Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT THE FIVE ELEMENTS by @scottmarlowe #Fantasy

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here http://barbtaub.com/

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Barb chose to read and review The Five Elements by Scott Marlowe

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The world is made up of four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. This is a fact well known even to Corporal Nobbs. It’s also wrong. There’s a fifth element, and generally it’s called Surprise.

— (Terry Pratchett, The Truth)

[image credit: http://xkcd.com/965/ ]

I like tropes. They are a wonderful shorthand that tells us immediately what’s going on. You know the ones I mean…

  • Will they or won’t they? (If it’s season one/book one of the series—they won’t.)
  • The quest. (Save the Chosen One, recover the macguffin, save the world. True love optional.)
  • The Morgan Freeman (apparently, he’s in every possible movie as gravitas)
  • Beautiful people are good. Ugly ones are either bad or funny. (No fat superspy will ever stop evil/get the girl/save the free world.)
  • If you kill the leader of the bad guys, their minions will close up shop and go away.
  • The government/big business did it. (Duh)
  • Bad guys, outlaws, and imperial stormtroopers can’t shoot worth shit. Unless they are nameless extras, preferably wearing a red shirt, and it’s before the second commercial break. (Double duh)

I especially like it when people play with tropes. Joss Whedon is a master of this one. (Need to kill the evil undead? Use a blonde teenager.) In my review here of Scott Marlowe’s The Killing Knife, I mentioned my admiration for the way he uses tropes in his science fiction/fantasy works. And The Five Elements (The Alchemancer: Book One) is no exception.


The Five Elements (The Alchemancer: Book One)

When powerful earth sorcerers forsook their vows to harness the earth not with magic, but with science, their brethren struck them down and hunted them to the last. Or so they thought… Now, five hundred years later, one person seeks to carry on the work of those first early thinkers by making the parts of their greatest creation whole again.

Aaron and Shanna fall victim to these ambitions when their home is leveled by a surprise elemental attack. In the ensuing chaos, the two are separated. For Shanna, hardship soon turns to fortune, as she finds herself

embarking upon the greatest adventure of her life. Only the worst of nightmares awaits Aaron. Hunted at every turn, the only thing keeping him alive is his own resourcefulness and an eslar mercenary whose reputation as a killer might make him the worst threat of all.

Though Aaron and Shanna travel different paths, their purpose is joined when they individually learn of the mysterious Fifth Element. Shanna sees it as the final piece in the puzzle that is her destiny. To Aaron’s logical mind, it is an impossible ambiguity. Whatever the answer, the Fifth Element draws them back together and into a final confrontation that will mean the end of everything unless they succeed.


gold starMy Review: 4 stars out of 5

The story begins and ends with an unlikely friendship. Aaron, apprentice to a master sorcerer, is apparently marked for a successful and prosperous life, while best friend Shanna is a waif headed for a low-level, difficult existence. But she is the strong one who rescues him from street bullies and dominates their friendship. When their city and everything they know is destroyed in an attack of cataclysmic violence, Aaron becomes the one person that the powerful sorcerers demand must be saved—and he’s the one target of the attackers.

Scott Marlowe is an engineer, an outdoor enthusiast, and a weaver of tales that often end in wondrous, explosive mayhem. He holds degrees in Computer Science Engineering, Comparative Literature, and English from the University of California, Davis. Scott lives in Texas, where he drinks copious amounts of strong coffee and rides his mountain bike whenever the opportunity arises.

In a standard fantasy, this would be the signal for the quest. There would be a small band of plucky adventurers who seek the macguffin that will save the world. Along the way, they will reveal the One, destined to save everything in a final battle. Only that’s where Scott Marlowe takes that trope, ties it up in knots, and slices it up the middle. The two friends are torn apart, each to begin separate quests for the macguffin Four Elements and mysterious Fifth Element that will allow their owner to either save or rule the world.

The Five Elements is an early work by Scott Marlowe, and by no means a perfect one. There is a much more than nodding reflection of works ranging from Lord of the Rings to The Fifth Element movie. The middle of the book is a long slog from one recovered element to another. The genre is pretty much a kitchen sink mashup of high fantasy sword and sorcery, steampunk airships, horror, and paranormal creatures.  And then there are the fantasy names that somehow all sound the same, whether they are sorcerer, dwarf, hero, villain: Elsanar, Engus, Ensel, Erlek… Luckily, there is a players list at the front. (Bookmark it—you’ll need it to keep score.)

Despite the wealth of detailed description and the length of the book, there were some things that were glossed over. For example, somehow the evil savant Erlek’s knowledge of just where each of the elements was located and how to find them was brushed off as the fruits of long research. And because the cast was just so huge, we never really get to know most of the characters or their motivations.

I was hovering at three stars, but there were two things that made me go for four. First, the pace picked up as the two opposing quests raced to a confrontation. Second, and far more interesting, was the way the book sets up the inevitable clash between best friends Shanna—a passionate waif with a lifetime of abuse and resentment—and Aaron—a scholar trained to apply logic and science to solve problems. The question the book asks is whether passion or logic triumphs when friendship and love are the stakes.

I reviewed The Five Elements (The Alchemancer: Book One) by Scott Marlowe for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

The Last Dragon Slayer by Martyn Stanley

The Last Dragon Slayer (Deathsworn Arc, #1)The Last Dragon Slayer by Martyn Stanley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last Dragon Slayer is high end fantasy and is the first book in the Deathsworn Arc series. It is about a quest to kill a Noble Dragon.

Saul Karza is a wizard and he is travelling with two men from the North, and a dwarf. They have been sent by the Empress Jade to put down a dragon. They are travelling through the land of Torea in search of Silus Mendelson, the last know dragon slayer in the hope he can help them and will join them. The Empress had no warriors, archers or mages to send with Saul instead he must rely on mercenaries.

They find Silus in the village of Trest, sadly he no longer leads the life of a respected hero, but with little else to do each day he reluctantly agrees to join the band. As they leave Trest, they rescue a Gravian or dark Elf who was just about to be be-headed. Dashing from the scene they hope to have escaped but they are followed and face the angry Berger and his men.

There future looks bleak until they are saved by Vashni an elf and a thief. She has magical skills and can whisper into minds when needed. She’s also a remarkable fighter. She decides to ride with the band and meet the dragon they must slay.

Together the band travel to Brunwelt to face the mighty dragon, they’ve become friends and a team whilst travelling and face the danger together. Just when they thought it over Saul tells them they must collect the dragon heart stones, powerful objects which will lead them on to their next adventure.

This is a well written book, with very good character descriptions and dialogue. Vashni quickly became the lead character with her lessons she taught Korhan. I would have liked to have seen more from Saul because he opened the book and was the leader. A couple of points became repetitive Kirkfell was the place everyone hoped to go in the afterlife, too many characters had the same line to say about it and I felt Vashni’s two attempts to decipher Braels’ curse were just a repeat of words the second time, there was a missed opportunity to drip feed us some more information about it.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by the author.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Breath Of The Titans: the False Titanbringer by Riley Amos Westbrook

Breath of the Titans: The False Titanbringer: Complete Trilogy (Breath of the Titans, #1-3)Breath of the Titans: The False Titanbringer: Complete Trilogy by Riley Westbrook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Breath Of The Titans: The False Titanbringer is a full three book, high end fantasy trilogy. I shall split my review into the three books.

Book 1: Little Black Storm Cloud.

We are first introduced to the Elves who live in the woods of Elvenham. They are alerted to an army approaching and they confer with the Titans, metal figures and protectors who ask to be taken to Wise of the Elvenham for a meeting.

Next we are introduced to the hero of this series Lovonian a sixteen year old half elf, half dragon. He’s about to set out on a birthday hunting trip with his father and uncle. His father is Amon, Wise of the Elvenham and at the last minute he must meet with the Titans and so misses the trip. Lov and his uncle Nord go alone, but their trip is cut short.

Rushing back to Elvenham they find the streets empty, Amon killed, Lov’s mother taken and the elves taken away as slaves at the hands of an ambush by the Titans. Lov and Nord set out on a quest to rescue Tyrosh, Lov’s mother, and seek an end to the evil Titanbringer in the city of Heart.

Nord and Lov must find Nord’s old friend Jaxton. Lov’s mysterious Grandfather also sends help in the form of Missy the fairy. Nord begins to train Lov in fighting skills with ancient weapons found in Jaxton’s cellars, but Lov’s Grandfather Tryton wants Lov to work on releasing his dragon magic, so takes him to an island to test his skills.

Lov is also watched over by his Grandmother an ancient Wyrm whose magic gifts have an evil about them. Lov, Nord, Jaxton and Missy are sent to find the Anuunaki a race of ants who can help them on their quest. Lov needs to create a new tribe strong enough to take down the Titans.

Book 2: A Mother’s Lov

In the city of the Heart, Martell has taken over as Titanbringer. He holds Lov’s mother Tyrosh captive, placing a necklace on her to inhibit her magical dragon skills. He punishes the Ogier people who have shown her kindness and they leave the city. Without them the plants die and food becomes short.

Lov is heading to meet the Orc, under guidance by shaman The’oak he intends meeting with the Greatmothers, leaders of the thirteen tribes of Orc and previous enemies of the Elves. A menacing black ooze follows Lov and his army seeking out Sanche in an attempt to weaken Lov’s team. Love must fight brothers from the Orc tribes to earn the right to lead them.

Meanwhile Tyrosh finds a way to escape Heart with the help of Hakim. She hopes to help her son by creating a revolution.

Love must next go in search of Rainbow island to meet a unicorn who can return Sanche from the dead. Lov needs this warrior to lead his army. But when he gets to the Red City he is taken prisoner by the seal men. Farraj helps his escape and he meets Primara who agrees to return Sanche.

Jaxton and Nord are left to train the Orc into a strong fighting force. Jaxton works with Fiksu to create a flying glider. Tyrosh has come to the Orc to help convince them to follow her son and arranges a marriage for Lov with Annika, daughter of one of the Greatmothers.

Book 3: The War of Chiefs

Book 3 opens with us seeing a little more of Martell the Titanbringer. He is controlled by a dark magic and this is the reason for his actions. A new stronger, larger Titan construct is being created.

Back with the Orcs, Annika is rebelling about her marriage of convenience, Lov is concerned that his dragon magic will use him as much as he uses it and it will try to take over. He argues with his mother and struggles to show leadership powers as his inexperience and adolescence confuse him. He is approached by Charlot who represents women who wish to join the army, they want to be Lov’s armed guard.

Tryton, Tyrosh’s father removes the controlling necklace from her and she regains her full dragon magic. She flies off trying to connect to other dragons but fears they no longer exist.

Nord leads Lov’s army towards Heart, yet Lov would prefer to win without mass slaughter. He asks Koan of the Ogier to help grow gigantic plants to stop anyone escaping Heart. The army must also negotiate crossing many farmer’s fields on their journey but they meet much resistance.

The final battle draws near with an evil coming from the skies. The truth shows the true players who pull the puppet strings and this is just one battle in a much larger game.

I read all three books one after another and it really plunges you into the world of Lov. This book has a reading age guide of 12-18, but I would like to see this increased to somewhere nearer 16+. The main protagonist is 16 added to this there is a lot of drinking and smoking of dragonweed, plus much of the slang language used is more suitable for older readers.

There has been a lot of thought into the fantasy characters, I particularly liked the Ogier who sang to plants and made them grow, and the Anuunaki , a race of ant people. There are many, many more fantasy characters and at some points I felt there were too many, some adding very little to the storyline. In book 1 there is a giant rabbit which explodes, in book 3 I wasn’t sure of the point of the crickets.

Making this a 3 book quest enables the storyline to be drawn out. The book has quick easy to read chapters, but not every chapter added much to the storyline and my attention wandered on these occasions. The characters of Tyrosh and Lov are central to the book but they give out mixed messages. They were fighting for their freedom but wanting to do this without violence, yet both showed great violent behaviour and killed others. Both needed to be strong leaders yet at times their tempers flared like children and Lov went from child to leader to victim allowing his armed guard to treat him like the enemy and semi-torture him. It was quite hard to accept a young adult would have the experience, knowledge and respect needed to get an army of size to follow him.

For this book to really pop in the world of fantasy writing for me I would like much of the spoken conversation to be looked at again, the world created is a fantasy yet the language of the characters is too full of our everyday slang and colloquialisms, too many “hell this and hell that” when rich words to continue the fantasy theme could have really made individual characters stand out. There is also the emotions, everyone is angry and it gets boring, Missy stabs, Tyrosh slaps, others smack, punch in sentences which aren’t in fight scenes. Showing deeper emotions will come with practice as will using better descriptive words “he jumped from his tent” didn’t feel the right words, was he sat on top of his tent? He could have “stepped or rushed” from his tent.

The ending was disappointing for three books an end battle has been drawing, I didn’t get the grand finale battle experience I was expecting with Martell going down after a huge fight. Overall a good plot which would benefit from some streamlining and character definition making sure that all the parts played really do add to the storyline.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com or Smashwords

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Noelle reviews The Last Dragon Slayer by Martyn Stanley

 

Today we have a review from Noelle, she blogs at http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

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Noelle chose to read and review The Last Dragon Slayer by Martyn Stanley

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The Last Dragon Slayer by Martyn Stanley is the tale of a quest, book one of the Deathsworn Arc series. I’ll confess I do like fantasy, along the lines of The Game of Thrones (I’ve read every volume), The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

This story has the some of the same basic elements of Lord of the Rings:: a quest, in this case given by the Empress of the land, to slay a Noble Dragon which threatens the northern border of her kingdom, in return for a reward of gold. The band of questers include Saul Karza, a wizard, whose pointed hat doesn’t emerge until facing the dragon; Korhan, son of Brian, a sellsword (sword for hire, if you are not into fantasy); Harald, son of Korvak, another a sellsword; a dwarf, Vortex, who is homeless, having been unable to reenter his home beneath the earth because of magic; Silus Mendelson, an old soldier who was the last man to slay a dragon; a dark elf called Brael the Truthseeker, who was bound by magic not to tell the truth; and the Lady Vashni, a mysterious elf who joins them on their way to the dragon’s lair.

The cover of this book is very evocative, and there are lovely illustrations at the end of the book of the  characters, with a brief description of each. I would suggest placing them at the beginning to help the reader identify them.

The story begins rather slowly, and I must admit it took me a bit before I got into the read, largely through the descriptions of the country as the band began its journey. There are the usual roadblocks along the way and you eventually get to know the characters, who are well limned. What changed the story for me was the appearance of Vashni, who has the ability to whisper, that is, to change the mind of the person to whom she whispers. Korhan finds himself enthralled with her beauty and her abilities, and agrees to be her Risine (here I use an s for an elvish rune; the author explains how to pronounce it). A Risine is the cross between an abject slave and a student, and Korhan finds himself not only serving her but being made to do demeaning things such as kissing her boot, while she teaches him how to strengthen his mind and improve his swordsmanship. It’s an interesting relationship, especially when she blinds and deafens him for period and then turns him into a vegetarian! Their relationship is strange and wondrous.

You do learn more about each character during the course of their journey, and their confrontation with the noble dragon is quite exciting. And there’s a twist at the end: did the Empress want them to slay the dragon just because it threatened the kingdom or is something else at play? Of course there is a sequel.

If there was one problem I found with the book, and I know this sounds picky, it was the lack of punctuation. I found myself having to reread sentences because I couldn’t figure out where one ended and the next began, if they did, or where to take a breath. Anytime I have to stop in a read for something like this, it takes me out of time and place.

In any event, it became a rollicking tale with enough swordplay and magic to keep younger readers enthralled. I did enjoy it, and I think this book will have wide appeal and develop a good following with the subsequent books.

Martyn Stanley lives near the Staffordshire/Cheshire border in England, with his long suffering wife and two small children. He’s always enjoyed epic fantasy novels, so it seems natural that he would write them. His ‘Deathsworn Arc’ is more than a hack and slash, swords and sorcery series; it examines, faith, companionship, morality, pragmatism and more. He writes that if the characters of ‘The Deathsworn Arc’ come across as strange, it’s partly because they’re intended to.

 

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com (free on kindle at time of publication)

Fairy and Blood: Lilac by William J Crisel

Fairy and Blood: LilacFairy and Blood: Lilac by William J. Crisel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fairy and blood is a dark tale of pain and struggle. We meet the fairy Lilac resting in the woods. She’s a hunter and fighter and wants to put the world back in balance. A quest follows, but first we see first hand how ruthless Lilac is when she takes on a badger to the death.

She seeks out the sprites who have taken on the powers of the four seasons, but have grown corrupt with their powers. Spring has become a growth of wickedness. Summer is filled with rage and fire, whilst autumn lives in a black void. The sprite who is winter is just sad and lonely wanting an escape from the cruel world.

As the tale unfolds we learn how Lilac removes the powers from the sprites as well as the story of a star who gifted these powers to greedy fairies long ago. In a final battle with a powerful foe Lilac returns the balance of power to earth.

The story is very well written, there are lots of passages full of eloquent words, Lilac’s quest is a lonely one with very few opportunities for dialogue with other characters. At times I struggled to pick up the flow of the storyline as I stopped to check out words from my dictionary.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

View all my reviews on Goodreads

William will be our guest author on the blog tomorrow, do come back and find out more about this book.