Monday, August 22, 2011

Dragons of Starlight Book 1: Starlight by Bryan Davis

Sotryline: Jason Masters doesn't believe in the legends like his brother, Adrian. But a message from their missing brother, Frederick, changes everything. What if dragons had really stole people away to be slaves on their own planet? What if there really was a portal that could take him to the dragon planet?
Seeking the answers to his questions only brings Jason more trouble. Manipulated by men in the government, wanted for murder, Jason knows his only chance to prove his innocence is to find the portal and figure out what these men want.

My thoughts:
Having read Masters and Slayers, Jason's brother Adrian's story, I thought Starlighters was also an excellent book. I enjoyed getting the chance to see Jason's side of the story, a side that's only partially glimpsed by Adrian and Drexel in Masters and Slayers.
I was a bit worried that Jason would be a younger copy of his brother, but there were definitely differences. The other characters were well-done and I'm glad there are more books to the series, because I was left with a feeling that I hadn't spent nearly enough time with all the characters. :)
The plot was good and fast-paced, though I felt there were a few small points that came too easily to the main characters (like finding the crystal peg that allowed the portal to be opened from the dragon world). Like I said, small nitpicky points.
There's nothing in the plot that would keep me from recommending this book to teens as young as 13--one reason I like Bryan Davis' stuff so much. Another great book of his that you should definitely check out!
Rating: 5 stars

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Storyline: It begins with a dark being, glimpsed out of the corner of Rand al'Thor's eyes. When he and his father arrive in the village of Edmond's Field, everyone ignores his uneasiness, save his two best friends--Matrim Cauthon and Perrin Aybara. Even Rand forgets it when he encounters two strangers, a giant of a warrior named Lan and a woman named Moraine.
That night, the village is attacked by Trollocs and Fades, servants of the Dark One. Moraine immediately takes Mat, Perrin, Rand, and a village girl named Egwene away. She knows something about the boys, something she won't tell them. But she does tell them one thing--the Dark One is searching for them.

My Thoughts:
Well, that synopsis only gives you a vague understanding of the plot. The Eye of the World is a 400-plus-pages behemoth of a fantasy, the first in a series of 14 books all as large or larger. It's rich with characters, magic, and description of an amazing fantasy world.
I was a little nervous when I cracked open the book, but beyond a few mild cuss words and a questionable Eastern worldview, it's very good. It has a Tolkien-esque complexity, as well as a detail and a mastery of language that I would love to achieve some day. The descriptions, though long, seem to stick to the details for understanding the world.
The characters are all well-drawn. Some of them I didn't particularly care for--mainly Egwene, because she just doesn't allow Rand any slack. The three main characters I liked and I can't wait to see what happens to them.
I think the biggest problem I had with the book was the mythology and magic of the world. Given that it's a secular fantasy, I expected that. I didn't like that the good guys and bad guys are basically using the same magic, and the world is full of feminists because the "male half" of the magic is tainted with evil, while the "female half" isn't. It was a bit odd.
Despite that, though, I enjoyed the book. It gets 3 and a half stars.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Novel Spotlight: City of Light by Peter J. Dudek

Hey everyone! Welcome to the new reviews I'll be doing--the Novel Spotlight. Since I began posting a book review every week over at the Magical Ink Bookshelf, I wanted to keep this spot open for indie-published or self-published books I think merit a lot of attention. So, welcome to the first Spotlight, City of Light by Peter J. Dudek!

Storyline: Tarin is a shy boy who would rather sneak around and listen to gossip through windows than speak with or touch his fellow villagers. Quite unwillingly, he befriends Sarky, the son of Woodend's gatekeeper, and his adventures begin.

Two strangers--warriors--arrive in Woodend. Tarin--and only Tarin--sees dark, smoky, cloaked figures skulking around the village, though Sarky throws up if he gets too close to them. The banished governor is rumored to return, and the people's dislike of the current governor, Willerdon, grows.

And finally, another stranger arrives--Gildareth, herald from the long-absent King of Arvalast. The country is in danger. The people's faith is waning, and their Illumina--phials of pure, holy light given to believers by the King--are loosing their light. Some are even turning red, overtaken by a weird usurper who claims to be the true King. Evil beings stalk the land, seeking to destroy the King and his followers.

And Tarin, Sarky, and Governor Willerdon's family are in the middle of the conflict.

My Thoughts: I unexpectedly won this book in a contest. When I received it in the mail, I was struck by the cover art--it was a very cool, well-done picture. That was my first clue that this book was a cut above most of the self-published stuff out there.

Then I opened it and started reading. It took me a little bit, but I was sucked into the story.

A few things may seem to echo The Lord of the Rings--shadowy beings, phials of light--but the further I got into the story, the more I saw the differences. There are some sticky spots of stilted dialog, draggy action, or omniscient pov, but those are few.

Much of the story is amazing. The characters are fun and quirky, the description well-placed, the action exciting even without many fight scenes in the first half or so of the book. What at first seems to be a straight-forward plot soon evolves into something epic in proportions, with multiple storylines and lots of characters.

And the best part? Nothing objectionable, yet still a fabulous story. This book doesn't read like a normal first-time author's book.

Peter Dudek has woven a skillful, amazing story in City of Light. As soon as I finished it, I got on his website and checked for the second one--What? Not out yet?!? When??? :) I'd definitely recommend it!

Rating: Five out of five stars

Next week, be sure to check out my interview with Peter Dudek on Magical Ink!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Popcorn and a Movie: Thoughts on Voyage of the Dawn Treader


Since the movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has been reviewed and hashed to pieces, I just wanted to share my thoughts about it.
Let me start out with the Cons:
1) I was really afraid that they were going to go the Peter-I'm-the-High-King-so-I-can-do-anything-I-want route with Edmund at first. "I'm a king!" Well, no, not in this world, as Lucy points out. Thankfully, he doesn't stick with that very long (more on this in pros). Let's just say I would have been highly ticked if they'd messed up Edmund (I mean, seriously, he's the only character who made it through Prince Caspian without being screwed up. Leave off messing with my favorite characters already, Hollywood!).
2) They kind of whacked apart the storyline. And they added the "magical swords" (can you say Tolkien-esque AGAIN?). And the green mist. Again, Hollywood...grrr. However...
3) This is petty, but...Ben Barnes, round 2 = yuck. At least they let him act closer to his age.

Cons:
1) The green mist didn't kill the story as much as I thought it would. The way it threaded the temptations throughout the entire movie was pretty neat. OK, Hollywood, so it wasn't as complete of a failure as I thought.
2) Edmund doesn't stay an idiot like Peter did. In fact, his "I'm king of Narnia!" moments interestingly occur only when he's weak (ie driven nuts by the thought of staying with Eustace any longer) or tempted (Deathwater). Nicely done, in my opinion.
3) Eustace was perfect. I wanted to strangle that kid in the first part of the movie! And I thought I had annoying cousins? ;)
4) Reepicheep. 'Nough said! :D
5) They kept my all-time favorite scene in Narnia! The whole bit of leaving Narnia made me bawl (yes, I'm a softie!). Seriously, I started crying the instant they started rowing through the white flowers because I knew what was coming. I was so glad they kept Aslan's line:
Because there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.
YES!!!!! :)
So here you are. My thoughts. I really liked The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, despite the changes. It was an improvement on Prince Caspian though they still didn't quite get up to the precedent set by The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Hopefully, they'll make the rest of the series because I really want to see The Silver Chair (my personal favorite) and, speaking from a movie standpoint, I think The Horse and His Boy would make an excellent movie.
PS: When we walked out of the theater from this movie, it was snowing. Absolutely perfect and beautiful enough to bring even more tears to my eyes!