The Book Dragon's Horde

Review: Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey

Perhaps I am biased, since I’m working on an airships and floaty-hovery fantasy story of my own, but I do wish there were more worlds like this in fantasy literature. I’ve seen them a lot in video games, but in books they are few and far between. I quite enjoyed this one. If you’re looking for deeply intellectual literature, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you’re after a fun, feelgood adventure romp, this is the book for you.

Plot

Aimee De Laurent comes from a wealthy, privileged upbringing, but dreams of adventure in the skies. When she’s offered a position as an apprentice portal mage on the skyship Elysium, she all but salivates at the opportunity. However, she quickly finds out that there’s more to adventure than glory and excitement, and more to the Elysium than meets the eye, too.

When her first attempted portal-casting goes terribly wrong, she and the crew find themselves teleported to the middle of a battle for the mythical Plot MacGuffin  Axiom Diamond. When they rescue the last surviving prince of a dying nation, the Elysium crew is summarily conscripted towards finding the diamond before the Bad Guys.

Striving to steal the diamond from its protectors is one Lord Azrael, ruthless knight for the League of Baddy McBadGuys Eternal Order. However even as he is determined to procure the diamond by any means necessary — even genocide — he is haunted by flashes of a life he cannot remember, and begins to question his role in the Order and everything he has been raised to believe in.

Thoughts

I personally  really enjoyed this book, but it definitely requires the removal of ones’ thinking cap. It is undeniably cliche and cheesy. The villains are, as far as we know, Evil for the sake of being Evil. If they have any reason or rhyme behind their calamitous intent, we don’t get to find it out in this book. The Axiom Diamond, too, is supposedly an artifact of great power, but even though (spoilers!) in the end we get to see it in action, I was still left scratching my head as to why the villains were so intent on getting it in the first place.

That said, this was the most fun I’ve had reading a book in awhile. Aimee just barely avoids being a Mary Sue, but I loved getting in her head, and could almost feel her enthusiasm. The opening chapters felt like coming home, nostalgic of a lot of the space opera I used to read when I was a teenager.

The villain character, Azrael, who shares half of the POV sections, was also surprisingly compelling and well-realized. I normally really can’t stand villain POVs in books, but I think I actually liked Azrael’s sections more than Aimee’s.

This book reads a lot like space opera, but it is not space opera. The characters and their ship never, as far as I can tell, leave the planet. The world had an odd combination of high tech and Generic Medieval Fantasy, but for some reason, I really thought it worked well.

Despite being completely over-the-top, this story managed to warm my evil little heart.

Overall Rating

3.5/5

So, so cheesy, yet so, so fun.

Reddit Fantasy Bingo Squares

  • Hopeful spec-fic
  • Mountain setting
  • One Word Title
  • <2500 Goodreads ratings
  • Not space opera but so so close

Review: The Fire Eye Refugee by Samuel Gately

fireeye

I will be the first to admit that this was a shameless case of judging a book by its cover. I mean, look at it! It first came to my attention as a contender for the 2018 SPFBO cover contest, so when the book went on sale for Kindle, I knew I had to pick it up.

The Plot

Facing genocide at the hands of the bloodthirsty Winden, the Farrow people seek refuge in Celest, capitol city of the Gol. The Gol are historically isolationist, but many among them take sympathy on the Farrow’s plight. Others, however, would prefer to be rid of the Farrow interlopers, by any means necessary.

Recovering-pyromaniac Kay is a mixed-race half-Farrow, half Gol who works in Celest as a finder of lost children. When she receives a mission to search for a missing Farrow child, she finds herself unexpectedly at the center of the refugee crisis, swept into both Farrow and Gol politics, and forced to confront a past she’d rather forget.

Thoughts

This book reads partially like a police procedural, and partially like a political thriller. Short and fast paced, Gately wastes no time sweeping us along into the action.

The plight of refugees is one that is unfortunately all too familiar in the news today. Since the protagonist deals especially with finding refugee children, the situation became all the more poignant. I think the political situation in this story is where the writing really shone the most. Gately did a great job painting the cultures of Farrow and Gol. The good and bad people of both, and the ways the two cultures clash and come together.

Despite the current cultural relevance, Gately does all this without at any time feeling ham-fisted or preachy. The situation fits organically into the setting and feels universally human. The only possible exception — and it might be a coincidence — is the character Banden Milo, the vehemently racist rabble-rousing pundit, who bears a strikingly similar name to two similar characters in the real world.

Although I appreciated the tight pacing of this book, I did actually think it could have been just a little bit longer, with a few more quiet scenes to get to know the characters as people. I truly believe that all of the characters are well-realized and three-dimensional in the author’s head, but we, the reader, just don’t have enough time to get to know them. Too often Kay will feel a strong emotion related to another character, but we just don’t see enough of those characters interacting to feel the emotion is warranted. Gately also has a tendency to briefly introduce new characters then have them show up again many scenes later without much context. For such a short book, I found myself scratching my head fairly often, trying to remember “Who’s this person again?”

Then there is the fire eye itself, the glowing fire in the sky that looms above all this, literally and figuratively. The fact is that we don’t ever actually find out much about it. Kay receives comfort from the fire eye, and somehow it helps her resist her latent compulsive pyromania. Kay fears she will revert to her old ways if she doesn’t look at the fire eye every year. However, we are told this but never really shown it. I never felt any real narrative tension that Kay would lose all control without it. For being so central to both the Gol civilization and the title of the book, I often had trouble remembering it was even there.

What does seem clear, however, is that the fire eye is central to the world’s fire-based magic system, which is also tied to the mysterious, villainous Winden and their compulsive drive for murder. These things are touched on in the book, but not explored deeply. I imagine they will be a much bigger part of the sequels.

Overall Rating

4/5

Tightly paced novel with excellent worldbuilding that could nevertheless benefit from slowing down and really allowing us to feel what the characters are feeling

Reddit Fantasy 2018 Bingo Squares

  • Reviewed on r/fantasy
  • Non-Western Setting
  • Takes Place Entirely Within One City
  • Self-Published Novel
  • > 2500 Goodreads Ratings