I’m not sure how to write this review mainly because I wasn’t expecting to be this conflicted about so many things. “Shadow and Bone” is an engaging read, so let me throw that out there first, how about that? We follow Alina, the painfully stereotypical rags-to-riches redemption story of a girl everyone overlooks, who is unimportant and unremarkable and ugly, until she suddenly becomes one of the most powerful and important people in her war torn country. In a land with serious Russian vibes, and a well-defined magic system for everyone but Alina and the Darkling, Alina holds the key for bringing her country out of the dark (ha) and into the light (ha). Those aren’t exactly metaphors, either. So, yeah, I really liked the book, but you can kind of see where I’m going with my qualms, right?
I find myself reading a lot of fantasy lately that feel like they were taken directly from a dungeon master’s manifest for a Dungeons&Dragons game between friends. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just not really sure how I ended up reading so many books with that same feel over the course of a relatively short time. But I digress. “Road of the Lost”, you guessed it, is a fantasy sword and sorcery book that follows three characters as they battle against dark elves and their Ogre warriors in an attempt to recover the fabled crystals that will save the forest. You’ve got Templars and Sylvan Elves, and Dark Elves, the Seelie Court, and a bunch of gods all invested in this trio and moving them about like chess pieces from one battle to the next all while the author builds a world for a long standing series. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the primary focus of this first book: build the world and they will come.
Have you ever wondered what it’d be like if Wonderland was real? If the story by Lewis Caroll was just a poor retelling of a traumatized princesses’ desperation to hold on to her memories regarding the home she had to flee, and has no idea how to return to? That’s precisely what “The Looking Glass Wars” is all about. Using Caroll’s narration style and twisting his world, Beddor brings to life an alternate telling of “Through the Looking Glass” where Alice is actually Alyss Heart, next in line to the throne, and her aunt Redd (The Red Queen) has been driven mad with lust for power and brutally wrestles control from the young princess. Mad Hatter is not a riddle loving tea addict, but an elite bodyguard for Alyss known as Hatter Madigan. The Cheshire Cat is now a shape shifting assassin known as The Cat, and the magic of Wonderland is based on the powerful imagination of its rulers. It’s really rather clever in terms of retellings with wonderfully dark twists that are perhaps more suitable for older fans of Alice in Wonderland, who aren’t so purist in their love that they won’t mind the liberties Beddor takes.
Reading “Beyond the Amarathine Veil” often had me believing I was reading a fan fiction of The Witcher video game series—which isn’t a bad thing, I love those games—mixed in with some classic sword & sorcery and Dungeons and Dragons. Our main character, Tristan, is a former Templar, once bound to protect a brilliant sorceress. Now, he’s a monster/bounty hunter sporting two swords—silver for monsters and steel for people—and keeps company with a charming bard, smart tongued rogue, and a gruff knight. Seriously, it has all the makings of some of my favorite types of games. Tristan, who commands a small amount of magic himself, has now been tasked to bring peace to his kingdom by marrying a noblewoman from its rival kingdom. An uncertain arranged marriage soon blossoms into more as Tristan does his best to keep his bride-to-be safe, and ensure peace between their nations. With stakes that high, you just know it’s a recipe for disaster. Which I normally love! But this wasn’t as fast paced as I generally like for these kinds of stories.
“Furthermore” feels like a mesh between The Secret Garden and an Alice in Wonderland retelling, something only compounded by the main character being named Alice, as well. In the land of Ferenwood, everyone is blessed with an abundance of bright colors, from their eyes, to their hair, to their skin, and the more color they have, the more magic they can command. Alice is almost completely white, except for a bit of brown around her eyes. She has always hated this; hated that she wasn’t as colorful as everyone else. And when her father vanishes (three years ago from the story's start) she hates her lack of color and her talents even more. With a mother who ignores her and seems to not like her, and with a town that rejects the talent she offers them, Alice runs away with her “friend” Oliver to bring the only person who ever understood her and loved her just as she was back: Father.
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