This book has Jason Bourne vibes all over it: the best “gun for hire” out there suddenly finds himself on the other side of the sniper’s scope. He doesn’t know who put the contract out on him or for what offense—he’s a legend in his field, so the list of people who want our main character dead is pretty long. If Eidolon—also known as John, which, admittedly, is less intimidating—wants to stay alive, he has to figure out who put the contract out on him, and make them remove the hit, and hopefully before the people who have unexpectedly gotten close to him get hurt. This is a killer with some morals, after all. And, ultimately, if you like military action books with a Bourne and a sort of spy vs. spy vibe, then this is going to be a fast paced, fun read for you. But there are some trigger warnings!
I haven’t really read a YA fantasy that is written in an experimental present tense narrative before. It makes “Curses of Scale” read a bit like a dreamscape, or like a stream of consciousness, especially as it’s also a bit of a reverse timeline. Allow me to explain: the main character is Niena, or Squirrel, but we don’t meet her until about 14% into the book. That first part of the book is spent on her future husband as he races toward saving Neina from her destiny, 15 years in the future. Then, we get snapped back to our MC and her grandfather and see that she really just wants to learn how to be a bard. Then a dragon shows up and things go from bad to worse pretty quickly, especially when a meddling fairy brings Neina’s husband to the past. Why the dragon shows up and what it’s after isn’t really clear until just past the 70% mark, unless you go back and read the synopsis. Then you know that Neina is cursed to become the dragon if she kills it, but will lose those she loves if she doesn’t. It’s an interesting premise that is dark and harrowing because of the stakes and all the action that takes place, but is hampered by the narrative style.
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.
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