Fantasy

Book Review: Red Rising

Red Rising
Author: 
Brown, Pierce
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

4 stars(Good, but not enough conflict)
Red rising is a sci-fi book set in the far future, where caste systems are a given and the lowest caste, red, is forced to mine Mars to make way for other, higher castes. The book follows the perspective of a red, Darrow, who lives a completely familiar yet grueling life as a helldiver. As he toils in the mines and in the life of an unfortunate red, his entire life is picked up and tossed in the garbage as his wife first dies, then he is inducted into a mysterious society known as the Sons of Ares, where the truth of his former life is revealed to him. I didn't like this book because there's little to no challenge to him in the overall story, but I also find this book strangely calming. I suggest this book to anyone looking for a story of growth, strategy, friendship, and betrayal.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ethan

Book Review: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone
Author: 
Bardugo, Leigh
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is an amazing venture into a wonderful magical universe. I don't read a lot of fantasy, and Shadow and Bone was the perfect re-introduction to the genre. The world building is some of the most beautiful and detailed I've ever read. In this universe, magical people known as Grisha have the power to manipulate matter. Etherialki summoners can manipulate air, water, or fire. Materialki Fabrikators can manipulate materials and chemicals, and Corporalki are divided into healers and heartrenders, which have the capability to slow or speed heart rates, and are essentially the most feared Grisha.

Ravka, a country inspired by tsarist Russia, is divided in two by a swath of darkness known as the Shadow Fold, which is populated by frightening creatures known as volcra that prey on humans. The Shadow Fold and volcra have made crossing from landlocked East Ravka to the ocean ports and trade routes of West Ravka nearly impossible. The only hope to destroy the centuries-old Shadow Fold is a myth of the Sun Summoner, a Grisha with the ability to summon sunlight and destroy the darkness and the monsters.

Alina Starkov is an orphan and a mapmaker in the non-Grisha army. At the beginning of the story, she and her best friend, Mal, a tracker, are chosen for a voyage across the Shadow Fold. During the crossing, Mal is attacked by volcra and Alina reveals the ability to summon sunlight. She is the Sun Summoner, and suddenly everything in her life changes.

Alina is brought to the capital of Ravka to train as a Grisha, making the acquaintance of the Darkling, the only Grisha with the ability to summon shadow and darkness; a descendent of the one who created the Shadow Fold. The Darkling believes he and Alina have the ability together to destroy the Shadow Fold, and reunite Ravka. What follows is a wild ride full of twists and turns and beautiful magic.

This book is so addictive and page-turning that I read the last 30% in one sitting. This book is the first in Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse collection, and it does feel like a first novel. There are simple sentences and some classic YA tropes, such as a love triangle and a 'chosen one' narrative. However, despite the inclusion of YA plot staples, I have read all of those tropes boiled down to a very simple level in other books, and here I believe that Bardugo elevated them to something more. All of the characters were delightfully fascinating. There was not black-and-white, good-and-evil characters, all had some elements of good and bad in them that made them fascinating to ponder over. Alina's spunk and sarcasm added to her character wonderfully, and the Darkling's true motives and character will keep readers on their toes until the last page. In addition to Alina and the Darkling, a wonderful cast of side characters is introduced when Alina begins training with other Grisha, most notably Genya, Alina's closest Grisha friend, who is a unique Tailor who can manipulate appearances. Genya, for all her beauty she created for herself, has her own dark backstory that adds great depth to her character and the story. The logistics of Grisha power are a bit hard to understand, but as seen through Alina, who also does not really understand them either, it makes the mystery and lore around the magic system even more fascinating. Once the orders and powers of Grisha become clear in your mind, the story really takes off.

This book gets under your skin and stays with you. I found myself constantly thinking about the plot and the wonderful characters and setting that became familiar and comfortable. The best feeling when reading a series is wishing that the world of the book is the one you lived in, and I experienced a lot of that feeling while reading Shadow and Bone. I am a very analytical reader, but I did not care about the writing simplicity because this was such a good story. This book has it all-- romance, magic, a touch of a dystopian world, friendship, and fantasy. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys any of those genres and someone looking for a gentle introduction into the fantasy genre-- a genre filled with so many universes and powers and creatures that it is easy to get overwhelmed finding what is really worth reading.

Shadow and Bone is a highly enjoyable book filled with great, layered characters and a delightful magical world. I look forward to reading more of Leigh Bardugo's books.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Allie

Book Review: Artemis Fowl. The Lost Colony

Artemis Fowl. The Lost Colony
Author: 
Colfer, Eoin
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

A good fantasy series knows that it needs to keep building its lore as it progresses past its first few volumes. Some might start to sag around the fifth volume, but The Lost Colony doubles down and introduces a whole new species into its universe: demons. The fact that these creatures are both tied to the fairies that have comprised the series up to now and have their own set of rules that tracks with traditional demon lore is a testament to the research that went into this series.

Of course, introducing demons into the series this late in the game isn't necessarily what makes The Lost Colony good. Rather, it's the introduction of a rival for Artemis—who also has the potential to be a rival in love against Holly Short. The last few books in the Artemis Fowl series felt like an episodic "deus ex machina" that didn't change much in the grand scheme of the main character's life. The Lost Colony recognizes it's time for Artemis to grow up and pushes a surprising ending with the potential for character growth in subsequent books.

I'm actually a little surprised that it took five books to get to this point. Most of the character development had been simmering beneath the surface for quite a few books before this one. However, introducing a new character in the form of a demon imp certainly helped keep the focus on more interesting things while also minimizing some of the more childish moments (which are still there, as this is a series for children). Overall, The Lost Colony seems to be a turning point in the Artemis Fowl series, and I look forward to where it goes from here.

Fresh worldbuilding and character development for the Artemis Fowl series, I give The Lost Colony 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Eyes of the Dragon

The Eyes of the Dragon
Author: 
King, Stephen
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book is definitely over shadowed by many of Stephen kings other books, which is sad because it is SO GOOD! Not like his other works, this quick read is so fun it’s hard to put down. The main character is so easy to root for and the villain is so easy to hate. A great story, characters, and plot what more could you ask for? If you like Stephen king or old timely fantasy books definitely check this one out.

Reviewer's Name: 
Rylie

Book Review: Torch

Torch
Author: 
Anderson, R. J.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Flight and Flame Trilogy - Here is the legend-like tale of Ivy of the Delve: how a wingless piskey girl (considered least among her people) ends up learning how to fly and eventually becoming the queen of her tribe. It is also a murderer's story of redemption: readers familiar with the character of Martin (introduced in the previous Faery Rebels/No Ordinary Fairy tale series) will witness a transformation of villain-to-hero. This trilogy is both its own story and a semi-continuation of the first series. Readers will be able to briefly catch up with some of the characters in the previous books, as some of them play important new roles.

In Torch, the third and final volume, Ivy and Martin's newfound love is challenged, tested, and tried - while it seems like everything in both of their lives is trying to tear them apart for good. Brimming with wisdom and wonder, humor and irony, trials and tribulations, here is the long-awaited conclusion to the story. With secrets unveiled, prophecies fulfilled, and people under their care in peril, Ivy and Martin now face their greatest challenges yet, before the story comes to its climax, and satisfyingly joyful ending

Reviewer's Name: 
SL

Book Review: Scarlet

Scarlet
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

I continue to be impressed with Marissa Meyer's ability to weave a compelling narrative based on common fairy tale themes but set in a sci-fi framework. A continuation of the story that started in Cinder , Scarlet felt a little distracted as it added in elements from "Little Red Riding Hood" and split its time between the new characters—mainly Scarlet and Thorne—and advancing the plot of Cinder to its next logical step. As long as you realize this series centers around Cinder and her rise to the Lunar throne, this book should provide some great entertainment.

Perhaps what I enjoyed most about this book was how it seamlessly integrated with the lore already established in the previous volume while also being true to its source. Nothing strays too far from the themes of wolves/werewolves, so it's a bit of an obvious connection to make in a series that's titled the Lunar Chronicles. Still, the thought put into constructing a plausible plot from the pieces of a short fairy tale is something that must be applauded. Even so, Scarlet does have some weaknesses that have carried over from its predecessor.

The charm of the characters in this series comes from how realistic they seem. Granted, most of the characters are teenage girls, so there are many quirks that are amusing at first but become irritating over time. In particular, Scarlet seems quite stupid. Her logic is clearly flawed, and it's obvious to the reader that she's going about things all wrong for far too long until she finally "gets it." And—of course—she's going to be attracted to the "Wolf." The other new character, Thorne, seemed underdeveloped as well, but I'm sure we'll see more of him soon.

A somewhat distracted but still excellent follow-up to Cinder, I give Scarlet 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: 
Gaiman, Neil
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Neil Gaiman's novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane gives an interesting perspective on the nature of childhood and the truth of reality. A folktalishly fantastical novel, this book follows a man as a he thinks back on his childhood and the magical and sometimes terrifying experiences he had as a kid. I at first found this book a little confusing because I didn't quite understand the time switch and whether or not it was meant to be serious or mystical. However, reading this book is very enjoyable as it gives very homely vibes and contains interesting mysteries to uncover. With an open ending that leaves the reader wanting, this is a great quick read for fans of Neil Gaiman or just general fiction enthusiasts.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie

Book Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner
Author: 
Dashner, James
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The young adult book genre for the most part fells boring and stale to me. However, there was one book that I found to be great, and a real page turner, it was called Maze Runner. The book took me two days to finish, because it was such a page turner. The characters are great, the mystery is intriguing, and the drama is fun to read about. This book is one of my favorites and is a must read for everyone.

Reviewer's Name: 
McKinley

Book Review: Eragon

Eragon
Author: 
Paolini, Christopher
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Eragon is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The story and its characters drew me into this new and existing world. The author also made me want to learn more about the world history and culture. While the story was somewhat like Star Wars, it had enough new elements to make it different. This book will leave a lasting impression on anyone who loves fantasy or for people looking for an adventurous book to read.

Reviewer's Name: 
McKinley

Book Review: Heartless

Heartless
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book is about the Queen of Hearts and how she became so evil. Catherine's dream in life is to be the best baker of all of Hearts. These skills end up wooing the king and he eventually asks for her hand in marriage. Her mother wants her to agree, but Cath soon finds her heart is drawn to someone else, the mysterious Joker. With Hearts under attack by the dangerous Jabberwocky, Catherine gets pulled into an adventure that soon unfolds the reasons behind her infamous tale in the book: Alice in Wonderland.

I really liked this book mostly because of the characters. They were really well developed and I felt as if I knew them and was a part of their story. The plotline gets really slow in the middle, but by the end, I really enjoyed it. Meyer is the same author who wrote the Cinder Series. Even though this book is not like the Cinder Series, they are still really similar, so if you enjoyed that series, you will like this book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma

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