Book Review: Magician’s Gambit by David Eddings

We’ve reached the middle of the five book series, the Belgariad and as such, one significant event must happen in the story that changes the way the main character views the overarching goal of the series.

If you’re just joining us, here are handy links to the reviews to the first two books in the series:

The Story

At the end of the Queen of Sorcery, we left Garion after he is rescued from the snake people and is reconciled with his “Aunt” Polgara, who happens to be a powerful sorceress. At this point he’s just coming into a vague understanding that he possesses the ability to do magic, through a process called the Will and the Word.

It is in Magician’s Gambit that Garion finally receives his formal magical training, as Polgara judges that if he doesn’t, he might end up killing himself or someone else by accident. The critical moment of this decision comes when Garion brings a dead foal to life, something that the sorceress didn’t believe possible.

The party, now consisting of Ce’Nedra, Polgara, Belgarath, and Garion, learn of the Orbs resting place and spend the bulk of the book traveling through strange lands to get there, including the land of Maragor, who’s vengeful god Mara drives any invader insane, the Vale of Aldur where Garion practices mastery of the Will and the Word, and then to Ulgoland where the Orb is hidden.

The dramatic ending includes lots of magical fighting between the Angarak sorcerer Ctuchik who stole the Orb and Garion’s party. There’s a nice twist in how the fighting ends, which I won’t spoil for you.

My Review

I’m partial to books with magical training and deeper dives into how the magic actually works (which is exactly why Stonebearer’s Apprentice exists – I had to have that element in my own series). In the Magician’s Gambit training sequence, there’s a hilarious bit where Garion tries to move a boulder and ends up burying himself neck deep in the ground. There’s also this idea of spending eons studying something small, such as a feather, until it becomes more than an item but a study in studying.

As with all good stories, each of the stakes are raised as the party moves into more dangerous situations among more violent people. I mentioned that there had to be a critical change in the goal because this is the middle book in the series, and that change happens in a way that doesn’t feel forced, which is always nice. The party finally recovers the Orb, and now the remaining books of the series will be spent returning it to its rightful place.

There is still a feel of a fantasy trope checklist being checked off as the story moves from land to land. A pitfall of many fantasy stories is that they get stuck in one place. Part of the wonder in any fantasy novel is the nature of the place where the characters must move closer to their goals. When there are no new elements or places to explore, the interest of the story falls solely on the shoulders of the characters and their problems, which is more challenging.

Recomendations

The story, which up to this point has plenty of adventure and some peril, takes a darker turn as we get closer to the malice of the big villain that eventually must be conqured, Torak. The monsters get uglier, the motives behind actions get more malicious, and the bad guys get stronger. That said, this is still a safe read for young teens and up.

I give Magician’s Gambit 4/5 stars for being entertaining, although there are a few slow bits.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Magician’s Gambit today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings

As with most multibook series, the middle few books tend to do more than their fair share of escalating the stakes as they approach a much bigger problem, without actually facing that problem head on. Queen of Sorcery is a fun romp through all the many lands that make up Garion’s world as they come closer to recovering the legendary orb. If you missed the review of book one, click here.

The Story

Garion is no longer a naive teenager. Yay. He’s now a somewhat naive young man with a lot to prove, and not a lot of experience to draw on. So, it makes total sense for him kick off the story in a duel and then go on to try to break up an assassination attempt of neighboring duchy’s king.

They go on to travel all sorts of places following more clues to find the orb, and end up in the middle of political intrigue after political intrigue. During one of these intrigues, the Princess Ce’Nedra disguises herself and joins their party.

Throughout the story, Garion is starting to learn how to use the Will and the Word, the magic system of the universe shared by Belgarath, Polgara, and the other sorcerers. Like I said before, he’s still a bit naive and when he tries to use this magic it only causes.

They encounter dryads, snake people, and a man who can change into a bear.

My Review

There are certain expectations when it comes to fantasy titles, and for Queen of Sorcery, it feels like Eddings is going through a checklist to see if he can get them all. Magic, check. People who transform into animals, check. Kings and political intrigues, check. Lands and kingdoms with wholly unique qualities to themselves, check. A stolen princess in disguise, check. A large wandering party composed of people all with varying unique skills, check. Lots of tavern meetings, check. Swords, check.

That said, it’s still a very enjoyable book. The characters are entertaining, especially Ce’Nedra, who has always been a favorite of mine. There’s a whole boob armor scene somewhere in the series where she complains about her armor not being flattering enough and wanting it to show that she indeed is a woman.

Eddings doesn’t pull back from making life hard for Garion either. The poor kid really can’t catch a break.

Recommendations

These books are perfect for the young adult fantasy reader. There’s adventure, danger, humor, and magic to keep things entertaining and nothing I would consider objectionable.

I give Queen of Sorcery 4/5 for not giving us a strong villain to contend with directly.

For the review of the next book in the series, Magician’s Gambit, go here.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Queen of Sorcery today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

We are going way back to my childhood and perhaps one of the first fantasy series I consumed like candy. Thankfully, there were plenty of these books to keep me occupied. Pawn of Prophecy starts a five book quintology and is followed up by another five book series, The Malloreon, which is not to be confused with the Mandalorian—like at all. There are also two standalone novels.

What’s interesting is at the time of writing David Eddings didn’t really want to write fantasy. He’d been writing adventure and thriller books when he noticed how many times the Lord of the Rings had been reprinted and decided that maybe there was something to this whole fantasy genre. And the rest is history.

The Story

Garion starts his story as many fantasy heroes do, as an orphan boy living on a farm. He’s awkward, charming, and has a strange dry voice in his head separate from his own consciousness. His Aunt Pol watches over him as he does all the typical teenage boy stuff, like getting into trouble and being shy about a girl he likes.

As with any good fantasy story, there is a traveling storyteller, nicknamed Wolf, who is not what he seems. Wolf arrives with the news that a precious object has been stolen and he must recover it, with the help of Aunt Pol, who is also not what she seems. The merry band follows a trail of clues and collects quite a few interesting characters along the way, including my personal favorite, a man named Silk or Kheldar, depending on who’s asking, who just happens to be a Drasnian prince/spy/thief.

When the group is arrested, Garion spots a mysterious individual in a green cloak who he suspects might be behind their difficulties. This figure is later exposed and in the process Garion barely escapes capture. He learns later that Aunt Pol is actually a powerful sorceress, and Wolf his grandfather who is also a wizard of sorts.

My Review

I remember these books as being a delightful adventure with plenty of interesting history and dark characters lurking around every corner. Whether or not they’d hold up to my withering scrutiny now is up for debate. I’d rather not risk it. One of the elements that I appreciate in Edding’s books, this one included, is that he doesn’t shy away from hurting the main character or give them too many good skills while everyone else just has to follow along. He also makes amazingly interesting characters with a lot of personality and heart.

As this book sets up the world, there is a rather lengthy prologue that gives some much needed context to why recovering the lost object is so important. The Belgariad is an exercise in worldbuilding, where the history of the world itself, and the creation of its gods is where the original problem starts. This adds quite a bit of complexity to the story, and I’ll admit as a young teen I couldn’t really keep the history straight. All you really need to know is that Asharak is the bad buy.

Recommendations

Again, I remember these to be excellent and I loved them as a young teen. I don’t recall there being any objectional material and the adventure and sense of peril elements come through the strongest. That said, at the time I was pretty naive myself so if there was any innuendo, I probably missed it entirely.

However, for the time period this was written, most fantasy tended to be very clean, so I’m fairly confident in recommending this to readers 10 and up.

I give Pawn of Prophecy 5/5 for making my childhood magical.

For the reviews of the next books in the series, here are some handy links:


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Movie Review: Spirited Away (2001)

As 2021 is the twentieth anniversary of Spirited Away, I thought it was a great idea to finally review the movie here on the blog. Woot. Spirited Away is quite possibly the most renowned of Director and Animator Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli’s works and as such has won plenty of notable awards, including the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature – something no other hand-drawn non-English-language film has ever done.

It’s also a surreal moralistic film about the dangers of greed and selfishness.

The Story

Spirited Away begins with Chihiro, a headstrong young girl who doesn’t like following instructions, and her parents, finding what looks like and abandoned amusement park. This park turns out to be an amusement park for gods, spirits, ghosts, and monsters where they can rest and enjoy themselves before returning to the mortal world.

Chihiro’s parents become trapped when they indulge in forbidden food and are transformed into pigs. The only way for Chihiro to free them is to work at the ornate bathhouse and earn back what they took. For someone who isn’t great at following instructions, this is a real challenge. But her love for her parents, and her growing like of a certain boy, Haku, push her to overcome her reluctance to do what is needed.

As she works, she learns that there is far more going on in this world than she imagined. Not knowing better, she invites an unfriendly spirit called No-Face inside who starts eating the workers of the bathhouse when they take his offering of gold. She also is given the worst job of the night, taking care of a stink spirit. When she does so without complaint, she’s rewarded a magic dumpling.

During the evening, Chihiro, now called Sen as part of a spell meant to lock her in the spirit world, witnesses a dragon being attacked and recognizes that the dragon is none other than Haku. Haku stole a magic golden seal from the owner of the bathhouse and is now cursed if he doesn’t return it.

Sen uses part of her magic dumpling to help Haku and retrieves the magic seal, resolving to return it to it’s rightful owner, the bathhouse owner’s twin sister. But, Sen still needs to save her parents who are lined up for slaughter with the other pigs. If she can identify them, they can go free.

Chihiro with Haku the Dragon

My Review

Spirited Away introduces the viewer to a fresh and magical world populated with the new and the unusual. As with all Studio Ghibli, half of the enjoyment of watching the film is in the artistry of the hand-drawn settings and characters. It’s a beautifully envisioned world. The other half is in the story, and Chihiro’s story is engaging. We know what she wants and why, but we also see that she has heart and is willing to put herself in danger if the need arises.

While there are quite a few very strange visuals, such as No-Face eating everything in his path, including some of the bathhouse staff and then throwing it all up again, and the boiler room operator who looks more like a spider than a man, they add to the intrigue and interest of the film.

Between the story, the music, and the artistry, Spirited Away shouldn’t be missed.

The enigmatic No-Face

Recommendations

This is a family friendly film best suited for kids eight and up due to mildly frightening images and several intense situations. That said, there is a good message and plenty of discussion that can happen after watching ranging from how different characters were affected by greed and how hard work paid off for Chihiro.

I rate Spirited Away 5/5 for its artistry and impact on the viewer.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Spirited Away today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Three weeks, three books in a trilogy. Mark this moment because it will probably not happen again anytime soon. That said, reading and reviewing a series from the beginning to the end is really satisfying, so I might have to try this again. We’ll see.

The Story

The Queen of Nothing brings the story of Jude Duarte to a close and thankfully its a satisfying one. We begin with Jude exiled to the mortal world where she is finding a way to support herself and her family without relying on faerie tricks, such as turning leaves into money. She would have stayed there as well, having found at least some sense of normalcy in what can only be described as a bizarre life.

But, we all know that can’t last. Intrigues at the court of Elfhame and all the layers of political scheming are still an ever present threat to her and young Oak, the heir to the throne. When Jude’s twin sister, Taryn shows up asking for a favor back in Elfhame, Jude carefully weighs her options. If she’s caught breaking her exile, it’s an offense punishable by death. On the other hand, if her sister is found guilty of the crime which she is accused, it would mean death for her.

Jude goes, not only to protect her family, but because she also craves to be back in the faerie world and learn who is pulling which strings in the court. She also is secretly thrilled to see Cardan again, although those feelings are mixed and turbulent. She can’t decide if she’s supposed to love him, or hate him. Typical YA romantic angst there.

She attends her sister’s trial, pretending to be Taryn and hoping her true identity isn’t discovered only to be rescued by her foster father, Maddox and taken deep into his camp preparing for war.

In her attempt to escape, she finds herself back with Cardan again as he shows hints of actually caring for her. This also can’t last. A dark curse is unleashed which Jude, as rightful queen, must find a way to end.

My Review

Of the three books, I think I liked this one the best. While there is still plenty of political scheming, it takes a secondary role to Jude’s story. Plus, we finally find a balance where it seems like she’s winning as much as she’s losing, which is nice. In the first two books, she went through an awful lot of punishment and loss and by the end it didn’t feel as if what she gained was big enough to justify the struggle. Here, there is a nice fat payout that makes all her pain and suffering pay off.

The writing itself is lovely and descriptive, the characters compelling and full of realistic foibles, and the conflict full of carefully orchestrated tension. There’s a reason these books are best sellers. So much good stuff inside.

Recommendations

Again, and I can’t stress this enough, this series is meant for older teens and the adults they let play. There is violence and blood shed and gore beyond what you’d typically find in a dark fantasy. Beyond that, there is also strong romantic elements, including an instance of tasteful on-page intimacy. The violence and the romance fit in with the story and don’t feel gratuitous.

I give The Queen of Nothing a rare 5/5 stars, an exciting tale and a wonderful ending to the series.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed The Queen of Nothing today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

It’s a perfect week to dive straight into the review of The Wicked King, the sequel of The Cruel Prince. Yay, continuity! I’ve mentioned my worry with sequels before—often they feel like an afterthought and lose some of their magical luster because the world isn’t new. Luckily, The Wicked King isn’t one of those. If anything, this feels as if the three book series was written as a single story and broken into three pieces. (For the review of The Cruel Prince, go here.)

Which is honestly how a good trilogy (or series, or what not) should feel.

The Story

Oh, all the machinations. I didn’t think things could grow more complicated than when we left them in Cruel Prince, but here we are. There are a number of major players vying for the throne King Cardan currently occupies, mainly because power is addictive and everyone wants some. And, also because Cardan is a unusually bad king. He rules like he lives, carefree and blind to any consequences.

Jude isn’t one of these people trying to get the throne, mainly because she secretly holds power through a oath struck with Cardan where he must obey her for a year and a day. Not that that keeps him from pushing her buttons and boundaries at every turn. All of what Jude’s done is to ensure that when her little brother Oak, the rightful heir, is old enough to survive being king, there will be a throne to sit on.

This would be so much easier if the Undersea wasn’t brewing up a war in the most conniving way possible. Or if Jude’s faerie father Madoc wasn’t also manipulating things to put himself on the throne.

True to a good YA romantic dark fantasy, there had to be a steady dose of angst and emotional twisting at every turn. Will Cardan’s mother, who has been locked into the tower of forgetting, have information that will change everything? Will the death of people Jude feels compelled to murder solve the multitude of problems brewing just beneath the surface? Will the love/hate relationship between Cardan and Jude turn into something more?

The story seeds planted in the Cruel Prince grow to maturity in the most twisty and unexpected ways possible in Wicked King. Will the fruit be worth it in the Queen of Nothing? We’ll see.

My Review

There are an amazing number of great lines in this book as Jude sorts out her feelings for Cardan.

I’ve wanted this and feared it, and now that it’s happening, I don’t know how I will ever want anything else.

My body has acclimated, and now it craves what it should revile.

“I hate you,” I say, the words coming out like a caress. I say it again, over and over. A litany. An enchantment. A ward against what I really feel.

The Wicked King is a marvelously twisty and excellently crafted story that exceeds expectations. I liked how skillfully all the different factions played off each other and how each deception and intrigue heightened the emotional tension and the stakes.

Recommendations

The same as with The Cruel Prince, this is definitely a book for high school aged readers and up. there’s lots of violence, some language, and plenty of intensity that’s it’s solidly PG-13. More than that, it’s simply too complicated for a younger reader to really enjoy. Most of the interesting bits revolve around political manuvering, secrets, and murder.

That said, it’s well conceived, has plenty of lovely writey bits, and lives up to it’s promise.

I give The Wicked King 4/5 for being awesome but possibly too twisty to fully enjoy.


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Book Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

It’s always a gamble to dive into a new series, usually the first book is wonderful but there’s no guarantee that the rest of the series will live up to it. The Cruel Prince is a great start to a series, but is also complicated due to the many new concepts that must be introduced to the reader.

The Story

Jude Duarte is a human girl living among the faeries in the magical world of Elfhame. Her past is dripping with tragedy and her future is uncertain. As a human, she will never fit in among the folk of Elfhame, but due to the positions of power her father holds, she has to live up to expectations.

And then there’s swoony Prince Cardan, the angst torn love interest who’s an absolute jerk even though he’s gorgeous. As one of the faerie folk, he’s got magic and mystery woven into everything he does. But, he also has a uniquely tragic backstory.

The story itself switches at break neck speed as Jude knows what she wants, only for it to be destroyed over and over again. There is a lot of drama and surprising violence wrapped up in each choice she makes. When she joins the secretive Court of Teeth and learns to be a spy and an assassin, it feels right for her, but wrong for everyone else.

While in the end Jude does have a few wins, most of the book is her losing and regrouping.

My Review

There is a lot to like in this book. The Faerie World is unique and beautifully created, the attention to costume and dresses, sparkly and magical. Lots of eye candy everywhere. This focus on beauty makes the violence that much worse. The tension among each of the characters is stretched so tight that often the reader doesn’t know who is allied to who.

But, the story is really complicated. There are what feels like dozens of factions fighting for control over the faerie world. Jude is caught up in the middle with no real claim to anything, but because her brother is heir to the throne, she can’t help but insert herself where she doesn’t belong out of concern for him.

Recommendations

The Folk of the Air series is definitly intended for readers highschool age and up. Like I said before, there is quite a bit of violence. There are also a fair amount of romantic situations that push further than I expected. There’s some language and plenty of magical drug use.

That said, there are also strong characters willing to do what’s right and sacrifice for the greater good, which is a win for me.

I give The Cruel Prince 4/5 amazing world building, great characters, but the story is often hard to follow.


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Movie Review: Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my love for Studio Ghibli and the works of acclaimed artist and director Hayao Miyazaki here on the blog before. If not, it’s never a moment too soon to start. Hubby and I even cosplayed as No Face from the Academy Award winning movie, Spirited Away. For pics, head over to that post.

That said, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is not from Studio Ghibli. But, ask any fan of the studio and they’ll tell you that the most beloved elements of Ghibli are present from the gorgeous art style, the sweet orchestral scores, and the weirdness of the creatures and characters.

This is not by chance. The director of Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, worked as an animator on many of Ghibli’s best loved films including Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo.

The Story

Mary, a girl of perhaps twelve or thirteen, is sent to the beautiful flower filled countryside to live with her grandma while her parents relocate for work. She feels out of place and that she can’t do anything right. One day she spots a cat and follows it into the nearby forest where she finds a rare fly-by-night flower.

This flower is magical and allows whoever crushes its blossom to fly on a broomstick. Mary finds this out by accident and the broomstick whisks her away to Endor College, a school of magic where all of Mary’s many wants and wishes could quite possibly come true.

But, as all stories go, Endor College harbors a dark secret. Terrible things are happening behind the scenes and Mary finds herself right in the middle of it. She must risk everything to try to set it right and save both herself and her new found friend.

My Review

Compared to many of Miyazaki’s works, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is far less weird. Some of the usual environmental themes still come through, in this case, a lesson on why one shouldn’t meddle with nature or create unnatural creatures. But, there’s no heavy handed harping about the evils of pollution or man’s tendency to destroy – which is a nice change.

Mary herself is actually a little irritating. They paint her character as unnaturally clumsy and awkward and not particularly kind to the neighbor boy who, compared to her, seems responsible and good natured. The story is meant to teach her that there is a world of things to care for and she should stop being so self conscious, and it succeeds.

Like I said before, even if you aren’t crazy about the story, the art style and music are fabulous and make up for a lot of the weirdness found in the story. My kids loved the movie and I thought it was excellent.

Recommendations

The movie kicks off on a fairly intense scene where a young girl is desperately trying to escape from creepy cyclops creatures amidst explosions and peril. My 8 year old was fine with it, but he’s generally okay with reasonable amounts of action and tension. If your little one is sensitive to dangerous situations and creepy images, then this might be too much.

Other than that, the movie is squeaky clean. No offensive language, no drinking or smoking, and no romantic elements. In addition, there are lots of good role models and positive messages about accepting yourself the way you are

I give Mary and the Witch’s Flower 4/5 stars for being fantastic but still a touch weird.


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TV Review: Castlevania, Season 1

Warning – this dark animated horror fantasy isn’t for the kids and contains extreme gore, violence, foul language, innuendo, and mature themes.

That said, it’s awesome. I’m a sucker for great characters, engrossing stories, and in this case, some very impressive artistry. Castlevania has all three.

The Story

A little history. Castlevania was originally a Japanese video game series by Konami and follows the story of Trevor Belmont, Alucard, and Sypha Belnades as they defend their homeland against Dracula and his minions.

We begin with the story of Vlad Dracula Tepes and see his love for Lisa, a vivacious and determined human woman who forced herself into his life, grow into something special. Twenty years later, she is accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake – an event that destroys Dracula’s faith in humanity and sets him on the path to kill every citizen who lives in Wallachia.

Enter Trevor Belmont who comes from a long line of famous monster hunters. The Belmont family is legendary in their efforts to rid the world of dark monsters. Here in season 1, Trevor is still reluctant to take up the family tradition and instead stumbles from town to town seeking out the next tavern and mug of ale. That is until he meets Sypha, a magician historian who is seeking a way to end the monster attacks plaguing the countryside. She’s got the knowledge, he’s got the brawn.

Sypha follows a legend saying that there’s a sleeping soldier in the catacombs deep beneath the city of Gresit who is capable of stopping Dracula. This soldier turns out to be the cast off half-vampire son of Dracula himself, Alucard.

The season ends with Alucard agreeing to help Sypha and Trevor challenge Dracula and end the conflict between vampires and humans for good.

My Review

Season one of Castlevania is super short, only four episodes. In that time, the history of why Dracula turned on humans needed to be revealed, Trevor and Sypha needed to be compelled to work together, and the first big enemy, the Bishop of Gresit, faced and defeated. That’s a lot of ground to cover so it’s no surprise that the story feels a bit disjointed as we get to know the characters and what’s at stake for each. The sheer immensity of the backstory trying to break through is impressive. By the end of the first season the viewer knows that there is so much more going on, but isn’t quite sure what.

Yes, they fridged Dracula’s love interest. It’s a common trope in the genre as a reason for the bad guy to be bad or the good guy to keep fighting. In this instance there are enough other factors also in place that it doesn’t feel forced.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and I found the characters to be likable and charming each in their own curmudgeonly way. The gore is a little much for what is needed to tell a good story, but is an expected aspect of the genre so is forgivable.

I look forward to seeing how the story unfolds and how the stakes are raised.

Recommendations

This series makes a place for itself by offering over-the-top brutal violence in an animated feature. I’ll say it again. IT’S NOT FOR KIDS. Highschoolers, maybe. But not kids. Beyond the violence and gore, there is also frequent swearing and reference to plenty of mature themes.

That said, compared to other similar stories, Castlevania has strong moral undertones. They characters show grit and determination to do what’s right, not because they’ll gain from it, but because it’s the right thing to do. They stand up against evil, protect the weak, and are willing to sacrifice themselves should it come down to it.

I give Castlevania 4/5 for amazing characters, a solid story, and a compelling villain.


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Book Review: Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles #2)

Sequels can be really problematic, especially if the first book was intended to be a standalone. Thankfully, Cinder ended with enough cliffhangers that Scarlet feels like it belongs as part of the story. To see my review of Cinder, go here.

As with Cinder and Cinderella, Scarlet takes the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood and turns it on its head as it meshes with the unresolved parts of Cinder’s tale. Meyer did a remarkable job weaving the two stories together.

The Story

Scarlet, a vibrant redhead who sells farm fresh vegetables for a living, is searching for her missing grandmother. The police have proved less than helpful, assuming that the woman chose to run away despite all the clues to the contrary. True to the resourceful and determined woman Scarlet is, she takes the matter into her own hands.

Following clues, she meets a man named Wolf who is dangerous in every sense of the word. He’s a powerful fighter, inhumanly strong and fast, and has enhanced senses true to his namesake. He says he might be able to help her find her grandma.

On the other side of the world, Cinder is escaping from prison with the help of her new found lunar gift and a man, Thorne, who becomes her accomplice by accident. She doesn’t know where she’ll go, or what she’ll do, but she’s determined to stay out of the hands of the authorities. As she moves closer to freedom, she starts remembering more and more of her past and is determined to find the truth about her childhood.

Cinder and Scarlet’s pasts are woven together and their paths collide in the search for Scarlet’s grandmother who played an important role in keeping a much younger Cinder safe. But, none of this can be easy. Wolf is part of a secret militia unit and has orders to find and bring Cinder in.

My Review

Overall, the book of Scarlet stays true to all the parts of Cinder that I liked. The female protagonists are both strong women with careers and specialties that make them unique and likable. They have their own goals and are willing to work and sacrifice to meet them. The world continues to stay interesting as we explore new areas in futuristic France – although because we have already seen much of it, it’s not as exciting as when we explored it in Cinder.

Where the book Cinder played heavily into the Cinderella story, Scarlet only takes a handful of stylistic and character cues from Little Red Riding Hood. There’s no clear huntsman character, unless you count the unwitting prisoner that Cinder drags along because he has a spaceship. Where the self centered stepmother in Cinder was played exactly as her Cinderella counterpart, the Wolf counterpart in Scarlet is surprisingly complex.

My biggest struggle with reading Scarlet was swapping between the points of view between two strong female protagonists. While it was executed perfectly, both spoke and acted in unique ways that were different from each other, I found myself getting confused with which girl I was reading because their goals were fairly similar. They both were following clues and trying to find the same woman.

Recommendations

This is a solid fun read. If you liked Cinder for the adventure and action in a futuristic world, you’ll like Scarlet for the same reasons. However, if you loved Cinder for its princess story, beautiful palace, fancy dresses, and Prince Kai – you’ll find very little of that world here.

There is some icky violence and depictions of gore in this one, far more than in Cinder so be warned. However, there’s still no swearing and all the romantic leanings and feelings never progress to anything more. But – there’s a heaping pile of teenage angst that comes with Scarlet, so if that’s something you love, yay. If not, I told you so.

I give Scarlet 4 out of 5 stars – fun and lives up to expectations.


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