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 26, 2021

This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria

Filed under: Young Adult Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 7:12 pm


This Golden Flame
by Emily Victoria

Description:
Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible—she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father—their nation’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

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Rating: (4/5)

Review:

This debut novel by Emily Victoria was a great light read. The characters in the book were mostly well defined and the world building in the book was superb. There were a few twists in the story that I wasn’t expecting and they made the story more fun. I did feel that the final battle was over very quickly and it felt rushed. The build up was nice & long and then suddenly the battle is won and it is all over. It kind of felt like the author thought that the book was long enough and wanted to end it. However, that being said it didn’t spoil the book for me so that is good. It would be interesting to read regular book (instead of a Young Adult) based in this universe as I feel it has a lot of scope for those kind of stories.

I will be keeping an eye on her for her next book release.

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

January 9, 2021

Mage Against the Machine by Shaun Barger

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 11:40 pm


Mage Against the Machine
by Shaun Barger

Description:

Harry Potter meets The Terminator in this action-packed adventure about a young man who discovers that everything he believed about his world is a lie.

The year is 2120. The humans are dead. The mages have retreated from the world after a madman blew up civilization with weaponized magical technology. Safe within domes that protect them from the nuclear wasteland on the other side, the mages have spent the last century putting their lives back together.

Nikolai is obsessed with artifacts from twentieth-century human life: mage-crafted replica Chuck Taylors on his feet, Schwarzenegger posters on his walls, Beatlemania still alive and well in his head. But he’s also tasked with a higher calling—to maintain the Veils that protect mage-kind from the hazards of the wastes beyond. As a cadet in the Mage King’s army, Nik has finally found what he always wanted—a purpose. But when confronted by one of his former instructors gone rogue, Nik tumbles into a dark secret. The humans weren’t nuked into oblivion—they’re still alive. Not only that, outside the domes a war rages between the last enclaves of free humans and vast machine intelligences.

Outside the dome, unprepared and on the run, Nik finds Jem. Jem is a Runner for the Human Resistance. A ballerina-turned-soldier by the circumstances of war, Jem is more than just a human—her cybernetic enhancement mods make her faster, smarter, and are the only things that give her a fighting chance against the artificial beings bent on humanity’s eradication.

Now Nik faces an impossible decision: side with the mages and let humanity die out? Or stand with Jem and the humans—and risk endangering everything he knows and loves?

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Rating: (4/5)

Review:

This is the first book by the author and I really liked it. The premise is that mages live in sheltered enclaves and believe that the world outside is a wasteland where all humans died out hundreds of years ago. Nik who is a rookie officer with the Edge Guard believes the story whole-heartedly and over the course of the book we start to get an idea of what is going on. I thought that the explanation for the discrepancy would be something else but was pleasantly surprised.

One small thing that bugged me initially was the fact that the chapters didn’t have dates mentioned so was a bit confused at first thinking about why we are suddenly talking about humans when they were supposed to have died out centuries ago. After I read a few chapters things started making more sense and then I was really pulled into the story. The character of Nik was really rough in the beginning and his behavior felt very unnatural and forced. The author did try to justify it, but it didn’t quite click for me till about half-way through the book. I am sure in the next one things will be a lot more smoothly handled as the author gets more practiced.

I would have liked more of an explanation about how the mages came to be, there was a brief explanation but it would be interesting to read more about their beginnings. I think that might be forthcoming in future books.

I am waiting for the next book in the series as this one ends just as things are starting to get a lot more interesting.

– Suramya

November 22, 2020

Moonbase Crisis (Star Challengers 01) by Kevin J Anderson

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 2:25 am


Moonbase Crisis (Star Challengers 01)
by Kevin J Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Description:

After an exhilarating space simulation field trip at the local Challenger Center, a group of students are hand-picked by the mysterious Commander Zota for a special adventure: to travel to the future and a real moonbase in trouble, where they will learn skills to save the human race!

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Rating: (2.5/5)

Review:
The premise of the book is quite interesting, a bunch of kids from present day earth are sent into the future by a mysterious person so that they can learn the skills to save earth. However I was disappointed in the execution of that premise. The book doesn’t really get into why these kids are chosen and the characters are mostly one dimensional and I found it hard to believe how or why the commander of a moonbase would accept the appearance of four kids on his station without any questions or concern. The questions he does ask feel like mostly a formality and quickly abandoned. Since the characters are never developed to the point where we would start caring about them we don’t really care if they are in danger.

In all the book feels like a novella rather than a full book. I don’t think I will be reading the rest of the series because I really don’t care what happens to the characters after the book ended.

October 7, 2020

Battle Ground (Dresden Files 17) by Jim Butcher

Filed under: Urban Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 11:23 pm

Battle Ground (Dresden Files 17)

by Jim Butcher

Description:

THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GET SERIOUS FOR HARRY DRESDEN, CHICAGO’S ONLY PROFESSIONAL WIZARD, in the next entry in the No. 1 New York Times and No. 1 Sunday Times bestselling Dresden Files.

Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders.

But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way.

Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever.

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Rating: (5/5)

Review:

The latest entry in the Dresden Files picks up right from where it left off in the previous book. Dresden is hurting, his allies are scrambling and a Titan has declared war on the human race starting with Chicago. This is a fight that is magnitudes larger than anything Dresden has been in the past and in his own words, he is fighting way outside his weight class. But true to his character he can’t give up knowing that he could have helped save people and the book is a fast moving script with beautifully written fight scenes and even though Harry is fighting beings much more powerful than himself it never gets to a point where it feels ridiculous (looking at you Supernatural).

There are some major events in the book that will have lasting impact on the Dresden universe, specifically there is a scene about half way through that shocked me as it came out of the blue and I had to re-read the para to process it. It is a major spoiler so I can’t give more details but it rocked Harry down to the core.

Interestingly the book also sets up the stage for the next few entries in the series by making vague references to another threat. I am happy to see more books in the series are planned and thanks to the skill of the author I don’t see the series becoming a cliche anytime soon.

Final Verdict: Awesome Book, do read it (as long as you have read the previous books in the series otherwise it won’t make much sense).

September 30, 2020

The Dark Prophecy (Trials of Apollo 02) by Rick Riordan

Filed under: Young Adult Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 2:39 pm

The Dark Prophecy (Trials of Apollo 02)
by Rick Riordan

Description:

Zeus has punished his son Apollo–god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more–by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo/Lester do anything about them without his powers? After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he’s gaining in new friendships–with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride. . . .

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Rating:

Review:

In the second entry to the trials of Apollo series we rejoin the Apollo/Lester, Leo & Calypso who are on the way to Indiana to find the second Oracle. During the quest they need to depend on each other more often and we learn more about Apollo’s past history with some of the major characters in the books and how that is causing the current mess they all are in. Apollo grows up a bit through the course of the novel and even though he is still self-centered and narcissistic to the core its good to see him start showing empathy towards the other characters. Plus his commentary on House-hold chores is hilarious along with the usual pop-culture references.

The book also briefly references other Pantheon’s so it will be interesting to see if that is expanded in the future books and if we have a crossover or not. Since this is a YA Fantasy the fight scenes are detailed enough to be fun but not so that it’s too gory. However there are a few scenes that younger readers might find a bit frightening. So parents would need to keep that in mind.

The book nicely sets up the next entry into the series and I am really looking forward to reading it.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book for any Fantasy book lovers.

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