Suramya's Book Review Cafe

April 8, 2021

Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal 01) by Zen Cho

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 1:32 am


Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal 01) by Zen Cho

Description:

Magic and mayhem clash with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers maintains the magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman as their Sorcerer Royal and allowing England’s stores of magic to bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up, an adventure that brings him in contact with Prunella Gentlewoman, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, and sets him on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

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Rating: (4/5)

Review:

This was an interesting book to read, England is running low on magic and the magician’s blame the first black person who is the Sorcerer Royal. The book is well written for the most part but there were times it was infuriating how casually the white men (gentlemen) in the story disregarded even the possibility that a woman could have magic and that a black man could be better qualified for a job than they are. This is classic white male supremacy and the arrogance displayed was annoying (but hardly unrealistic). However, the book doesn’t harp too much about this and most of the stuff I spoke about earlier is done in a matter of fact manner.

The character of Prunella was well written and even though initially it wasn’t clear why she had this power over the course of the book things are made clearer. There is an aspect of romance in the book but it felt kind of shoehorned in and didn’t gel with the rest of the story as well as it could have. Not to say it was bad but that it could have been better.

There was one aspect that was really jarring and didn’t gel with Prunella’s personality up to that point. It was completely unexpected and felt out of character for her. On top of that the book just glossed over the incident like it was no big deal even though it should have had major consequences for her.

The world created in the book has a lot of potential and so does the author. I am trying to get the next book in the series and am hoping I like it as much or more than this one.

March 25, 2021

Throne of the Crescent Moon (Crescent Moon 01) by Saladin Ahmed

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 7:40 pm


Throne of the Crescent Moon
by Saladin Ahmed

Description:
The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings:

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “The last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety, is eager to deliver God’s justice. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time–and struggle against their own misgivings–to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

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Rating: (4.5/5)

Review:

I found this book via a list online where they had listed books with protagonists who were older and not the usual teens/young people. In the book Dr Adoulla Makhslood, is way past his prime and just wants to rest but since there are no others with his skills and talent he keeps getting pulled into situations that are dangerous and potentially lethal. Aboulla is old and cranky and his joints hurt but he still tries to do the right thing.

What I really liked about this book was the characters, each of them has their own personality and are fully fleshed out, instead of being one dimensional and there just to further the plot. The story was fast moving and is based on the middle-east mythology and of a similar vibe to the stories in Arabian nights. It is good that a lot of authors are basing their stories in places other than Europe/US as there are some amazing stories waiting to be told from the mythologies of other countries.

The book ended at a good place, but left the door open for the next book in the series. I couldn’t find any definite dates on when the next book is being released but you can be sure that I will be keeping an eye out for it.

In all a great read. Highly recommend

March 21, 2021

The Frozen Crown (Warrior Witch 01) by Greta Kelly

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 11:39 pm


The Frozen Crown
by Greta Kelly

Description:

A princess with a powerful and dangerous secret must find a way to save her country from ruthless invaders in this exciting debut fantasy, the first novel in a thrilling duology packed with heroism, treachery, magic, and war.

Askia became heir to the Frozen Crown of Seravesh because of her devotion to her people. But her realm is facing a threat she cannot defeat by sheer will alone. The mad emperor of the Roven Empire has unleashed a horde of invading soldiers to enslave her lands. For months, her warriors have waged a valiant, stealth battle, yet they cannot stop the enemy’s advancement. Running out of time, she sets sail for sun-drenched Vishir, the neighboring land to the south, to seek help from its ruler, Emperor Armaan.

A young woman raised in army camps, Askia is ill-equipped to navigate Vishir’s labyrinthine political games. Her every move sinks her deeper into court intrigues which bewilder and repel her, leaving her vulnerable not only to enemies gathering at Vishir’s gates, but to those behind the palace walls.

And in this glittering court, where secrets are worth more than gold, Askia fears that one false step will expose her true nature. For Askia is a witch gifted with magical abilities—knowledge that could destroy not only her life but her people. As her adversaries draw closer, Askia is forced to make an impossible choice—and no matter what she decides, it may not be enough to prevent Seravesh’s fall.

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Rating: (4.5/5)

Review:

This is the first book by the author, and I loved it. The book starts of with the Princess Askia approaching the Vishir empire for help against the invaders who have taken over her kingdom. At first you only get brief glimpses of why she is asking for help but over the course of the story more details are revealed. It is very easy to get this wrong and I have read books in the past where the reader is dropped into the middle of the story but not given much details and they were very confusing. It is difficult to do this in a way that keeps the reader’s attention without giving all the details up front and Kelly grace pulled it off brilliantly.

The characters in the book are detailed, with a lot of grey. There are no easy answers and the character’s motivations actually make sense. They make decisions based on duty, love and quest for power. The best part is that there is no clear demarcation of the good guys and bad guys (except for Radovan who is the invader). Folks who you thought were the bad guys help the main character against Radovan and people who you thought would help hinder her. There is no right answer on how to resolve the issues and the characters take decisions that are not perfect but actually make sense instead of making bad decisions for no reason to advance the plot.

I would have liked the book to go into a bit more detail on the magical structure in this universe and how it works but enough details were given to make sure we are not confused/lost.

I have a feeling that the motivations of Radovan will be explored in more detail in the next book as it was just hinted at in this one. I for one can’t wait for the next book to be released.

March 12, 2021

Jolene (Elemental Masters 15) by Mercedes Lackey

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 6:47 am


Jolene (Elemental Masters 15)
by Mercedes Lackey

Description:

The beloved Elemental Masters series moves to America for the first time in a rich retelling of The Queen of the Copper Mountain, set against the backdrop of Tennessee coal country.

Anna May Jones is the daughter of a coal miner, but a sickly constitution has kept her confined to the house for most of her life. Hoping to improve her daughter’s health—and lessen the burden on their family—Anna’s mother sends her to live with her Aunt Jinny, a witchy-woman and an Elemental Master, in a holler outside of Ducktown.

As she settles into her new life, Anna learns new skills at Aunt Jinny’s side and discovers that she, too, has a gift for Elemental magic that Jinny calls “the Glory”. She also receives lessons from a mysterious and bewitching woman named Jolene, who assures her that, with time, Anna could become even more powerful than her aunt.

But with Anna’s increasing power comes increasing notice. Billie McDaran, the foreman of the Ducktown mine, begins to take an interest in Anna and her abilities—even though Anna has already fallen in love with a young man with a talent for stonecarving.

If she wants to preserve the life she has come to love, Anna must use her newfound powers to oppose the foreman and protect those around her.

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Rating: (5/5)

Review:

Mercedes Lackey is one of my all time favorite authors and I usually buy her books immediately when they are released but for some reason I missed the launch of this book. Thankfully I realized my mistake a few days ago and immediately set about rectifying it.

This is the 15th book in her Elemental Masters series and there are very few authors who can keep the stories interesting after so many entries in the series. The book is a standalone book and can be read even if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series, but the story will be much richer if you have read the other books in the series as there are subtle references to other books and organizations that would mean a lot more to someone who has read the other books.

The book is based in the America’s and is a retelling of The Queen of the Copper Mountain which is a Russian fairy tale who is the patroness of miners, the protector and owner of hidden underground riches, who can either permit or prevent the mining of stones and metals in certain places. What I really like about these stories is that it introduces you to folktales & stories from other parts of the world. After I read the book, I immediately did a little research on the folktale and found it to be fascinating.

The storyline is quite simple but the way it is told keeps you engrossed till the very end. I really liked how she made serious effort to depict how cruel a life of a miner was in the late 1800’s. The story also touches on the Trail of tears and the civil war but that is mostly tangential to the story. Her calling magic as glory was a bit distracting at first and it was surprising that none of the standard elementary creatures such as salamanders etc make any appearance. Although, we do have references to the Native American magic and creatures from their folklore do make an appearance. There is enough references to real events and folklore to make the story interesting and get people interested in learning more about them. I personally have gone on researching spree’s after reading one of the books in the series to get more details about some of the stuff that she mentions in the book.

Overall a great book, I highly recommend it.

February 17, 2021

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C M Waggoner

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 2:01 am

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry

by C M Waggoner

Description:

Sparks fly in this enchanting fantasy novel from the author of Unnatural Magic when a down-and-out fire witch and a young gentlewoman join forces against a deadly conspiracy.

Dellaria Wells, petty con artist, occasional thief, and partly educated fire witch, is behind on her rent in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees the “wanted” sign, seeking Female Persons, of Martial or Magical ability, to guard a Lady of some Importance, prior to the celebration of her Marriage. Delly fast-talks her way into the job and joins a team of highly peculiar women tasked with protecting their wealthy charge from unknown assassins.

Delly quickly sets her sights on one of her companions, the confident and well-bred Winn Cynallum. The job looks like nothing but romance and easy money until things take a deadly (and undead) turn. With the help of a bird-loving necromancer, a shapeshifting schoolgirl, and an ill-tempered reanimated mouse named Buttons, Delly and Winn are determined to get the best of an adversary who wields a twisted magic and has friends in the highest of places.

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Rating:

Review:
This is the first book I have read by Waggoner, and I really liked it overall. The main character (Dellaria Wells) or Delly was interesting and likeable for the most part. I enjoyed her outlook on life and how she described her previous jobs. The remaining characters other than Winn were a bit two dimensional but mostly didn’t matter much because the antics of the two main characters were enough to keep you occupied and the story was simple and easy to follow for the most part.

One issue I had with the book was that the subject of Buttons was not fully explained and it just kept bugging me. I won’t go into details because ‘spoilers’ but it was a bit of a letdown how his character was handled.

I think there might be more books in the series or in the same universe so I am looking forward to reading them.

– Suramya

September 21, 2020

Flesh and Fire (Vineart War 01) by Laura Anne Gilman

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 11:24 pm

Flesh and Fire (Vineart War 01)

by Laura Anne Gilman

Description:

Once, all power in the Vin Lands was held by the prince-mages, who alone could craft spellwines, and selfishly used them to increase their own wealth and influence. But their abuse of power caused a demigod to break the Vine, shattering the power of the mages. Now, fourteen centuries later, it is the humble Vinearts who hold the secret of crafting spells from wines, the source of magic, and they are prohibited from holding power.

But now rumors come of a new darkness rising in the vineyards. Strange, terrifying creatures, sudden plagues, and mysterious disappearances threaten the land. Only one Vineart senses the danger, and he has only one weapon to use against it: a young slave. His name is Jerzy, and his origins are unknown, even to him. Yet his uncanny sense of the Vinearts’ craft offers a hint of greater magics within — magics that his Master, the Vineart Malech, must cultivate and grow. But time is running out. If Malech cannot teach his new apprentice the secrets of the spellwines, and if Jerzy cannot master his own untapped powers, the Vin Lands shall surely be destroyed.

In Flesh and Fire, first in a spellbinding new trilogy, Laura Anne Gilman conjures a story as powerful as magic itself, as intoxicating as the finest of wines, and as timeless as the greatest legends ever told.

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Rating: (2/5)

Review:

This is a book that I have read multiple times and I had loved it. This is the book that got me interested in Wine Tasting & the whole field of making Wine. I actually seriously considered doing a certification on Wine Tasting at one point in time.

I felt like reading something light and ended up picking this book again to read. Have you ever have it happen that you love a book and then you notice something in the book that completely spoils it for you? That’s what happened to me with this book.

I love the world setting and the details on how the magic works, however what destroyed the book for me was the fact that it appears to justify slavery as something that is required to raise people above their station & gain the power of magic. I didn’t notice it the last time I read the book but this time it was glaring enough that I couldn’t finish the book. Example quote from the book on this subject:

Vinearts did not appear full-blown from the earth, after all. It was an ironic gift from Sin Washer: generations of trial and error had proven that only the deprivations of slavery, the removal of all family ties and comforts, pushed a man to the point where magic would surface. Even now, he could not coddle the boy, or risk ruining him. The skills were inherent and easily proven by the first test, but the refining of them required a combination of elements. . . .Like the grapes themselves, a Vineart must be stressed to produce the finest results, grown in poor soil and subjected to the elements in order to shine.

Someday he would explain that to the boy and set him on his own course, to acquire and scour his own slave population for the ones he in turn would train, to carry on their tradition. But that day was years to come, assuming the boy survived. For now, they would begin as always.

This was not at all needed and this one paragraph ruined the book for me. If it didn’t have the slavery justification then I would have rated the book at 4 or 4.5 but with this in there, I don’t think I can rate it above a 2.

September 19, 2020

Darkened Blade (Fallen Blade 06) by Kelly McCullough

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 6:10 pm

Darkened Blade (Fallen Blade 06)

by Kelly McCullough

Description:

Aral Kingslayer has nothing to lose – and only justice to gain. Torn apart by the death of his goddess, he must avenge her in order to save himself from being lost forever….

It’s been nine long years since the death of his patron, Namara, and exalted assassin Aral Kingslayer desperately misses the thrill and glory of being a higher power of justice. Now he is haunted by the ghosts of the past – and by the ghost of the lost goddess herself.

When Namara calls upon Aral in a dream to seek justice for her death and the ruination of her temple, Aral must obtain the help of his fellow former Blades and his Shade familiar, Triss, to pursue the vengeance he knows Namara deserves. Even if it means attacking Heaven’s Son – and going against one of their own – in a bloody battle of epic proportions…

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Rating:

Review:

This is the final book in the Fallen Blade series with Aral finally working with all the surviving Blades to avenge the murder of his Goddess by the Son of Heaven. The novel was a satisfying end to a good series and addressed most of the ongoing open threads in a way that made sense. The dilemma Aral faces while going against the Son of Heaven is beautifully presented and his struggle seems real.

It is good that the series ended with this novel as otherwise it would have felt that the author was dragging the series just for the sake of it. After the last book, I was more than ready for them to go against Heaven’s Son. That isn’t to say that there isn’t scope for further stories in this universe, the ending has the scope for many many more stories to be told between the last chapter & the epilogue.

Check if out if you like epic fantasy & a troubled hero. Good read overall, though I still prefer his WebMage series more than the Fallen Blade

September 18, 2020

Drawn Blades (Fallen Blade 05) by Kelly McCullough

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 9:56 am

Drawn Blades (Fallen Blade 05)

by Kelly McCullough

Description:

Aral Kingslayer’s past is never more than a shadow’s breadth away in this Fallen Blade novel from Kelly McCullough.

Once one of the world’s greatest assassins, Aral Kingslayer has finally reclaimed his swords and his soul. But the forces that destroyed his patron Namara twelve years ago are still there, waiting…

In the days before the fall of his goddess, only one other rivaled Aral’s skills, Siri the Mythkiller – a woman who ruthlessly earned the title First Blade. As a friend, Aral owes her his loyalty. As a former lover, he owes her part of his heart. As a Blade, he owes her anything she asks, including his life.

When Siri seeks Aral’s aid, he knows he must go. But as they journey towards the ancient Sylvani Empire, only time will reveal whether Aral can save the former First Blade, or if he will simply fall with her…

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Rating: (4/5)

Review:

Drawn Blades is the fifth book in the Fallen Baid series and picks up soon after the previous book ended. Things start off at a quick pace with Siri, also known as Mythkiller coming back in Aral’s life after years of him not knowing if she was alive or not. It appears that by now pretty much all the blades referred, or name checked in the previous books have come back to life and/or become part of the plot in one of the previous books. If the books were less well written it would be easy to get to a point where the additional books become more of the same but fortunately, that is not the case.

And as always, there are a lot of complications in this book, with past regrets, vengeance and regrets coming back and haunting Aral & Siri. We finally get to explore more of the others in this book with a more detailed overview of their society & structure than what we have seen in the past. It was a fascinating view and really expanded the world the stories are based in. They also encounter fallen gods and a whole lot of other way interesting stuff which we can’t go into details because spoilers. Significant changes to how Aral looks at things happen in the book, which really sets up shades nicely for the next entry in the series which I’m really looking forward to reading.

September 17, 2020

Blade Reforged (Fallen Blade 04) by Kelly McCullough

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 11:25 am

Blade Reforged (Fallen Blade 04)

by Kelly McCullough

Description:

After the fall of the goddess of justice, temple assassin Aral Kingslayer lost his purpose in life and turned to the bottle. That might have been the end of him if luck hadn’t given him a few people to help him get back on his feet—notably the irresistible Baroness Maylien Dan Marchon, who once sought his aid in claiming the throne that’s rightfully hers. Reluctant to resume the role of an assassin, he turned her down.

But now Aral has learned that one of the few people willing to help him in his darkest days has been imprisoned by Maylien’s uncle, King Thauvik. Aral knows he can’t let an old friend die, but the alternative is to return to the life he left years ago. It was the death of Thauvik’s half brother that earned Aral the name Kingslayer, and now he is thrust into a war that will see no end until he lives up to his name…

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Rating: (4.5/5)

Review:

The 4th book in the series starts off in a very weird way. Aral is back at the Gryphon which has been destroyed getting drunk, we have no idea how he got there and why Jax & Faran are not there with him. This is never completely explained in the book and it bugged me. I had to check to make sure I was reading the correct book in the series and hadn’t missed any book in the middle. However once I got past that I liked the book, we have an old flame back in Aral’s life making a play for the throne. Plus there is a living legend who has come back from the dead to make things very difficult & dangerous for Jax. I liked how he had to change his whole way of thinking to get through the mission and how throughout the book he is slowly healing himself. Though his struggle with addiction is still a big part of the character. The following paragraph from the book really highlighted the difficultly Aral is going through with his addiction, and I loved it. Its rare when writers get nuances like this rather than just handwaving it away to advance the plot.

I didn’t answer Triss. I couldn’t. It was taking everything I had not to tear out the cork and drink off half the bottle on the spot. I could feel sweat breaking out on my brows and the palm of the hand holding the bottle as I fought with my own desire. Fuck me but I wanted that drink bad. Without seeming to cross the intervening space, I found myself holding the whiskey out over the water, willing my hand to unclench. It wouldn’t, and probably better that it didn’t.

I ignored that and the increased urgency in his voice and used a word of opening to free the cork—a spell where normally I would have simply torn it free with my teeth. Then, slowly, oh so very damned slowly, I turned the bottle over and poured the contents into the sea. It felt more than half like I’d opened a vein and it was my own blood I was draining away, but I did it. When it was empty, and only when it was empty, did I let the bottle fall into the water and sink to the bottom. I watched it all the way down. Then I sat back against the wall of the cavern and dangled my bare feet in the cool water.

The book is the commulation of the previous three books and if you read this without having read the previous books some parts of it will not make sense. However it can be read as a standalone for the most part.

September 16, 2020

Crossed Blades (Fallen Blade 03) by Kelly McCullough

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 11:17 am


Crossed Blades (Fallen Blade 03)
by Kelly McCullough

Description:

For six years, former temple assassin Aral Kingslayer has been living as a jack of the shadow trades, picking up odd jobs on the wrong side of the law. But the past is never dead, and Aral’s has finally caught up to him in the beautiful, dangerous form of Jax Seldansbane – a fellow Blade and Aral’s onetime fiancée.

Jax claims that the forces that destroyed everything Aral once held dear are on the move again, and she needs his help to stop them. But Aral has a new life now, with a fresh identity and new responsibilities. And while he isn’t keen on letting the past back in, the former assassin soon finds himself involved in a war that will leave him with no way out and no idea who to trust…

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Rating: (4.5/5)

Review:

Crossed Blades starts about a month or so after the previous book with Aral reuniting with his lost love Jax who he thought had died with the rest when their temple was destroyed and Goddess murdered. The story is a lot more dark than the previous volumes in the series, with a lot of focus on revenge & vengeance. There is a lot of double dealing in the book and you don’t always know who to trust as everyone has a hidden agenda. Not all is as it seems which requires you to pay attention to the plot & actions of each of the characters.

Aral’s dealings with Faran on the other hand are a treat, he is really unsure on how to handle a teenager who is also one of the best assassins around and has been surviving on her own for years. I like the fact that they don’t downplay her experiences even though they don’t go into a lot of details about it. I expect that they will cover them in future books.

The vengeance part of the story is pretty stark and some of the plot twists make it complicated to achieve. I really didn’t get the goal of the other main character (I am not going to name them as that would be moving into the spoiler territory) till the last chapter and I loved it. I think we will see them again in future books.

Looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

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