Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Book Review

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Angel Mage
 by Garth Nix

Rating: XXX

Published October 17th by Gollancz

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . . 

First of all, I want to say a huge thank you to Stevie and the wonderful people at Gollancz for sending me an advanced copy of this book and for having me on this book tour. I vaguely remembered reading Sabriel (also my Garth Nix) when I was younger and enjoyed it even if I started going to music concerts and sitting in the park with my friends instead of reading not long after and didn’t end up reading any more of the series. Still, as a result, when I heard Mr Nix was releasing a young adult book with an interesting magic system I was instantly interested.

The magic system is indeed really fascinating and described fairly well and in an easy to understand way while still being interesting and leaving room for loopholes here and there. The idea that icons with depictions of different levels of angels allowed mages to summon them for aid with varying costs in the currency of said mages own lifeforce feels quite unique but familiar and I enjoyed each piece of information we were given about them and the tolls and aspects of different angels.

The world-building too was done brilliantly and was my favourite aspect of the book. The world felt very easy to visualise as did the different governing bodies, military forces and general existence as a whole. I liked that with the cardinal essentially in power by way of having the ear of the Queen alongside her force of musketeers (led by a female Dartaghtan) it had a real Three Muskateers feel to parts of it even if the resulting story was very different.

Unfortunately, the plot and pacing felt terribly clunky for the most part. A plot doesn’t always have to be fast-paced obviously but usually, when that’s the case it’s because the book is very character-driven and I don’t know if it was because we had four main characters AND the “big bad” as POV parts but it didn’t feel like especially character-driven either. There are some interesting moments for sure and I did like the characters, Doretea especially but I would have liked more character building with them and maybe less insta-friendship although I do understand the circumstances behind it.

One last thing that I noticed and absolutely wanted to praise and shout about was the fact that a lot of prominent characters who when named or mentioned I would often assume were male were female which was very refreshing. The Cardinal and the Queen who hold the highest power were both female, there was a good amount of gender-neutral language throughout and no-one batting an eyelid at anyone’s differing sexual preferences. Not to mention that all of this just felt organic which was honestly just *chefs kiss* and a standard I would love to see in more books instead of having female, queer and/or POC characters slotted in for the sake of it.

Overall it was still an enjoyable read despite its faults, I don’t think it helps that I’m having trouble getting through longer books at the moment either and this is not a particularly short book. Angel Mage by Garth Nix is out now and definitely worth a read if it sounds like it might be your kind of thing.

 

book reviews, Graphic Novels, spoiler free

Finding Home Vol. 1: The Traveller by Hari Conner

Book Review

40922848._SY475_Finding Home Vol. 1: The Traveller by Hari Conner

Rating: XXXXX

Published June 2018 by Hari Draws Books

“It’s like there’s things that haunt you. Ghosts of feelings that follow you around. Echos of memories you can’t get rid of. A wall between you and the world.”

Finding Home is a slow-burn romance/drama comic set in a fantasy world, with a focus on nature, emotion and the small moments that change how you feel about someone.

Having abandoned his wood nymph family and spent a disastrous few years failing to fit in among humans, Chepi now travels alone, avoiding making friends or staying anywhere too long. That is, until he ends up on the road with someone he can’t seem to keep his distance from – Janek.

As the story begins, Janek just wants to get home and is happy to have a travelling companion on the way. But the closer they become, the more he’s drawn to Chepi, and the more he finds out about his nightmares, magic and troubling past…

I’ve been captivated by Hari’s art whenever I’ve come across them at MCM London and I kept seeing mentions of their graphic novel “Finding Home” and although it was on my list of things to get I often found that it had been so popular over the convention weekend that it was sold out when I went to get a copy on my breaks etc. When the Kickstarter for Vol.2 went live I backed it immediately and ordered myself a copy of Vol. 1 as well at last! I’ve been rammed with book reviews and other things the past few months since I received them but I finally made room for them a few weeks ago and took to spending a little time each night reading Vol. 1 and speedily falling in love with Janek and Chepi.

The artwork throughout is incredible, the landscapes and forests especially are my favourites, they honestly feel magical. The colours used throughout, those used to illustrate past memories, in particular, were done exceedingly well and added such an extra layer and feel to them. The only artwork issue I had at all was that I’m not great at reading some forms of cursive and had to spend a good amount of time trying to decipher a couple of parts that were written in letter form as although the handwriting looks beautiful it did take a few goes to get any good at reading it.

The story is a slow one and it could be said not a great deal happens but this isn’t an action-filled book. This is a soft narrative, slow burn of a tale and the pace itself just feels like it flows so naturally along with Chepi and Janek’s personalities. Time is taken to lay seeds, to ask questions, to hint at things and elaborate little by little as the characters get to know each other. One particular detail I absolutely adored was the fact that when Chepi feels different emotions strongly it seems to manifest in the form of different blooms throughout his hair, it’s just such a perfect little touch.  Although in a magical land, Chepi’s emotions feel so real and raw I was utterly transfixed, not to mention Janek’s caring, calm nature. Even when he’s a little flustered, nervous or worried Janek honestly feels like such a soothing presence and without giving too much away, his actions later in the book made me want to weep with joy because he’s honestly the sweetest soul I’ve ever encountered in fiction and I adore him with my whole heart.

The first and second volumes of Finding Home are available via Hari’s Etsy which you can find right here. Don’t forget to check out their other books and items too!

There have been hints of something brewing in the narrative past the characters and I feel like we might get some answers in the second book as well as hopefully Janek and Chepi opening up to each other a bit more, I’ll report back next week with my review for volume two!

 

 

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Last Namsara – Spoiler Free Review

32667458The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 12th 2017 by Gollancz

Asha lured the dragon with a story.
It was an ancient story, older than the mountains at her back, and Asha had to dredge it up from where it lay deep and dormant inside her.

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

I actually received this in a FairyLoot Box last year and it turned into one of those books I had to read but took forever to get around to, now with The Caged Queen coming out on the 25th September I figured this would be a great time to get it read so I’m all ready for the next book in the Iskari series.

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First of all can I just say…Dragons.

I was pretty sure from the get go that I would enjoy this book but I hadn’t been prepared for just how much. I love the interweaving of the old tales interwoven throughout the story and I would love for Kristen to write a whole book of tales because even stand alone they were interesting, beautifully written and captivating. The writing in the rest of the book is very good as well obviously but there was just felt like a particular kind of artistry to the tales that really made them feel like they had power.

 

The characters in The Last Namsara are well-rounded and fleshed out, each have their particular flaws which were not shied away from and helped to build their character and give them a richness. Asha was a particular favourite for me, she had a real fire to her and goes to show that great characters can be hugely unsure of themselves but still confident, physically strong but smart and most importantly not always right. I really loved seeing her attitudes change as she uncovered things throughout the story and how she reacted to situations. I feel like Asha is a fantastic example of a strong woman in fantasy without a lot of the stereotypes that usually get pinned to those kind of characters. She is a character that I think will stay with me for a long time.

The plot is intriguing if not a little up and down. The political intrigue side of things was a little slow to get going and become of any real interest but Asha herself kept the first half of the book going single-handedly (I think I honestly may be in love with her) and then by the second half of the book a lot more other characters began to come out of their shell, stakes got even higher and it felt like everyone had more purpose. The romance begins to get a little heavier in the second half as well and I’m usually not overly interested in that side of things I feel that the relationship was done very well and was a well thought out plot point all of its own that felt very well handled.

The Last Namsara is a refreshing take on fantasy and a fantastic debut from Kristen Ciccarelli and a book I highly recommend checking it out! The sequel, A Caged Queen, is out in the UK tomorrow September 27th.

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