development and world building probably happened in the first series. But some of it is just that too much is skimmed over and explained in exposition. As a result you never feel you really connect with anyone or anything.

Having said all that, I liked the characters. The series-wide arc looks to be an interesting one, and the writing is quite readable.