The Clockwork Crow – Book Review

The Clockwork Crow #1 By: Catherine Fisher
Published On: September 8, 2020

Orphan Seren Rees is being sent to a new home. Her father’s oldest friend and his family has offered to keep her and now all she needed was to board the train. But while at the train station she meets a man who gets a little nervous when he hears a strange noise. Before he goes to check it out he makes her promise to watch over a package. But then he never comes back. To keep her promise she takes the package with her to her new home.

When she arrives the family who had promised to keep her is no where in sight. She’s allowed to stay in their home with the caretakers, but they give her no information about when the family will be back or why they aren’t there. All alone she decides to open the package from the stranger and discovers it is a mechanical crow….who can talk.

The intrigue of the story surrounds the crow, the missing family, and a secret room no one can enter. The servants refuse to talk about the family, especially the boy and it’s up to Seren to figure things out.

Overall, I felt the story was ok, but it doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre. The story has a Victorian era setting, which gives it a classic feel especially since the location is a very large house surrounded by mystery. The only aspect that gave me pause when reading was the big reveal of who/what the crow is. Since this is a book for children, I was a little surprised and I wonder how kids will respond.

Rating: 3 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for the advanced reader copy and the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Description:

Travelling to a new home with an unknown new family, orphan Seren Rees is shivering in a Victorian station waiting room, when she is given a mysterious newspaper parcel by a strange and frightened man, who then disappears. Reluctantly she takes it with her… But what is in the parcel? Who are the Family who must not be spoken of, and can the Crow help Seren find Tom, the boy who has been missing for a year and a day, before the owner of the parcel finds her?

The Clockwork Crow is a gripping Christmas tale of enchantment and belonging, set in a frost-bound mansion in snowy mid-Wales, from a master storyteller. 

Embassy of the Dead – Book Review

Embassy of the Dead #1 By: Will Mabbitt
Illustrated By: Taryn Knight
Published On: January 1, 2018

Embassy of the Dead is the kind of book I would have loved to read as a child. It’s spooky and ghostly, but in a fun way. Definitely never truly scary.

It all starts out when Jake accepts a package from a ghost who mistakes him for someone else. When Jake gets home he opens the package to discover it’s part of a finger. That’s yucky enough, but in the Afterworld this violation sets off alarm bells and they immediately assign someone to send Jake to the Eternal Void. Jake needs to find a way out of this fast. With the help of Stiffkey (the ghost who accidentally gave him the package) and Penny they discover that if he can get an Undoer’s license it will invalidate the law that he supposedly broke. Now all he has to do is find a ghost to ‘undo’.

In general the story has a simple and straightforward plot that will be easy for kids to follow. The book also includes a few illustrations that helps young readers visualize certain situations or characters. This is a big plus for me because I remember how much I loved when middle grade books included pictures. Then, between some of the chapters are facts about different types of ghosts, their characteristics and how to handle them.

The only issue I have is that it used a word a few times that in America may be considered a mild cuss word. The way it was used within the book put it into a grey area so it’s definitely not straight-out cussing. But generally it’s word that parents try to steer their kids away from and don’t want them to repeat.

All in all a fun story that gives young readers a hauntingly good time.

Rating: 4 stars

Description:

Jake Green is dead. Or he might as well be when he mistakenly accepts a package from the Embassy of the Dead in this hilarious adventure of the afterlife, the first in a series.

When Jake Green opens a mysterious box containing a severed finger, he accidentally summons a grim reaper intent on dragging him to the Eternal Void (yes, it’s as fatal as it sounds). Now Jake is running for his life. Luckily, he has a knack for talking to ghosts, which just might help him survive long enough to reach the Embassy of the Dead and plead his case. With the help of a prankster poltergeist and a dead undertaker, Jake dodges fearsome undead creatures, discovers his own ghostly abilities, and gets excused from the school field trip due to a terrible (and made-up) bout of diarrhea. But the Embassy has its own problems, and Jake must be very careful where he places his trust–in both the living and the dead. With a plot that zips and a colorful cast of characters, this delightful new series delivers laughs and shivers in equal measure. 

The Vine Witch – Book Review

The Vine Witch #1 By: Luanne G. Smith
Published On: October 1, 2019
No. of Pages: 263

Sometimes it’s all in the timing of when you read a book.

Initially, I picked The Vine Witch as one of my Amazon First Reads. They don’t always offer fantasy or science fiction, mostly it is thrillers and a non-fiction memoir. So when it was offered, I grabbed it. Except, I didn’t read it. I’m a mood reader and the mood wasn’t right. The first reviews I saw had it between 3 and 4 stars. They weren’t bad, they just didn’t inspire me to read it, so I put it on the back burner. But, The Glamourist (Vine Witch #2) is coming out soon and I really was drawn to the cover. So in addition to being a mood reader I am also someone who reads a book based solely on cover – I picked it up. But you can’t read book 2 without reading book 1, so that’s where I started.

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The Obsidian Tower – Book Review

Rooks and Ruin #1 By: Melissa Caruso
Published On: June 2, 2020

Can things be any more chaotic for Ryx as she attempts to negotiate peace between two lands, de-escalate a Shrike Lord’s desire for vengeance, learn how to bring her own broken magic under control, and deal with the aftermath of unexpected guests, all the while trying to identify what danger a secret artifact possesses and identify a solution to fix it without anyone finding out and starting all-out war? That’s not to mention what I am intentionally leaving out of this list just to keep from spoiling anything.

Gloamingard was really several castles caught in the act of devouring each other.

– Melissa Caruso, The Obsidian Tower

It all begins when the Shrike Lord’s fiancee, Lamiel, unexpectedly arrives at Gloamingard Castle one day before diplomats are scheduled to arrive to negotiate a treaty. Eager to secretly discover what Gloamingard protects and keeps hidden, Lamiel trespasses where she shouldn’t and starts a chain of events with consequential outcomes.

Set in the same world as Melissa Caruso’s Sword’s and Fire series, we are introduced to Ryx who is the Warden of Gloamingard. Ryx’s bloodline is one of vivomancers, but due to an illness when she was young Ryx’s magic is broken and instead of life and creation, her magic brings death. She is the family embarrassment, except to her grandmother who believes in her.

Around 20-30%, I almost stopped reading the book. Something about where the story was at the moment wasn’t keeping me interested. Eventually, what I came to realize is that the story centers around us watching Ryx juggling all the different chaotic events going on around her and that’s when I settled in. It’s not necessarily action-packed all the time and that’s ok.

As much as I enjoyed all the disastrous events exploding around Ryx it did at times become a little overwhelming. This was especially true in the latter part of the story when I would pick the book back up after being away from it and had to remember all that was going on. Don’t get me wrong – I liked that there was a lot of moving parts, but it still took time to remember. I also suspect there are some thinner plot moments in how some of the political maneuvering and decisions get resolved, but because it could be a little dizzying I haven’t had a chance to work through all that yet.

Description:

The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers.

Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle.

Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world. 

The Empire’s Ghost – Book Review

Paths of Lantistyne #1 By: Isabelle Steiger
Published On: May 16, 2017

*May contain spoilers*

Before picking up this epic fantasy novel, I did what I often do when attempting to decide if the book in question is one that I would want to read: I took a look at other reviews. Overwhelming, what I read over and over again was that there was a large cast of characters that left some confused during reading. For me, I generally like to read fantasies with large casts so when I got the book I dug right in. To help anyone who is considering this book determine if there are too many characters for their own preference I have attempted to create a list of the more major characters and their kingdoms or groups. My copy of the book did not contain this type of list, so I am hoping that the publisher will consider this in future books in the series.

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The Killing Fog – Book Review

The Grave Kingdom Book 1
By: Jeff Wheeler
Published on: March 1, 2020
Publisher: 47North
Pages: 404
Cover Designer: Shasti O’Leary Soudant

The Killing Fog is the first in a new Asian-inspired fantasy series by Jeff Wheeler. I’m ashamed to say I have seen his other works, but never got around to reading them even though they have been on my list for a while. So, I am very happy to be able to read this first one in his new series.

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The Last Smile in Sunder City – Book Review

The Fetch Phillips Archives (1)
By: Luke Arnold
Published on: February 25, 2020

The Last Smile in Sunder City is a noir fantasy book following Fetch Phillips, a struggling PI detective, or a ‘Man for Hire’, as he prefers to be called.

Years prior to when this story begins, this world experienced an event called the “Coda” where the human army was envious of the power of magic and decided to change…everything. In their lust to capture magic for themselves they fundamentally changed magic for everyone. The world was now drained of magic. Some creatures were immediately no more, while some live a half-existence.

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Master of Sorrows – Book Review

The Silent Gods Book 1 by Justin T. Call
Published on: August 8, 2019

So many thoughts rolling around in my head in regards to this epic fantasy story that I don’t know where to begin. Too many, in fact.

Master of Sorrows follows a boy named Annev who attends the Academy where he is attempting to get promoted to Avatar of Judgment. To do so, he must win the Testing Day contest against his other classmates as well as friends. This is the last Testing Day he will be permitted to take part in. Failing to win means becoming a servant to the others and to make it worse, it is also the last Testing Day for two of his close friends as well.

With the Testing Day as the major plot line in the first half of the book, the author also uses the events surrounding this as a way introduce you to the protagonist/antagonists, religious structure and most importantly religious politics and prejudices. The leaders of the Academy and townspeople all believe that sons of Keos are cursed and are considered evil. They are identified when they are born with a deformity and are immediately killed. If somehow an individual isn’t discovered at birth then what awaits for them is being stoned to death once they are discovered. Annev was born without an arm past his elbow. He’s been able to keep it hidden for 17 years through the use of a special glove, but being found out is one of his greatest fears.

As you might expect with any epic fantasy story, there is a lot of lore/knowledge information within this first book that can sometimes slow the story down a little at times. However, I was surprised by how much I liked the sections about the gods (Keos and his siblings). I usually skip or fast-read those sections, but instead found the sibling relationships and responses to certain events rather interesting.

Overall, Master of Sorrows is an enjoyable epic fantasy read with a beautiful cover too. As I read through the story, I found that the characters and their different choices and decisions was one of my favorite parts and not just Annev’s story. Of course, the decision Annev makes in determining the content of his own character and what he believes in is one of the best aspects of the book. The Masters at the Academy see the world in black and white, but Sodor, Annev’s mentor, has slowly been teaching Annev to think for himself and watching the progression within Annev is one of the many highlights of the story. But choices other characters made was just as intriguing.

While reading I came to the conclusion that this might make a decent fantasy book club read. There are a lot of opportunities for points of discussion – from the gods and the religious politics to the Testing Day contest there’s no shortage of topics to bring up.

Rating: 4 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

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