Category Archives: Fantasy

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

Everlost

Stars: 4 out of 5

With Everlost, the first book in the Skinjacker series, Neal Shusterman created a fascinating world that I enjoyed exploring.

Nick and Allie die in a car crash, but instead of going all the way to the light at the end of the tunnel, they collide with each other and go of course. So they end up stuck in a world called Everlost – a place that permeates our real world, but in which things that had meaning in our world, but were for some reason destroyed, still remain. It’s a world where the Twin Towers are still standing in New York, the Titanic still sails the seas, the Hindenburg soars through the skies, and all the fortunes in the fortune cookies are always true.

Nick and Allie soon find out that only places that don’t exist in the real world anymore, that are solid in Everlost only, are safe for them. Everywhere else they start sinking into the ground if they stand still for too long. They also discover that this world is only populated by children, the oldest of which was barely 17 when she died, and that monsters do exist, even if they are man-made.

I absolutely loved the world of Everlost. The idea that the ghosts exit in this world that is near ours, but not entirely like ours, is fascinating. Also loved the fact that landmarks, buildings and objects that had some significance or importance to somebody pass into the Everlost as well when they are destroyed. Or that the Afterlights (because they don’t want to call themselves ghosts) are only safe in those places that passed into the Everlost too.

I loved following the main characters, but most of the supporting characters were just as fun to read about. Mary, and the McGill, and Leaf were all very real and well-portrayed characters with their own personalities and goals. They all are basically in the same boat – trying to make sense of what happened to them and figure out how to spend eternity in this strange place.

I was also happy with the fact that the author didn’t chose to go the easy way and populate this world with monsters or other creepy things. The only monsters our heroes encounter are man-made. In fact, this is one of the messages of the book – that you can chose what to be in Everlost, whether you will have the strength to stay human, or lock yourself in a mindless routine that you would be repeating forever, or even become a monster. Every soul copes with the circumstances differently. There is no right or wrong way. But this world is not sad and gloomy at all, because in the end, there is a coin for every lost soul to get to their final destination. They just have to be ready to take that last step.

I really enjoyed this first book and I can’t wait to dive into Everwild, the next book in the series. So if you enjoy a well-thought world and engaging characters, pick up Everlost and read it. Go do it now!

The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny

The Great Book of Amber

Stars 5 out of 5 (especially for the first 5 books in the series).

The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny will always have a very special place both on my bookshelf and in my heart. I was fifteen years old when I came upon the very first book in the series – Nine Princes in Amber. I had never heard of Zelazny before, I was more of a Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and Gabriel Garcia Marquez type. But I was home with a particularly nasty case of flu and nothing to do, so I cracked the book open, not expecting anything exceptional… and I got lost in the complex and wonderful world that Roger Zelazny had created. So much so that I read the first book deep into the night, until I reached the very last page. And when I did, I could barely wait until morning to rush to the library and get all the rest.

The world of the Amber Chronicles is absolutely fascinating. There are two original words – the House of Amber and the Court of Chaos, and a myriad of other worlds that are Shadows (reflections) of those two. Earth is one of those reflections. Amber has a royal family and a very large one at that, because the king, being immortal, had the chance to have many wives and lovers and father many children. So there are, like the first book says, nine Princes in Amber and about just as many Princesses. They have never been a very close-knit family during the best of times, but now the king is missing, and the rivalry for the succession has started. And everything goes in the battle for the throne of Amber…

I also fell in love with the protagonist of the first five books. Prince Corwin wakes up in a hospital on Earth after a terrible accident, with no memories of who he is and a nagging suspicion that the woman who claims to be his sister and who brought him to the hospital is not to be trusted. We discover this wonderful world through Corwin’s eyes, who is rediscovering it and his place in the grand scheme of things.

I love Corwin’s progression throughout the books. He starts off as an arrogant prince of Amber, who doesn’t give a damn about people born in Shadows and is only interested in getting back to Amber and taking the throne from his brother Eric. His reason behind this? Eric is technically a bastard, so he had no right to the throne. Plus Corwin thinks he is more suited to be King of Amber.

And then we follow this character through his journey and watch him transform into someone better, wiser and ultimately more “wholesome”. He makes some mistakes that have far reaching consequences and suffers the backlash for them. Some of his actions put people he cares about in danger. He also discovers that there is more behind his father’s disappearance than meets the eye. But more importantly, at the end of his personal journey, he decides that he doesn’t want the throne of Amber, because one of his brothers is much better suited to be a better king than he ever would be.

I also loved the whole Tarot system, where each Prince and Princess of Amber had a personal card, as well as some key locations in Amber, and Amberites could talk to each other and even travel through them. The episode where Corwin escapes from his prison cell by painting an image of a lighthouse and stepping into it absolutely blew my mind.

Finally, Roger Zelazny was a master of written word and a true poet. Some of his descriptions are so absolutely beautiful. I think I will always remember his description of Corwin riding his horse from Shadow to Shadow and the scenery changing and morphing around him.

Anyway, if you haven’t read anything by Roger Zelazny yet, I would suggest that you start with these books. The first one might have been written in 1970, but it is still just as beautiful and entertaining to read now than it was then.

The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke

Last Stormlord

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I loved the world Glenda Larke created, but on the other hand, the characters left me absolutely indifferent.

So let’s talk about the world first. This is a continent on which water is a precious commodity that is cherished and strictly regulated. In fact, the whole continent depends on the Stormlord to take water out of the distant sea, put it into clouds and guide those clouds towards the mountain range in the middle if the continent. There the clouds break and release the water as rain into the Mother Cistern from which it is distributed to all the cities and villages on the continent through an intricate system of tunnels and holding cisterns. Each city has its own water quota, and each citizen is given a daily ration. To be born waterless is the worst fate possible.

The system worked for centuries. So much so that everybody forgot what the time of Random Rain even was like. But now the old Stormlord is dying, and there is nobody powerful enough in water magic to take his place. Oh, there are plenty of rainlords in the cities, but none of them has the power to extract water vapor from the sea. So the whole continent is on the brink of a disaster and searching parties are sent to every single little village to test people and hopefully find a new stormlord. But the nomads of the Red Quarter are brewing a rebellion and dreaming of the return of Random Rain, and the Rainlord of one of the Scrapen cities has plans of his own. The whole continent is about to explode into violence… if it doesn’t die of dehydration first.

I loved the premise. I loved an entire society structured around the conservation of water, where every single drop is accounted for, and where water tokens are the main currency instead of gold. I think it’s a wonderful idea, and I looked forward to exploring this world.

This is where the book hit a wall, at least for me – I couldn’t empathize with the characters, and I was supposed to discover the world through their eyes.

Of the two main protagonists, Terelle rubbed me the wrong way the most. I mean she was so determined to run away and not become a snuggery girl that she ended up in even worse slavery in a way… and stayed there, not even trying to change her fate. But she kept complaining about her life constantly in her head, and the reader had to be part of all of her monologues. I wanted to shake her and yell, “If you are so unhappy, then grow a pair and CHANGE it!!! Or shut up and live with it if you are too chicken to act.” And she stayed the same throughout the book. Even in the end, when it had seemed that she had finally tried to do something about her situation, she still ended up doing what her master wanted her to do instead.

As for Shale… his whole story is a collection of tropes. Born to be the lowest of the low. Abusive father. Poor family. Tragedy that kills everyone he cares for. But he has a power that everybody wants! At this point the words Chosen One might as well start flashing over his head. This wouldn’t be too bad if the character had an interesting developmental arc in the book, but he doesn’t, at least not from my point of view. In just a couple years, he transforms from an ignorant boy who couldn’t even read and knew nothing about the world outside of his village into a young man who is more mature, educated, smart, talented (insert other qualities here) than everybody else.

That’s my other problem with this book. Apart from the two main characters, none of the supporting cast are interesting enough to empathize with. It seems that they are there to either guide our young heroes, or thwart them, or die in horrible suffering. So since I couldn’t find an emotional connection to anybody in the book, I was left watching the story unfold as an outsider. I finished the book, but I have absolutely no incentive to pick up the next one, sadly.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince of thorns

2 out of 5 stars.

I must admit that my mind is rather divided about this book. Usually I either like the book and finish it, or I don’t like the book and I abandon it. I finished Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence… but I am not sure I liked it.

The world-building is interesting. It is a medieval fantasy world in some aspects, but there are hints that this world survived on the ruins of our modern world. The castles the new kings and barons live in are built on the stumps of buildings that were made of reinforced concrete. There is a whole vault full of chemical weapons guarded by an artificial intelligence that has gone half-mad in the thousand or so so years of solitude. There are also hints that some horrible cataclysm took the life of so many people at once, that it tore the veil between life and death wide open, and now all kinds of undead stuff is bleeding back into our world. So all in all, the world is interesting, and I would have loved to discover more of it, but not enough to pick up the next book in the series. And the fault for my lack of enthusiasm lies square at the feet of the protagonist.

Prince Jorg is a psychopath, pure and simple. He is also a rapist, a torturer and a ruthless killer. And he doesn’t regret any of the horrible things he has done. Worse, he seems to enjoy them. And he is only 14 years old.  Yes, he has had to go through the horrible experience of watching his mother and younger brother getting slaughtered while he hung helpless and almost crucified in the hooks of a hook-briar bush. Yes, he survives only to see his father do nothing to avenge the murders. The author and the reader could find plenty of excuses for Jorg to have turned up the way he did. But do I want to follow the adventures of a murderous psychopath? Not really, no.

I would have stuck with the series if there had been any other characters to follow, even secondary ones. Unfortunately, all of them are unremarkable. They are only there to play second fiddle to Jorg. I mean, I still don’t understand why the captain of the Palace Guard sent to find the young prince would stick with him for four years and watch him and his merry band of bandits pillage, rape, murder, and burn his way up and down the highroad. Why would he still be loyal to the twisted monster his prince turned into? If you consider what little we see of this character’s believes, that makes no sense at all. The only logic for this is – the author wanted it this way.

So my conclusion is – this is an intriguing world, but I have no desire to watch young Jorg continue his glorious march from King to Emperor, probably leaving death and devastation in his wake, just because he felt like it.