Book Review

Book Review: Path of the Heretic by Ivan Amberlake

Path of the Heretic (The Beholder, #2)Path of the Heretic by Ivan Amberlake

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:

After Emily Ethan is gone, Jason is left with too many questions unanswered. Betrayed by the one he loved and yet hurting after losing her, Jason is eager to find out what actually happened to Emily.

When he least expects it, the Darksighted return to New York City, but they are not after Jason. They seek to destroy those who may know something about where Emily can be.

The more Jason gets to know the world of Energy and Sight, the harder it is for him to belong in this world. He can’t enter the Sight when there are too many people around. And then Emily comes to his dreams and gives him clues of where to look for the answers.

The question is: should he believe her, or is it just another attempt to get him killed?

The Review:

The novel, Path of the Heretic, begins a few months after book one, The Beholder. At this point, Jason, the main character, is dealing with a major loss, some unexplained limitations to his powers, the betrayal of a friend, as well as intensified attacks from the enemy. And more importantly, we get inside the head of Pariah. Bonus!

What I enjoyed the most about the novel were the following: 1) as in the first book, the pacing was good. There was rarely a dull moment, as the reader is exposed to the good and bad guys, the points of view of different characters, the developing conflict and the rising stakes, travel to various worldwide locations, and coolest of all, we get to witness how a dark one is recruited. Once again, there is rarely a dull moment. 2) I appreciated that this time, we got to see more of the baddies. We see much more of Pariah and his origins, more of his relationship with his minions, and learn Tyler’s history. Fleshing out the villains this way made them seem credible and more of a threat.

As in the first book, I struggled with some things: 1) I found certain details and description vague. For example, I found the flow of events during major fight scenes difficult to follow, and at times I couldn’t tell what was happening, where characters were, or how they got there. And, details about the structure/hierarchy of the Lightsighted was missing. In contrast, we have a very clear understanding of rank on the Darksighted side. And I wanted to know HOW the Lightsighted managed to fight of a major attack while sustaining the lives of a whole city for days on end. The concept was so cool that I wanted to be able to better envision the events. 2) Again, I found the rules about Energy unclear. At one point Jason says he isn’t the Beholder but everyone says he is. Why? And, the heretic wasn’t all that clear for me, as in why is he in hiding when he has the power to influence the course of events? Is he stronger than Jason, just as strong, less so? Is he limited somehow and therefore can’t participate in the conflict? Why is he called the heretic, anyway? For me, struggling with these points affected the story’s cohesion and comprehension.

That said, the ideas presented in the novel are still as interesting and creative as book 1, and Amberlake writes with an energy and zeal that is sure to attract readers. Clearly, he enjoys the story he is building as well as weaving his characters into each and every scenario. Readers of urban fantasy, speculative fiction, and those looking for something that has the feel of a comic book or graphic novel should enjoy this series very much.

Many thanks to Mr. Amberlake for providing me with a review copy of his novel.

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Book Review

Book Review for The Forgotten Knight: A Chinese Warrior in King Arthur’s Court

The Forgotten Knight: A Chinese Warrior in King Arthur's CourtThe Forgotten Knight: A Chinese Warrior in King Arthur’s Court by Christopher Vale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Blurb: 

Following a fierce battle by King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table to defend the home of Princess Gwynevere, Merlin the Magician is deeply shaken by a terrifying premonition of the fall of Camelot. Guided by magic, Merlin travels to the distant Empire of China where he meets a boy who Merlin believes will one day rescue the Queen and save Camelot from destruction.

The Review:

Right from the opening, the book begins with a battle. What better way to get the reader right into the story as well as acquainted with the main players and the roots of one of the main conflicts that will affect the rest of the story? Right away, I had a good sense of the characters, which were well described and each had a distinct personality. Merlin was particularly enjoyable (like a less grumpy Gandalf), and Arthur and Lancelot were pleasant to read. It was a treat to meet characters I’ve read in romanticized fairy tales presented as ‘real people’ in a novel. Refreshing. Sheng was also a passionate, intelligent young man, and I enjoyed following his adventures.

The writing is quite good. As stated, the characters are well rendered, as are the descriptions of places and events. The fight sequences were quite detailed, and anyone interested in envisioning exactly what is happening would get a kick out of that. I also particularly liked the immersion in Chinese culture, which was presented with enough detail to feel authentic.

My biggest concerns were the following: (POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT: skip to the next paragraph if you are sensitive to spoilers). It made no sense to me that Merlin, after receiving the vision of coming disaster, would disappear like that without giving his *king* notice, especially considering the length of time he was gone. He was the king’s most trusted adviser and friend! And it also amazed me that, after what could have been considered desertion, Arthur had such a weak response to his return. The other issue I struggled with was with how easily Sheng’s father agreed to Merlin’s outrageous request: let his only son leave to save a Queen in a kingdom basically half-way across the world–why should he care? Considering the importance of lineage and honour to many cultures in that time, it seemed unrealistic that after only a long talk (of which no details are shared) that Sheng’s father would agree. I kept waiting for a good explanation for that. Finally, as a reader who is used to third-person limited point of view storytelling, it took time to adapt to the third person omniscient point of view used in this story.

Those points aside, the story is engrossing. Sheng’s personality is fun and he’s always up for adventure, of which there are many good ones in the novel, including his trials to become a night and his quest to save the Queen. Also, I appreciated that Vale chose to write about a main character who is an Other, especially one that is integrated into a traditionally European tale. The Forgotten Knight: A Chinese Warrior in King Arthur’s Court is a very good read and I am happy to recommend it.

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Essays

Book Review: Compis

Compis (Five Tribes, #1)Compis by Kate Copeseeley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Blurb:

After thousands of years, male after male, finally —a female COMPIS is chosen. The peace of a nation seems secure, yet beneath the facade turmoil boils among its leaders. The innocent children, raised in ignorance all their lives until the Initiation of their seventeenth year, have no idea of the true face behind their High Council.

Why has a girl been chosen? Why is she special? Will she be able to do what no other Compis has done and bring the hypocrisy to an end?

Book Review:

Compis is divided into two parts, The Initiation and Aquis. The book itself is mostly quite well-written. There are some very nice descriptions of landscapes, and the writing itself is smooth and easy to read. Pre-teens and teens should find the reading experience enjoyable. Adults who enjoy a quick read might enjoy it as well. The characters each have their own personality and they are who they are: inexperienced, self-centred and sometimes reactive adolescents/young adults.

I did have issues with specific things. The Initiation section was too long and the events mostly occur in the same place. There is very little action or tension in this section which is loaded with orations and explanations of this and that aspect of tribe life, sometimes repeated throughout the section by different characters, and the result of the ceremony is telegraphed early on so that the end is no real surprise. I also found the retelling of the same event 3 times from different perspectives to be too much. Also, the romance between Zyan and Nikka is sweet but feels very, very adolescent, even for adolescents.

The narrative finally picks up in Aquis, and even then only when Zyan begins to have dreams which lead him on a journey (at last) to save his tribe, and when Nikka finally decides to do something important in her new role. Much time is spent on Lukka and I’m not sure why—he seemed a minor character throughout until this point. I suppose he becomes more important later on, which is good because he did get one bad-ass animal spirit. That I would like to see more of. The ending came on quite abruptly—there was no preceding round-up, or resolution phase to ease me out of the story that had just begun to get interesting.

Personally, I would have preferred if The Initiation had been cut down and more time spent with Zyan and Nikka puzzling through their problems, and the reader discovering more about the political and social issues burdening the tribes, as that is really what this story seems to be about. However, the writing is good, the characters likeable, and the stage is set for an engaging story to come. For these reasons, I give Compis 3 out of 5 stars (3 1/2 if I could).