Saturday, July 7, 2018

Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey

Oathbreakers us the sequel to The oathbound, and while you can read it as a standalone book you will enjoy it more if you have read The oathbound or the short stories in Oathblood.

After years of working on their own and building their reputations, Tarma and Kethry joined the ranks of Idra's Sunhawks.  It may seem an odd move for two mercenaries to join a company and follow someone else's lead, someone else's rules, but they both know that being part of a good mercenary company will teach them more about their chosen trade and help them go from good to great.  It is a lot of work, and their current campaign is both tedious and hard fought in the rain and cold.  Thankfully, Tarma and Kethry both have useful skills that have helped them rise within the ranks of the Sunhawks, and those skills are soon put to very good use in the campaign - and beyond.

When Idra returns to her home in Rethwellan to help sort out family business Kethry and Tarma are free to spend time in the Company's home town of Hawksnest - a chance for some much needed rest and relaxation.  Their R&R is short lived however, because Idra has not returned from her little trip 'home' and those closest to her are no longer receiving letters from her or news about her.  Travelling to Rethwellan is the only way to find out what happened, and it falls to Kethry and Tarma to make the journey to find out what they can.  

What they find is worse than they feared - Idra has disappeared without a trace and the no one seems to be willing to speak about Idra or the brother who allegedly betrayed the Crown and his family.  When Kethry and Tarma are forced to reveal themselves as more than the horse traders they pretend to be, they have to flee for their lives.  It is a race against time and the weather as they flee in the direction of the runaway Prince, hoping to find out what happened to Idra while also dreading what they will find.  The truth they uncover on their journey will set them on a path that will bring the wraith of the Sunhawks down on those responsible.

Someone recently reminded me that Mercedes Lackey is sometimes seen as 'puff' fantasy, or not 'serious' fantasy - and they discovered pretty quickly what I thought of that opinion!  Pretty covers not withstanding, this is some pretty hard hitting fantasy with some pretty heavy themes.  Tarma and Kethry are one of the most enduring fantasy partnerships for me not only because they compliment each other so well, but also because they are not perfect - they fight, they disagree, they have good days, they have bad days, and they face real lose.  The challenges they face are also an intriguing mix of brains, battles, and clever disguises. 

It was a pleasure to return to their lives and reconnect with them, especially as I moved on to Oathblood as soon as I finished Oathbreakers!  I hope to re-read By the sword sometime soon as with all the reminders about Tarma and Kethry it feels like it might be time to reconnect with their 'clan' too.

If you like this book then try:
  • Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Magics pawn by Mercedes Lackey
  • Winds of fate by Mercdes Lackey
  • The Elvenbane by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton
  • Throne of glass by Sarah J Maas
  • Sing the four quarters by Tanya Huff
  • If I pay thee not in gold by Piers Anthony and Mercedes Lackey
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
  • The diamond throne by David Eddings
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, July 6, 2018

The oathbound by Mercedes Lackey

When her entire clan is slaughtered, her body defiled and left for dead, Tarma defies the odds and survives.  Needing revenge for all that she has lost, Tarma seeks out the service of her goddess and becomes one of the Sword Sworn - an elite group of Shin'a'in who leave behind their clan names and become weapons for their goddess, as sexless as the weapons they weild in Her name.  It was the only choice for Tarma to make, one that she would make again, even though it means her clan will die because the Sword Sworn belong to all the clans and not just one.  As Tarma tracks the men that destroyed her clan she develops the skills she will need for her revenge, taught by warriors that have tread the same path she now walks.  

When she closes in her quarry she discovers that she is not alone in her pursuit of the bandits - although her fellow hunter is something of a surprise.  Kethry is the last thing Tarma would have expected - she is a beautiful and talented sorceress.  It is also a surprise to discover that Kethry is not alone, she keeps the company of a sword named Need, who has bonded to Kethry with the simple purpose of helping women.  It soon becomes clear that Kethry has brains to match her beauty, and that they make very good partners indeed - even if Need seems determined to put them in harms way.  When the kyree Warrl joins their team it makes them formidable and easily underestimated.

As Tarma and Kethry set out to develop a reputation and build a name for themselves they will come across some very interesting stories indeed.  With her skills as  Sworn Sworn Tarma is a match for most, able to defend herself with steel and attack with steel and arrow.  When Tarma is outnumbered she can count on Warrl to lash out with teeth and claws, an ally smart enough to know when to fight and when to run.  With Need at her side Kethry can protect herself in a fight, while lending her magical skills of attack and disguise to whatever adventure they happen upon next.  They are a true partnership, sharing a bond deeper than friendship, but they also have to learn to trust each other and know when to trust that the other can take care of themselves.  A lesson they must learn quickly, because danger lurks around every corner and not even the deepest bond to the Goddess can protect them from everything.

The oathbound is the first book in the Vows and honour series and is both an enjoyable fantasy romp and a thoroughly inspiring read about family, friendship, and looking out for each other.  What begins in quite a brutal and horrifying fashion manages to bring elements of magic and a good dose of humour.  I have not read these books for quite a few years and it was nice to reunite with the characters and see where they started - although the original short stories are in Oathblood which is considered the third book in this series.  A great read, and a great start to re-reading the series.  

If you like this book then try:
  • Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Magics pawn by Mercedes Lackey
  • Winds of fate by Mercdes Lackey
  • The Elvenbane by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton
  • Throne of glass by Sarah J Maas
  • Sing the four quarters by Tanya Huff
  • If I pay thee not in gold by Piers Anthony and Mercedes Lackey
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
  • The diamond throne by David Eddings
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Exile by S.M. Wilson

Exile is the sequel to The extinction trials, and while you can read it as a stand alone book you will enjoy it more reading the series in order.  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read The extinction trials.

Returning from Piloria should have been the start of something amazing for Storm and her fellow trialists, but instead it has proved to be anything but.  Storm has gone from living alone and working in the outdoors to living with her "extended" family and working in the parliament.  All her years of carefully hiding what she is really capable of blown because of the Trials.  For Lincoln life after Piloria is all about trying to find a way to help his sister while trying to hold onto his job at the labs.  It seems as though there might be some hope when he discovers that the ointment they used on Piloria can help with the disease that is ravaging Arta's body - the only problem is that the cure and all it's ingredients are across an ocean that he has no hope of crossing.

When the announcement is made that they are ready to try the viruses that the labs have been developing it catches everyone by surprise - but not as much as the announcement that the former trialists are the ones who will travel to Piloria to release the diseases.  It's a sucker punch for Storm and Lincoln, and for all the other trailists hastily assembled to return - along with one rather unwilling and unexpected tag along.  Storm longs to return to Piloria, even with all the danger it was a land of rich smells and vibrant colours - not to mention the fact that no one on Piloria has to worry about rations.  It is a race against time, not only to release the virsuses where they have the greatest chance of infecting the dinosaurs, but also to find Blaine in the desperate hope he can help them make more of his miracle ointment and help them find plants to take back home.  Returning to Piloria is risky, even for the trialists because even though they have been there before they haven't seen everything - good and bad.

The extinction trials was a fast paced read, and Exile picks up shortly after it ends and carries on the story at the same speed dragging you along for the ride.  One of the great things about both The extinction trials and Exile is that Wilson swaps the viewpoints around which means you get to see and hear more of the story through the characters, but you also avoid the more impersonal "voice of god" approach to storytelling.  This makes the story more interesting and engaging, and in Exile it gives you a more intense window into the internal struggles of Storm and Lincoln, and makes them feel much more real.  You don't have to wonder about what they are going through because you feel it with them. 

This is a very good series, and is one that crosses over into a couple of different genres and will appeal to wide audience.  This is not a 'girl' book or a 'boy' book, and while it was written for teenagers it does appeal to adult audiences as well (or at least this adult audience anyway).  This series holds a great deal of promise and it will be interesting to see where Wilson takes it next, and if we get more of the backstory about how they ended up with the split between humans and the dinosaurs of Piloria (because it feels like there could be a very good backstory involved!)

If you like this book then try:


Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The hills have spies by Mercedes Lackey

From the time they were little children Perry, Abi and Trey have been raised to keep their wits about them, keep themselves safe, and figure out how to escape if they happen to be captured.  Normal children might find the training and testing tiresome, but when your parents are both Heralds and you have grown up with the Royal children as playmates you are anything but normal.  Life in the palace complex is interesting and challenging, with classes and training, but Perry is very aware that he has not been Chosen - and so are his parents.  Despite his strong gift for animal mindspeech, Perry has not attracted the attention of any of the Companions, and with two of the Royal children Chosen it is becoming clearer that he may never be.  

On one hand Perry is okay with not being Chosen as he has other options, but on the other hand he has been raised to be a Herald and everyone expects him to follow in the footsteps of his parents.  When Mags is asked to investigate some mysterious disappearances near the Pelagirs it seems like the perfect opportunity for Mags and Perry to spend some time together alone and to work on skills that Perry will need if he is a Herald.  Disguised as a merchant trader and his son, Mags and Perry start the journey uncertain of what they will find.  It seems like something of a fools errand at first, the nebulous worries of a retired Herald with too much time on his hands, but it soon becomes clear that there is indeed something strange going on.

Someone, or something, is taking the people that no one will miss and spiriting them away.  With the help of some new strange and unexpected allies, Mags and Perry investigate, putting their own lives at risk to get to the bottom of the mystery.  With part of the conspiracy uncovered Mags must report back to the King, but Perry is determined to act, even if it means going against his fathers wishes.  It's a race against time to find the answer to the mystery, and by putting himself in harms way Perry may solve the mystery, but he risks disappearing like the other victims.  Mags has been preparing Perry for his future, but with the future upon him can he cut the apron strings and let Perry tackle the problem on his own?

One of the most startling things about reading The hills have spies is that the dust jacket description of the book and the contents of the book don't match - in any way - apart from the fact the story is about Mags and his family.  Once you get over that fact and get involved with the story it is a thoroughly engaging story that brings us back into the lives of some very familiar characters, while also introducing the next generation.  Perry and his siblings are what you would expect from children of Heralds, they are strong of character, care for the people around them, and in Perry's case have a powerful gift of animal mindspeech.  Perry is a great character and very quickly won me over, particularly because he wasn't perfect in the way that some of the other characters are/were.  The story was well paced, has lots of little interesting twists and moments that make it feel like a real quest, and you get an ending that is satisfying without being too pat and perfect.  

A very enjoyable addition to the Valdemar universe and now comes the wait for the next book in the series to see where it goes next!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, June 4, 2018

Lost Creed by Alex Kava

Lost Creed is the fourth book in the Ryder Creed series, and while it can be read as a stand alone novel I highly recommend reading the series in order starting with Breaking CreedSilent Creed and Reckless Creed otherwise this review contains ***SPOILERS***.

For years, Ryder Creed has been driven to help find the lost - his passion driven by the loss of his sister more than a decade earlier, a pain that has never healed and never gone away.  Training search and rescue dogs lets him give the rescue dogs he finds, or that are abandoned on his property, a new life and purpose to help people in need.  Not everyone in search and rescue knows the pain of that loss, the pain of never knowing what has happened to a loved one, the pain of not being able to bury someone you loved and lost - but Ryder Creed does, because they never found his sister Brodie.

Nearly sixteen years to the day since she disappeared, FBI Special Agent Maggie O'Dell makes an unexpected discovery - a clue about what might have happened to Brodie all those years.  Despite being exhausted after a grueling search and rescue with Bolo, nothing is going to stop Ryder from getting involved with the case - even though being involved will open up old wounds and bring him face-to-face with the past he has worked so hard to distance himself from, and the one person who lost just as much as he did.  No case is every straight forward though, especially when you are dealing with a cunning and manipulative criminal who wants to make sure the truth never sees the light of day.

Lost Creed is the latest book in the Ryder Creed series, and with each book I fall more in love with the characters and the dogs that fill his life.  Ryder is impulsive, driven, and not afraid to go after what he wants - even when it lands him in trouble.  The people around him are battling their own demons, making their own mistakes, and finding their own salvation.  The dogs are all bright and individual characters, holding their own in a world that is complicated and messy, little beacons of hope that keep the story moving and keep you wanting and hoping for more.  

Hopefully we don't have to wait too long for the next book in the series!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, June 1, 2018

A court of frost and starlight by Sarah J. Maas

While you can read A court of frost and starlight as a stand alone novella I highly recommend reading it after you have read the trilogy that starts with A court of thorns and roses.  There are ***SPOILERS*** in this review and in A court of frost and starlight if you have not read the rest of the series.

Winter Solstice is a time for family and friends, a time to remember and a time to celebrate.  For Feyre, it is her first Winter Solstice as High Lady of the Night Court, and her twenty first birthday.  It is supposed to be a time of celebration and joy, but it is hard to celebrate when everything seems so fragile and ready to fall apart.  The once beautiful and peaceful city of Velaris bears the scars of the war that threatened to tear their world apart, and there are people who are just as scarred as the buildings around them.  

The war has left Freyja, Rhys and their family battered, bruised, and scarred - and some members of their family are changed for ever by what happened during the war.  For Freyja the changes are no less great, not only was she Changed into Fae, so were her two sisters.  The shock of the change is bad enough, as being Fae is so much MORE than being human, but it is all the other changes that make it hard for them to bear too.  The loss of their humanity is bad enough, but now Nesta and Elain have to deal with being Fae and what it means to be Fae - Mates and all.  Will Freyja, Rhys and their family make it through this Winter Solstice in one piece?  And will they be able to find the peace they all seek?

I have been looking forward to reading A court of frost and starlight for months, and I was not disappointed one bit.  Once again Sarah J. Maas has taken us into the city of Velaris and the lives of the people who live there - people we have come to care about a great deal as they have planned, plotted, fought, and survived.  As well as being a great read, this is also a very good story for bridging the gap between the series, and giving you more story without being another epic and exhausting read.  Highly recommend reading A court of frost and starlight as it focuses on the humanity of surviving a war - and that sometimes just because you survive the war doesn't mean you aren't scarred by what happened.

If you like this book then try:
  • A court of thorns and roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • Arrows of the queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Throne of glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Fire rose by Mercedes Lackey
  • Home from the sea by Mercedes Lackey
  • Reserved for the cat by Mercedes Lackey
  • Steadfast by Mercedes Lackey
  • Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey
  • From a high tower by Mercedes Lackey
  • Deerskin by Robin McKinley
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Rose daughter by Robin McKinley
  • Spindle's end by Robin McKinley
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, May 11, 2018

Now you see by Max Manning

It starts with the murder of Lauren Bishop, a young woman who dies publicly - a before and after picture splashed across the screens of users all over the world thanks to the social media power of Instagram and a clever username of @IKiller.  For Detective Chief Inspector Dan Fenton the murder is shocking, because not only did the killer take a life, they shared the murder through social media.  The Police race to shut down the account, but with anonymous emails the norm, tracking the killer themselves is going to be tricky.  When a second victim is murdered, and the death is shared through another social media platform it becomes clear that they are not dealing with an ordinary killer, they are dealing with a serial killer who is trying to engage with the world through popular social media platforms.

Lauren's former boyfriend is an obvious suspect for the murder, especially as they broke up, but he has an alibi for her murder.  That doesn't stop the Police from keeping him on the suspects list - especially when the second body, and then a third body appear.  For DCI Fenton it is the worst kind of case, not only is the killer clever and seemingly intent on taunting the Police, the killer also seems on step ahead of the Police.  As the body count continues to grow Fenton is under increasing pressure at work and at home - and as the killer becomes bolder he finds himself making choices he never thought he would make.

Now you see me is an intriguing read that raises some interesting questions for the reader - if a killer like IKiller existed would you look at the images online and become part of the story?  This is a story that could have been taken from the headlines, a shocking story of a calculating killer and the Police team that seems to be constantly one step behind - a story that challenges you to figure out what is happening before the conclusion.  This is a well crafted story with a clever premise and some very punchy chapters that keep you hooked from the first page - and one of those stories that is a nightmare to review because of the things that make the story so good are the little twists and clues dropped along the way.


If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, May 4, 2018

The extinction trials by S.M. Wilson

Stormchaser lives on Earthasia, a continent straining under the massive human population that is always increasing.  With resources stretched thin it is no surprise that there is a shortage of food, medical care, and housing.  Storm lives in the Shelters, housing for teenagers orphaned and left alone, and as long as she follows the rules she gets the bare basics to survive - a roof over her head and just enough food to keep her from starving.  Every year an expedition is sent from Earthasia to the neighbouring continent of Piloria, a land rich with food and space - the only catch is that it is also inhabited by ferocious flesh eating dinosaurs.  

Death is almost guaranteed for the one hundred volunteers who complete the Trials and travel to Piloria, but that doesn't stop people from trying to get there as the rewards are great.  This year the winner will get enough food for themselves and their family, and access to medical care.  For Storm the promise of food is what draws her to the Trials, even though she only plans to take part and not win, she will have several days where she gets enough to eat.  For Lincoln there is no playing the game, he has to win because his sister Arta is dying from an illness that has already killed too many people. 

When they both beat the odds and make it through the Trials it is only the start of their troubles, because the trip to Piloria can be deadly and the dinosaurs that seemed scary on paper are terrifying in real life.  As Storm and Lincoln work alongside their fellow Trialists they slowly learn that there is more to the Trials than they suspected, and that nothing is what it seems.  Storm doesn't want to see the dinosaurs wiped out, and she doesn't trust that the Stipulators will just focus on the dangerous dinosaurs, but she has to play their game if she is going to save herself.

The extinction trials has been described in one review as "The hunger games meets Jurassic Park" and I can't help but feel that is something of a disservice for this intriguing and highly readable book as I know it has put off at least one reader who doesn't like to read dystopian reads which is a real shame because The extinction trials was a real treat!  Told from the different viewpoints of Storm and Lincoln, the story builds from a relatively straight forward story about two teenagers trying to survive to a story about social control, how people are manipulated by people in power, and that nothing is really what it seems.  

Storm and Lincoln are both highly relateable characters, as are the people who inhabit their lives in one way or another.  The story is well balanced, with the action and plot building towards a satisfying conclusion (that also leaves you wanting the next book in the series).  One of the most intriguing things for me about this series is wondering which direction the author is going as there are hints that it is in the alternate history genre, and it could also be in the science fiction genre, and maybe even a fantasy genre ... it will be interesting to see where it goes!  This is one of the best reads for me this year so far, and it deserves to be discovered and read because it will appeal to a wide range of readers.


If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, April 20, 2018

Tooth and claw by Nigel McCrery

Tooth and claw is the sequel to Still waters and while you can read the books separately you will enjoy the series more if you read the books in order.

DCI Mark Lapslie is good at his job, but his synaesthesia makes it challenging (if not downright impossible) to do his job in the normal, expected fashion.  Working on reports for the higher ups keeps him gainfully employed, but his superiors seem determined to push him into applying for early retirement on medical grounds and he is too stubborn and determined to let them push him out.  When he is assigned not one, but two different murder cases the pressure builds, and it becomes increasingly difficult for Lapslie to keep his condition under wraps. 

It might be the stress he's under, but it also seems like the symptoms of his synaesthesia are getting worse, despite doing everything he can to keep it hidden as the case progresses he is exposed to his colleagues in rather spectacular fashion.  With his professional life starting to unravel at the seams, and with challenging cases to solve the one saving grace for Lapslie is the unswerving support of his DS - Emma Bradbury.

This series is a real pain to review because all the tasty little tidbits you would normally put in the review would be spoilers for the little twists and turns that make this series so interesting.  I loved the character development, especially watching the way the killer slowly comes under the spotlight and you learn more about him.  We also get to learn more about both DCI Lapslie and DS Bradbury which makes it easier to connect with them as characters and helps expose some of what makes them tick.  It will be interesting to see how the characters develop over time, and how McCrery keeps the storylines fresh and engaging once the surprise of Lapslie's synaesthesia wears off.

If you like this book then try:


Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Time bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Six young lives are about to change for ever, wrenched apart and shaken by multiple explosions in their high school.  Each of them has a reason to be at school, and each of them is keeping secrets or keeping part of themselves hidden.  Rashid is a young man struggling with his identity, struggling to find a balance between practicing his faith and fitting in with his "American" classmates.  Cas is struggling to fit into her new school, pressure from her family to lose weight, be more sociable, be more popular is more than she can stand.  Frankie and Tad are struggling with a relationship that has changed and yet not changed, heading towards a line that one of them might not be ready to cross.  Diana is tired of being the perfect politicians daughter, always pushing her own thoughts and feelings aside to make her father look good.  Recently orphaned by the death of his mother, Z is failing out of school and about to lose his home, but he has a plan.

Six young people all keeping secrets from their friends and families - six young lives about to be changed in the worst way possible.  Trapped in a building that has been badly damaged by multiple explosions, and with part of the building on fire it seems grim.  When they learn that the bomber has been caught it is not the good news they needed, the bomber was not working alone, and according to the news reports on the radio the bomber has a partner who is still in the school.  Trying to escape is hard enough, but when suspicions grow about who the bombers partner could be tension turns to accusations and threats.

Books like Time bomb run the risk of becoming purely didactic and artificial, the author preaching at their audience rather than connecting the reader with a story that needs to be told.  Some authors tackle these topics with amazing skill and insight - to the point that you don't even realise there is a message - while others are like a sledge hammer nailing home their message with little finesse or skill.  Time bomb falls somewhere in between these two extremes, as while Charbonneau does build her characters, keeps the tension high, and generally makes an effort to make the characters and their stories relatable it just lacks a spark - though for me this could be mainly because I guessed who the bomber was very early and it then felt a little like she was going through the motions.

Do I think this was a book that needed to be written - yes.  Does it provide valuable insight into the pressures teenagers face at school and in their lives in general - yes.  Do I think this book might have benefitted from one more draft - yes, just to tie the story more tightly together and make it more about the characters rather than the bombing.  Don't get me wrong, this was a good book, but I think with a little more polish it could have been a great book or even an amazing book.


If you like this book then try:
  • NEED by Joelle Charbonneau
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • What waits in the woods by Kieran Scott
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Missing Judy by Anne Cassidy
  • Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher
  • I swear by Lane Davis
  • The mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
  • Thousand words by Jennifer Brown

Reviewed by Brilla