Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Title: Game of Thrones
Author:  George R.R. Martin
Rating: 5/5

Summary:  Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective wall. To the south, the King’s powers are failing, and his enemies are emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the King’s new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but also the kingdom itself. A heroic fantasy of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and evildoers who come together in a time of grim omens.

Review:  Why did I initially pick up this book? Truthfully, because it was being turned into a television show on HBO, which I’ve yet to see, but in my desire to see it, wanted to familiarize myself with the world that Martin created.  Truth be told, I am glad I did.  I am completely and totally sucked into this world that he has created, even with its gory aspects and the twisted politicking of the high ranking individuals in the book.  Am I placing this book on the level that I would place Lord of the Rings, absolutely not, because they are two very different stories and thus should not be compared in the realm of epic fantasies.

A Game of Thrones, is essentially a boy’s soap opera.  Dark, twisted, sinister and nasty; filled with violence and sex and even the slightest touches of magic and supernatural.  The characters are big, brash and they engage in incest, hide their secrets, make dirty deals, and manage to completely screw up themselves, their families and their friends.  It is your average soap opera with plate mail armor and bloody battles.  All in all it is very, very good.  If Days of Our Lives was like this, I would most definitely watch it more often.

Even with its overarching soapiness, I was impressed with this book and the way that it sucked me into the world that martin created.  The stark brutality of it, the drive to vengeance, and the fact that no character  – no matter how heroic – is safe from anything.  The overwhelming pathos in every action and reaction, the textures and smells and sounds of our world transplated in Martin’s made me believe that all of it, even the two punch denouement of the final Catelyn and Daenerys chapters, was possible.

I have read the second and third books in this series, and their reviews will be coming soon.

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Book Review: The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman

Title: The Subtle Knife
Author: Phillip Pullman
Rating: 5/5

Summary:  Lyra and Will, her newfound friend, tumble separately into the strange tropical otherworld of Cittàgazze, “the city of magpies,” where adults are curiously absent and children run wild. Here their lives become inextricably entwined when Lyra’s alethiometer gives her a simple command:  find Will’s father. Their search is plagued with obstacles–some familiar and some horribly new and unfathomable–but it eventually brings them closer to Will’s father and to the Subtle Knife, a deadly, magical, ancient tool that cuts windows between worlds. Through it all, Will and Lyra find themselves hurtling toward the center of a fierce battle against a force so awesome that leagues of mortals, witches, beasts, and spirits from every world are uniting in fear and anger against it.

Review:  I was not happy with the ending, but ultimately it was well written and did keep me on the edge of my seat throughout.  Pullman is a master of detail, character, setting, and I am in awe of his immense imagination.  His books can seem somewhat imposing and I can understand why some feel challenged by his books, especially this one.

There is a lot of church dichotomy in this book and it is presented in an “in your face” manner that leaves you little room to actually refute some of the rationale used.  Something that gets confusing throughout the story, and leaves me at a loss when it comes up is if the argument is against “God” or against the “Authority.”   I have friends who refuse to read any of the books in this series because of the constant indictment against God and that tends to offend or make people uncomfortable, and it is truthfully one of the things that most captivates me about the series.  I am spiritual, I would not necessarily say religious, but I do have my religion, but will I let it stop me from reading certain books, absolutely not.  I love the provocative edge that some authors put in their books, and this is one of those books.

I would not necessarily recommend this book for younger children, and I know that Scholastic has published it saying that it is acceptable for children in grades fifth through eighth, I do not think that some of the subject matter will make sense to someone in fifth grade.  True, they could read it for the first time, but for some of the meanings to sink in and allow further comprehension subsequent readings would be required.  I would put my recommendation at children at about a high school level.

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Book Review: The Magician by Michael Scott

Title: The Magician
Author: Michael Scott
Rating: 3/5

Summary:  After fleeing Ojai, Nicholas, Sophie, Josh, and Scatty emerge in Paris, the City of Lights. Home for Nicholas Flamel. Only this homecoming is anything but sweet. Perenell is still locked up back in Alcatraz and Paris is teeming with enemies. Nicolo Machiavelli, immortal author and celebrated art collector, is working for Dee. He’s after them, and time is running out for Nicholas and Perenell. For every day spent without the Book of Abraham the Mage, they age one year—their magic becoming weaker and their bodies more frail. For Flamel, the Prophesy is becoming more and more clear.
It’s time for Sophie to learn the second elemental magic: Fire Magic. And there’s only one man who can teach it to her: Flamel’s old student, the Comte de Saint-Germain—alchemist, magician, and rock star. Josh and Sophie Newman are the world’s only hope—if they don’t turn on each other first.

Review:  This book started out with so much promise, so many expectations, but ultimately it kinda fell short of what I was hoping for, to cause me again to drop my rating by a star in retrospect.  My favorite part of this particular book was the introduction of Machiavelli with the Kabuki masks.  After that, the book unfortunately began to become predictable in nature.  Sophie continues her training, learning magic this time from Saint Germaine, who had stolen it from Promethius and is married to Jean d’Arc (Joan of Arc), the last person, prior to Sophie, to have a silver aura.  Josh is still jealous, but ultimately gets his awakening by the God of War, Mars, before he is killed by Dee.  Dee, of course, kills everyone.  Flamel is continuing to age, Perenelle escapes Alcatraz, traps Morrigan in a deep, dark cave, with no exit.

This series didn’t need a second book, or at least needed more time between the first and the second because this sounded forced.  The Alchemyst was good, I liked that one.  This book droned on and on and had a predictable storyline.  After the introduction of Machiavelli, the only other part that actually held my interest and shocked me was when Scatty got dragged into the lake by Dagon.  The introduction of Jean d’Arc could have been a lot less awkward, and while I do love her she was not the best character addition to this story, and I do kind of find myself liking Machiavelli.

I am somewhat of a book snob in my addiction to books, but in this case I was feeling somewhat generous and give this book three stars, even though it is down from my initial four star rating.  I tend to use a policy that my teachers in the past have embraced, if there is effort there you at least get half a point even if the result isn’t exactly what it was supposed to be.  I do have to admit, I like the cover art of the book a bit more than I like the story on the pages.

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Book Review: Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Title: Fire Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Rating: 3/5

Summary:  Yelena is a Soulfinder, meaning she can capture and release souls, and she makes people nervous because well, the last Soulfinder wasn’t a very nice person at all.  However, Yelena is at the mercy of the Council.  Yet, when is Yelena’s life simple,  there is a plot rising against her homeland by a murderous sorcerer that Yelena has already defeated before.  Ultimately Yelena will have one chance to prove herself and save the land she holds dear.

Review:  The third and final book in the Study series (not counting the subsequent short stories).  This book, in retrospect, did not really satisfy my hopes for this series.  So, my initial rating of five stars has now been dropped to three.  The first book in the series was by far my favorite, Magic Study was another that was good, but this one was just lacking somewhere, and there were parts that I felt myself skimming through (which is something I very rarely do).

The direction wasn’t what I was expecting, not that it is overall a bad thing, it is just something different than the tone that had been set previously in the other two books.  It frustrates me as a reader, but I do understand that the Author has their own vision of how they wish things to be and I respect that, in this case it just left me lacking.

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Book Review: Eldest by Christopher Paolini

Title: Eldest
Author: Christopher Paolini
Rating: 4/5

Summary:  Continuing where Eragon ended, Eragon and Saphira (his dragon) have just saved the rebel state from King Galbatorix and now Eragon must travel to Ellesmera (the land of the elves) to receive further training in being a Dragon Rider, namely magic and swordsmanship training.  However, this journey is not without its betrayals and chaos, and soon Eragon is left uncertain who he can place his trust in. In the meantime, his cousin Roran fights a new battle, and this battle holds the potential to put Eragon’s life in even greater danger.  Will Eragon escape with his life?

Review:  This book has many twists and turns and the most surprising is the fact that Ormoris, an Elven rider is there to show Eragon that he is not the only Dragon rider left.  Eragon also learns that he is falling in love with an unobtainable woman, Arya, Princess of the Elves.  One of the other unique twists is that Eragon discovers that he has a brother, and who his father is.  Neither of which are people Eragon can be proud of, and one of the two killed his former Mentor.

The plot is brilliant, the story quite fascinating, but it travels at a pace that is so ungodly slow because of all the intense and intricate detail that Paolini puts into the story.  Yes, I can understand that some of it is required, but really? 300 plus pages for a journey to Ellesmera and learning magic, and then another 300 plus pages for Roran’s story to unfold.  This leaves only about 60 pages or so for the Reunion and the great battle of the book.

This book is filled with much smaller battles and skirmishes before culminating in the big battle.  Despite the overloading of details, I enjoyed the story very much.  This story hooks you and pulls you in, and makes you want to read the next in the series with a dramatic cliffhanger ending.  Even the spells, the magic in and of itself seems believable and the works were disguised in a different language which made it all the more believable.

I do highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys fiction, science fiction, stories from the past, epic adventures, and books with dragons.

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Book Review: Spells by Aprilynne Pike

Okay, so I’ve read Wings, the first in this series, and fell in love with it. So, now that the second book has come out, I was all for it, continuing to learn about the fae realm that has been set up with Laurel, David and Tamani (why by the way is becoming one of my favorite love triangles ever). I love the fact that we get a bigger and better glimpse of the world of Avalon, and the way that the different faeries live their daily lives. The caste system set up by the different seasons of faeries is unique, and definitely something akin to the medieval structure of things almost.

Each faerie has a job to do and a task to accomplish, and there are formal customs for things and more often than not Laurel gets picked on to a point at Avalon Academy because she, a Fall Faerie, and Tamani, a Spring Faerie are friends and do things together. Laurel is supposed to take the lead in all things because she is the higher ranking faerie, but she doesn’t exactly know what to do, not does she actually care about the differences because Tamani is a friend.

I think, one of my favorites is the struggles between Laurel and her mother, because it is something real. There is a time when everyone goes through that phase where their parents don’t agree, don’t condone their behavior, or things of that nature. It is especially common in LGBT families, where individuals who come out of the closet are looked at and treated differently by members of their own family, but this review is not turning into an LGBT rant, I am just using it as an example, don’t get your knickers in a twist please and thank you. I love the fact that her mother finally, finally accepted and came around and stopped treating Laurel like she was something foreign, alien, and began showing her affection once more without the stiff indifference that had been there before.

All in all, I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in this series, and see what bigger thing is going on in the world and really, WHAT exactly is going on between Tamani and Shar…that ending made me go WTF and stare at that last page for a good ten minutes trying to figure it out.

All in all, well worth the five star rating, and definitely a series I would recommend.