Book Review: Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings

We are four weeks into exploring the Belgariad and are now diving into the fourth book, Castle Wizardry by David Eddings. True to the hero’s journey, now that we’ve passed the half way mark in this five book series, the main character Garion must take charge of his destiny and start making decisions that matter.

If you want to check out my reviews on the first three books in the series, here are some handy links:

The Story

Our noble party has finally recovered the Orb at the end of the previous book, Magician’s Gambit. Yay! Their goal is to now deliver it safely back to its rightful place and ensure it remains in the right hands. Garion finally gets to lead the party, mostly because Pol and Belgarath both were incapacitated, as they work their way closer to the mythical Isle of the Winds.

Common to many long form stories, the Belgariad has a number of prophecies running about the edges that bring extra significance to events. In Castle of Wizardry, we see the culmination of a handful of these prophecies, namely, what Garion is destined to become. There was a reason he’d been brought up by a sorceress who pretended she was his aunt – he needed protecting because of his bloodline.

Also, in another twist, the same prophecy that reveals who Garion really is also spells out who he is meant to marry – someone who just happens to be traveling with them. She’s understandably enraged.

And because all good things come in threes, there is a third prophecy that Garion deciphers after the betrothal that says if he is “the special one” then he must also kill the Really Bad Guy or die himself. The story ends with Garion heading off toward his destiny to die or kill the bad guy, while his betrothed borrows a page from Tolkien and raises an army to distract the bad guy’s army and allow Garion’s safe passage.

My Review

It’s at this point in any long story where the reader can fully get behind the main character and what they are setting out to accomplish. All along the way we’d collected breadcrumbs and clues so when the prophecies started being fulfilled the resulting reveals didn’t come across as a huge surprise.

There is one super charming element I neglected to mention earlier, and that’s the character of Errand – a small boy who, through his absolute innocence, can handle the Orb of Aldur safely. Up to this point, the ensemble cast has been killing themselves to first find this Orb, then restore it to its rightful place. When they finally get it, they must take Errand as well, as none of them can handle it safely. Errand spends the entire book trying to give the Orb to anyone who will take it despite the casts efforts to tie, lock, and seal the Orb into its carrying pouch to keep him from doing it. In a story of good vs evil and light vs dark, it was nice to have this darling little boy keeping things from becoming too grim.

Where the past three books were spent exploring the nature of magic, Garion’s coming of age, as well as most of the map, it’s in Castle of Wizardry where we see a culmination of a whole lot of promises. We finally understand Garion’s role in the world and what he’s meant to do. In fact, if it were not for the fact that he had yet to beat the bad guy, it would have been a great ending to the series to finish here.

Recommendations

This is a series. Start at the beginning and work your way to this point. No, really. The weight of all the stuff that happens in this book relies on the reader understanding everything it took to get there.

For you parents out there trying to decide is this is an appropriate read – it’s clean as is the rest of the series. I’d recommend it for ages 12 and up for the complexity and the intensity of some of the fight scenes.

I rate Castle of Wizardry 4/5 for being a solid fantasy that should have probably been limited to a four book series.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Castle of Wizardry 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: 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.

Dive straight into the next review of the next book in the series:


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 books in the series, here are some handy links:


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: 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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