Tag Archives: Nicole

SECOND OLYMPUS: Nicole’s Review

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00025]Title: SECOND OLYMPUS

Author: K.A. Stewart

Publisher(s): Pirate Ninja Press

Format: Paperback

Genre(s): Fantasy/Steampunk

Release Date: April 21, 2015

Synopsis:

I loved this book! It felt like a breath of fresh air among the sometimes stale mix of Greek gods-themed storylines.

In case you haven’t guessed from the cover, SECOND OLYMPUS has steampunk overtones, and that’s part of what makes it great. K.A. Stewart opts to mash up Greek mythology with air ships and the gas-light street-born grittiness of a WWI-esque era.

As a result of Apollo dying in the long-ago war between the gods, the world has been left without a sun, so all light comes from Artemis’ tower and the lamps flickering in the streets. Stewart does an excellent job conveying the consequences of living for centuries within a crowded, walled city with no natural light: deep mining projects that cause the very ground to become unstable, tenement housing built and rebuilt on top of itself year after year, the challenge of growing and cultivating enough food for people.

Review:

I quickly found myself steeped in the world. It’s a haunting take on our own industrial revolution and shows a world on the brink without veering into the stereotypes of true dystopian territory.

The book also shines in Stewart’s portrayal of the gods themselves, mainly Artemis (we’ll get back to her in a moment), Persephone, Demeter, Hades and Hephaestus. Yes, these characters are still gods, but they are gods brought to their KNEES in a way that flips our old assumptions of power on their heads and gives even the most powerful very human-seeming flaws, vulnerabilities, and redeeming qualities.

The story is driven largely by two pairs of characters.

On the mortal side, we have Geoff and Lia, who have grown up together in the dirty wards of Elysia and have managed to steal a good bit of happiness from rather terrible circumstances. I loved the normalness and everyday love of their relationship!

Geoff has been crippled from birth by bad knees, not that he ever lets it stop him (he navigates mine tunnels and freehand climbs a rope to an airship), and he’s been gifted with a unique power to influence those around him as a muse. Most often, I’ve seen the muses used as a convenient nudge for a heroic MC. Stewart takes a broader approach that captures the true power of inspiration and imagination inherent in the muses. I really liked that switch.

Geoff is an unassuming and very grounded MC, which is a brilliant contrast to his antagonist in Artemis. He carefully guards his power, understanding full well the level of influence and control he could have over others should he so choose.

On the more-than-mortal side of the board, we have Artemis and Heracles. I loved these two! There is so much dark backstory hinted at here…it’s incredibly compelling. Let’s tackle them one at a time.

Artemis might take the prize for most intriguing and well-crafted crazy villainess of the year. Stewart expertly gives us revealing glimpses of the once great, noble and innocent huntress, while also making it painfully clear that by the book’s opening the virgin goddess has fallen to near-total insanity. Artemis is clever, strong…and lives in complete fear (and occasional regret) of what she’s done in the past and of losing what she’s wrought for the future. I alternated between wanting her to die a drawn-out painful death and wanting to see her redeem herself because she’s just so darn fun to read.

Heracles, then, is the perfect foil for Artemis. We learn that the former hero teamed with Artemis for good reason at the war’s beginnings, but over the millennia he’s become aware that he’s now playing bodyguard for the evil side. His reactions and actions in light of that realization drive the heart of the plot. Stewart’s Heracles is neither the plucky hero nor the annoying too-perfect rival—roles all too commonly assigned to him in other tales. Instead, he’s more remorseful, jaded. A man searching for a way to earn redemption while keeping his word, and that makes him altogether FAR more interesting.

One other aspect worth mentioning is Stewart’s clever interpretation of Artemis’ “hunt.” The hunt is another Greek element that’s been done in several ways. For SECOND OLYMPUS, Stewart puts a paranormal twist on the goddess’ ability to create and manipulate the hounds of her hunt, formerly men in their own rights. It’s eerie and telling, and strikes the perfect tone for this epic Greek tale.

Needless to say, I enjoyed this one immensely!

5 Stars

-Nicole

(Originally posted on FantasyFaction.com)

Find this book on Amazon.

THIS SHATTERED WORLD: Nicole’s Review

This Shattered World CoverTitle: THIS SHATTERED WORLD

Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Publisher(s): Disney/Hyperion

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 400

Genre(s): YA Fantasy – Space Opera

Release Date: Dec. 23, 2014

Synopsis:
Last year, I unexpectedly fell in love with the YA space opera THESE BROKEN STARS, so I was excited to see where Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner took the story next in THIS SHATTERED WORLD.

The story introduces two new main characters, Jubilee “Lee” Chase—a stone-cold military captain at age 18—and Flynn Cormac—the peace-desiring leader of the local revolution. After Flynn kidnaps Lee from her base to gain information, the two discover not only an undeniable chemistry but the memory residue of a secret base on Flynn’s world of Avon.

Flynn believes it has something to do with why Avon has failed to fully terraform; Lee worries it could be a trigger for what the military calls “the Fury,” the sudden snapping of a soldier’s brain with disastrous consequences.

The truth ends up being even bigger than they suspect, with alien entities, corrupt galactic corporations, and the reappearance of Lilac and Tarver, the MCs of THESE BROKEN STARS.

Review:

While this book veered further into the predictable YA realm than the first one did, the tight pacing kept the action coming throughout. The pure sci-fi elements are, perhaps, also a little lighter in this one, though I think the main reason for that is the authors’ decision to go deeper in areas we’re already familiar with from book 1, rather than introducing entirely new aspects.

Part of what I liked in book 1 was the conflicted perspective and understanding of humans among the “whispers,” the series’ alien essences. The whispers aren’t fully good or evil, and THIS SHATTERED WORLD showed us that delicate interaction and surprising connection with humanity once again. I’m excited to see how Kaufman and Spooner weave the pieces together for the trilogy’s final installment.

In THESE BROKEN STARS, Kaufman and Spooner used a brilliant between-chapter scene ploy to foreshadow the outcomes for their main characters through the lens of a military interrogation. They apply a similar approach in THIS SHATTERED WORLD with Lee’s dream flashbacks/flashforwards. As with the first book, these between-chapter snippets have a world of meaning—throughout the story, we’re told Lee cannot and does not dream—and it was fun to see that revelation come full-circle by the novel’s end.

But the most delightful surprise in this book was the creativity of the worldbuilding premise. I say premise because I actually wish the authors had carried it a little further and delved a little deeper, but the mash-up they created for Avon was excellent. Environmentally, it’s a pioneer world, suspended in early terraform stages with seemingly endless swamps and a constant cloud cover that blocks stars and messes with radio signals. Culturally, it’s steeped in Irish myth and legend—from its language to its storytelling traditions. The rebels are known as the Fianna, soldiers are trodairi, and a handful of other references hearken back to the era of the Troubles in Ireland.

I loved the juxtaposition of Irish history with a space opera. It’s like my loves of history and reading collided! Throw in Chinese traditions via Jubilee and the base’s bartender, and it’s got a fun cultural flair that’s a bit reminiscent of Firefly.

Overall, THIS SHATTERED WORLD is a solid second book and I’m looking forward to the next.

4 Stars

-Nicole

(Originally posted on FantasyFaction.com)

Find this book on Amazon.

CODEX ALERA: Nicole’s Series Review

Furies of Calderon

Title: FURIES OF CALDERON, ACADEM’S FURY, CURSOR’S FURY, CAPTAIN’S FURY, PRINCEPS’ FURY, FIRST LORD’S FURY

Author: Jim Butcher

Publisher: Ace

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Release Date: Various

Review:

I loved this series so much! Jim Butcher is one of those authors people have always told me to read, but I was hesitant for so many years. Then, I fell in love with his DRESDEN FILES and CODEX ALERA now ranks among my top 5 beloved series of all time.

It’s an excellent mix of epic and military fantasy, with an incredibly deep cast of characters. With each book, I found myself cheering for Butcher’s MC, Tavi, more and more. He IS what fantasy heroes are made of. And the villain!! Ooh, guys, chills. One of the best written, truly creepy villains ever.

Let’s all agree—battle scenes are awesome! And part of what makes them great, in my mind, is when the author pays attention to the level of detail found in history. From an army’s structure to camp logistics, to weaponry and strategies, history provides a good template. I love it when authors honor the limits of history and force characters to work only with the tools and knowledge that would have been available to them in that era.

CODEX ALERA is one of the best examples of this. Butcher has created an amazing, intricate world with elemental furies, non-human allies and enemies, and other strong fantasy elements, but the heart of the story is wrapped in the military trappings of the Roman Legion. It’s the best of both worlds, and I can’t get enough!

The series is everything I love about fantasy: great characters, a beautifully developed world, gritty action and hard choices, epic good vs. evil battles where the stakes keep rising and the heroes keep paying the price, and a plot that kept even me guessing (seriously brilliant military strategy and applications of magic).

Like a little history in your fantasy? Check out these reads too.

5 Stars

-Nicole

Find the series on Amazon.

HEROES OF OLYMPUS: Nicole’s Series Mini Review

Heroes of Olympus

Title: THE LOST HERO, THE SON OF NEPTUNE, THE MARK OF ATHENA, THE HOUSE OF HADES, THE BLOOD OF OLYMPUS

Author: Rick Riordan

Publisher(s): Disney/Hyperion

Format: Various

Genre(s): MG Fantasy

Release Date: Various

Review:

So far, I’ve loved every Rick Riordan book I’ve read. THE LOST HERO was no exception! I came into it with high expectations because I loved the Percy Jackson series, and the book did an excellent job balancing familiar characters with a new team of fun, believable heroes. It didn’t take long to start cheering for Jason, Leo and Piper! Riordan’s ability to intertwine humor, heart and action shines through.

The expanded cast of characters is a lot of fun—Leo is my favorite (If he and Sadie Kane got together, I’d never stop laughing. Those two!)—and I always admire Riordan’s ability to fit so much action, info and humor on the page. He makes me ignore my “one more chapter” rule all the time.

I read MARK OF ATHENA and HOUSE OF HADES back-to-back, and I’m starting Blood of Olympus now. These last couple books have really brought the nail-biting stakes! This series is one of those where I don’t want to finish because I can’t bear to leave the characters behind.

4 Stars

-Nicole

Find the series on Amazon.