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Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner ARC {4 Stars}

Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner is another intricate and fascinating fantasy in The Chronicle of the Exile. While it is somewhat a sequel to When the Heavens Fall, it can easily be read on its own, though you’ll probably then be too addicted to not go back and read book one ;-). If you enjoy addictively readable door-stopper fantasies with many interweaving points-of-view, this is a series not to miss!

Note: I received an advanced copy of Dragon Hunters from the author. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner ARC {4 Stars}

Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner (The Chronicle of the Exile #2)
Published by Tor Books on Feb. 9th, 2016
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Page Length: 496 pages
How I got my copy: Author
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Once a year on Dragon Day the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to let a sea dragon pass into the Sabian Sea. There, it will be hunted by the Storm Lords, a fellowship of powerful water-mages who rule an empire called the Storm Isles.

Emira Imerle Polivar is coming to the end of her tenure as leader of the Storm Lords, but she has no intention of standing down graciously. As part of her plot to hold on to power, she instructs an order of priests known as the Chameleons to sabotage the Dragon Gate. There’s just one problem: that will require them to infiltrate an impregnable citadel that houses the gate’s mechanism — a feat that has never been accomplished before.

But Imerle is not the only one intent on destroying the Storm Lord dynasty. As the Storm Lords assemble in answer to a mysterious summons, they become the targets of assassins working for an unknown enemy. And when Imerle sets her scheme in motion, that enemy uses the ensuing chaos to play its hand.

4 Stars

Strengths:
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The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin Audiobook {5 Stars}

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin is the start of a new epic fantasy series that combines unique writing, amazing world-building, epic global conflict, and a kick-butt heroine, meaning that this is basically my new favorite series. I’m going to have to try hard not to break down into a gibbering mess during this review…. I absolutely loved The Fifth Season and I especially loved it on audio because the narrator does a fantastic job bringing these characters to life. Fans of epic fantasy should really drop everything and go get a copy of The Fifth Season immediately.

Note: I received an audio copy of The Fifth Season from the publisher. Listening to a book on audio significantly changes my reading experience.

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin Audiobook {5 Stars}

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
Narrated by Robin Miles
(The Broken Earth)
Published by Hatchette Audio, Orbit on Aug. 4th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Page Length: 449 pages
Audio Length: 15 hours 31 mins
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze -- the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years -- collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She'll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

5 Stars

Strengths:
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When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner {4 Stars}

When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner is an epic fantasy debut that took me completely by surprise. I was excited about the idea of a fallible lord of the dead who lost a valuable object and the battle between a number of heroes to get that object back, but I had no idea the world of When the Heavens Fall would be so rich and engrossing! If you are a fan of a solid plot and characters set in a flourishing world, this is a series not to miss!

Note: I received an advanced copy of When the Heavens Fall from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner {4 Stars}

When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner (The Chronicle of the Exile #1)
Published by Tor Books on May 19th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Page Length: 544 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

If you pick a fight with Shroud, the Lord of the Dead, you had better make sure you end up on the winning side, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering.

A book that gives its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost.

However, the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the powerful magic that has been unleashed. Among them is a reluctant Guardian who is commissioned by the Emperor to find the stolen Book, a troubled prince who battles enemies both personal and political, and a young girl of great power, whose past uniquely prepares her for an encounter with Shroud. The greatest threat to each of their quests lies not in the horror of an undead army but in the risk of betrayal from those closest to them. Each of their decisions comes at a personal cost and will not only affect them, but also determine the fate of their entire empire.

4 Stars

Strengths:
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The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu eARC {3 Stars}

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu is a sweeping tale of war set in a “silk punk” world clearly inspired by various Asian folklores. The Grace of Kings is one of those books that I can see the incredible technical merit of, but didn’t enjoy personally as much as I’d hoped. The tone reminded me starkly of a bird’s-eye-view of the story, instead of connecting closely with one or two characters, so if you don’t need close character connections to enjoy a story, The Grace of Kings might be more for you than it was for me.

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Grace of Kings from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu eARC {3 Stars}

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu (The Dandelion Dynasty #1)
Published by Saga Press on April 7th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Military Fantasy
Page Length: 640 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, soaring battle kites, conspiring goddesses, underwater boats, magical books, as a streetfighter-cum-general who takes her place as the greatest tactitian of the age. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

3 Stars

Strengths:
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The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley ARC {4 Stars}

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley is an incredibly ambitious and wonderful epic fantasy that throws out every rulebook trope of the genre to create a truly magical experience. The Mirror Empire combines awesome magic dependent on which star is most present in the sky with parallel worlds battling for their very survival as an apocalypse approaches that occurs every 2000 years. Forget fantasy based on Medieval Europe with kings and knights, bring in a number of matriarchal societies, plus societies with completely different gender norms (5 genders) and marriage arrangements (understandable with 5 genders), and did I mention the swords that grow out of warriors’ wrists?? This description only barely scratches the surface of all the cool things that The Mirror Empire brings together, but if you love world-building and want a truly unique fantasy read, just trust me on this one ;-).

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Mirror Empire from the publisher. I have been informed that a fair amount has changed and been added in the final version.

This book has adult content.
The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley ARC {4 Stars}

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley (Worldbreaker Saga #1)
Published by Angry Robot on August 26th, 2014
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Page Length: 544 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past... while a world goes to war with itself. 

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.

Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of ruin.

As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father's people or loyalty to her alien Empress.  

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself. 

In the end, one world will rise - and many will perish.

4 Stars

Strengths:
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Top Ten Books if You Like Game of Thrones

Top Ten Tuesday

Thanks to the gals of The Broke and The Bookish for hosting this meme every week!

Since Game of Thrones has become such a popular TV show, I run into a lot of people who have seen the show and maybe started to read the books and haven’t read much other fantasy at all. I’m then forced to try to get them to read all the awesome other books out there that they should if they like Game of Thrones :D. Now, I know one thing that a lot of people like about Game of Thrones is the court intrigue, but I’m not actually a big fan of court intrigue, so I can’t really make book recommendations for that aspect >.>. However, I can make other types of recommendations :D.

More Epic Fantasy

The Way of Kings Elantris A Turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda The Demon King The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
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Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson eARC {4 Stars}

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson is the second book in the Stormlight Archive series. As you can imagine if you’ve read or even just seen the first book, Way of Kings, Words of Radiance is huge in both page count and scope, building a fantasy world and characters that continue to amaze. Way of Kings introduced several main characters with their own plot lines and Words of Radiance brings those three plots together as the end of the world rapidly approaches. Words of Radiance avoids second-book syndrome so successfully that I think I’m now spoiled for every future second book I read. While you’ll need to devote a fair amount of time to reading Words of Radiance, I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The ending of the Way of Kings promised crazy epicness and Words of Radiance delivers 100% on that promise. There will be some spoilers below if you haven’t read Way of Kings yet, so I suggest you get to reading :D. Also, I’m struggling a bit with this review due to the sheer amount of things I want to talk about regarding Words of Radiance, so I’m sure I’ll miss something. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments as I’d love to gush with you :D.

Note: I received an eARC of Words of Radiance in exchange for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version, notably, I didn’t get to see the fun illustrations and chapter heading text for the first half of my reading, though I have since caught up ;-).

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson eARC {4 Stars}

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (The Stormlight Archive #2)
Published by Tor Books on March 4, 2014
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Page Length: 1088 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Roshar is shared by humans and the enigmatic, humanoid Parshendi, with whom they are at war. Among those caught up in the conflict are Brightlord Dalinar Kholin, who leads the human armies; his sister Jasnah, a renowned scholar; her student Shallan, a brilliant but troubled young woman; and Kaladin, a military slave who, by the book’s end, had become the first magically endowed Knight Radiant in centuries.

In Words of Radiance their intertwined stories will continue and, as Sanderson fans have come to expect, develop in unexpected, wonderfully surprising directions. The war with the Parshendi will move into a new, dangerous phase, as Dalinar leads the human armies deep into the heart of the Shattered Plains in a bold attempt to finally end it. Shallan will come along, hoping to find the legendary, perhaps mythical, city of Urithuru, which Jasnah believes holds a secret vital to mankind’s survival on Roshar. The Parshendi take a dangerous step to strengthen themselves for the human challenge, risking the return of the fearsome Voidbringers of old. To deal with it all, Kaladin must learn to how to fulfill his new role as leader of the restored Knights Radiant, while mastering the powers of a Windrunner.

4 Stars

Strengths:
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Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder eARC {3.5 Stars}

Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder is the conclusion to the Healer trilogy. It concludes the story of Avry and Kerrick and their fight to bring peace to their continent after the devastating plague destroyed the fabric of society. Taste of Darkness, and the Healer series in general, struggled a bit with trying to tell too long and epic of a story in three moderately-sized books. I ended up frequently feeling rushed, but also excited about everything that was happening. That being said, I found Taste of Darkness to be a very satisfying end to this fun and creative fantasy trilogy.

Note: I received Taste of Darkness through Netgalley for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder eARC {3.5 Stars}

Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder (Healer #3)
Published by Harlequin MIRA on Dec 31st, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 400 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

She's fought death and won. But how can she fight her fears?

Avry knows hardship and trouble. She fought the plague and survived. She took on King Tohon and defeated him. But now her heart-mate, Kerrick, is missing, and Avry fears he's gone forever.

But there's a more immediate threat. The Skeleton King plots to claim the Fifteen Realms for his own. With armies in disarray and the dead not staying down, Avry's healing powers are needed now more than ever.Torn between love and loyalty, Avry must choose her path carefully. For the future of her world depends on her decision.

3.5 Stars

Strengths:

  • Taste of Darkness continues the POV switching between Avry and Kerrick, which worked really well. It gave Taste of Darkness a chance to tell a complete story about the things going on in the world, since again Kerrick and Avry spend a significant time apart. It’s also fun to see what they think of each other *swoon*.
  • Gah! The bad guys get creepier if that’s possible! There is a new villain (pseudo-king) on the scene and he makes Tohon look like a sadistic kitten…. Tohon is still making trouble of course though, leading to all the shenanigans!
  • I enjoyed the intricate plot twists and turns that Taste of Darkness contained. You definitely need to be paying attention, let me tell you!
  • Taste of Darkness had quite a satisfying ending. I wasn’t in love with all the choices made, but I think people will be happy with how things turn out :).
  • We get to find out more about the plague and it was awesome! Avry is so clever and used fairly accurate (if you consider magic is involved) medical know-how, woot!

Weaknesses:

  •  OMG why won’t people just stay dead???? You know how someone dies in the first book but then… yeah that continues A LOT. I won’t tell you who or when of course, but after the third time someone tragically dies, but then really isn’t dead in this series, I get annoyed.
  • Some of the gang of secondary characters conveniently changed personalities and discovered a savant ability when it was obviously really convenient. Ugh.
  • Maybe I was just too tired while reading Taste of Darkness at times, but wow did I get confused at times. Especially in my eARC, there weren’t chapter divisions between Avry and Kerrick’s switches, making it all the more tricky to figure out who is narrating and what is going on.
  • Due to the sheer number of events that are stuffed in to Taste of Darkness, I felt that I got disconnected from Avry. Where is that spunky character that I wanted to be BFFs with in the first book? She’s off doing something and being tough, which is all well and good, but she lost a bit of her human element.

Summary:

Taste of Darkness is definitely a finale that most people will enjoy. If you’ve read this far in the trilogy, you might as well finish right! Plus, there are so many cool things we finally find out about in Taste of Darkness, so I really do recommend it if you’ve enjoyed the first two books. This trilogy in general made me constantly wish it had been stretched into about five books so that we could spend more time with the characters and not rush through events as much, but it is what it is. If that hasn’t bothered you yet, no reason for it to bother you now ;-).

3.5 Stars
Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

– Anya

 

 Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder

Five Stars: Fire by Kristin Cashore Audiobook

“It is not a peaceful time in the Dells.” –Goodreads summary of Fire by Kristin Cashore. Indeed, between strange boys with two different colored eyes and the power to influence minds invading and the rebel lords just waiting for a time to strike, the King has his hands full. Unfortunately for Fire, he also therefore, has need of her supernatural abilities, though her supernatural beauty is also the last thing some people seem to want around the king….

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Graceling, and so when I saw the companion (but not sequel), Fire by Kristin Cashore on audiobook at the library, it seemed a logical choice! I haven’t read Graceling, so there won’t be any spoilers :D. This is also proof that you don’t need to have read Graceling to enjoy Fire.

Fire by Kristin Cashore Goodreads Amazon
Title:
Fire
Author: Kristin Cashore
Discs: 10 (audiobook)
Genre-ish: Epic fantasy (YA?)
Rating★★★★ – Imaginative world, strong plot
Setting: Fire by Kristin Cashore is set in the same fantasy world as Graceling, but a different part of the world. In the Dells, there are not people with two different colored eyes (for the most part), but instead there are individuals of all species born with coloring of bright and unusual color and extreme beauty. These individuals also have the ability to control unprotected minds and read thoughts. While “monster” insects and other small things are uncommon, but seen fairly frequently, monster humans are so rare, only one is currently known to be alive.
Premise: The Dells were under the rule of a mad king and his cruel monster adviser previously, until that king and adviser both died horrible deaths. Now, the mad king’s children are trying to put the kingdom back together, but two rebel lords are not making that an easy task. What would make it easier, however, is if the monster adviser’s daughter, Fire, who is the last known monster human, would use her mind control power on these strange empty-headed spies that have started cropping up in odd places…. Unfortunately, Fire is nothing like her father, and is determined not to use her powers for evil, though these empty-headed spies are starting to worry and intrigue her as well. The very precocious boy with two differently colored eyes that showed up at the palace and started torturing monster animals is starting to worry and intrigue her as well….

Strengths:

  • The narrator! I looooooved Xanthe Elbrick‘s narration. The voices that she used for the different characters were marvelous and unique, and really added another dimension to an already wonderful story.
  • Fire! While Fire had moments where she didn’t make the best decisions, she had strong morals and a dedication to friends and strangers that was just so moving. She’s a character that I’d really like to meet in real life, since I really ended up wanting to be friends with her.
  • I loved the feel of the world and the powers that monsters had. This came from a combination of the fantasy writing style and the idea of all animals being able to be born multi-colored and with mind-control powers! It was really fun to see how Cashore worked this into the society with the poor using monster rat pelts as decorations and the rich having monster cats which used mind-control to catch rats. Cashore was very creative in her use of such a cool idea :D.

Weaknesses:

  • Why is there so much need to talk about periods all the time?? I swear, we heard about every single time that Fire had her period, and it just wasn’t necessary!
  • There were some strange inconsistencies and random things that didn’t end up actually mattering, which annoyed me. The rest of this line could be seen as a minor spoiler, though again, didn’t actually matter for the plot, but just to warn you. At one point, Fire makes herself infertile for a while, which generally (at least with our modern science) means that she shouldn’t get her period anymore, but she still does (which we know, because we hear about every time!). This didn’t work for me. It also didn’t end up mattering at all, so I didn’t see the point in Cashore writing about it to begin with….
  • Archer and Fire’s relationship is a bit “loose” at times? And apparently this bothers people, not me in particular, but other people, and maybe you. But it also doesn’t end up mattering in the end.

Summary:

I really enjoyed listening to Fire by Kristin Cashore on audio, and definitely recommend you grab the audiobook version if you are in the need of an audiobook! I found the world and characters to be fun and compelling, and am really looking forward to reading Graceling and Bitterblue! While there were a couple things that through me off about the book, for the most part I found myself super looking forward to driving just so that I could go back to the Dells and hang out with Fire some more. Cashore did a wonderful job portraying a vibrant character and story, since the way I keep wanting to describe this book is with color, and my memories of the scenes are all with bright colors!

Have you been reading the Graceling books? What order are you reading them in? What did you think?

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Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings – A

 

 Fire by Kristin Cashore

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Four Stars: Wothlondia Rising by Gary Vanucci

Wothlondia Rising by Gary Vanucci is a collection of six short stories set in the fantasy world of Wothlondia; between ogres, Faceless Knights, zombie hordes and demon containing amulets, there is plenty of adventure for each of the characters. The short stories are all prequel events to the next full novel Covenant of the Faceless Knights.

I was very excited to meet Gary Vanucci at GenCon this year and he was kind enough to provide me copies of his Beginnings Books, of which Wothlondia Rising is the first. While there were a few things that bothered me while I was reading Wothlondia Rising, I did genuinely enjoy the characters that we are introduced to in this anthology of short stories and am quite excited to see what happens in the full length novel, Covenant of the Faceless Knights!

Wothlondia Rising by Gary Vanucci

Goodreads | Amazon
Title:
Wothlondia Rising (Beginnings #1)
Author: Gary Vanucci
Pages: 3700 Kindle locations
Genre-ish: DnD-style high Fantasy
Rating: ★★★– great characters, needs some editting
Setting: Wothlondia is a world that you could easily encounter in a table-top roleplaying game such as Dungeons and Dragons. There are elves, half-elves, ogres, half-ogres, humans, dragons, griffins, giant eagles, walking dead, etc. Magic and steel are both good ways for adventurers to defend themselves with plenty of potion brewing and praying to various gods thrown in for good measure.
Premise: Each of the short stories stands on its own and each is about one main character and a defining event(s) that happened to them. These range from a horde of zombies invading to someone being injured at a wedding to an amulet being stolen.

Strengths:

  • I really liked all of the characters that we encountered and their stories make me excited to see how they all come together in the full length novels.
  • While there are a lot of books set in these high fantasy worlds, I felt that Wothlondia Rising had some originality and expansion of typical ideas to keep it feeling fresh.
  • Yey for kick-butt female barbarians that don’t let their father keep them from kicking zombie butt!!
  • I really like the whole idea of a short story anthology to explain various stories that made characters who they are. It adds a nice depth.
  • A few days after finishing this anthology, the characters that were introduced keep springing to my mind and making me smile. Wothlondia Rising evidently succeeded in having some really likable characters :).

Weaknesses:

  • As with many indie books, Wothlondia Rising definitely would have shown brighter with another round of editing. Many sentences had redundant or awkward phrasing in addition to the typical (but a bit too frequent) grammatical typos.
  • Slightly along those lines as well, the main plot arches of several of the short stories was not traditional at all and so was rather jarring to realize, “wait, that’s the end, but there was no resolution!!” Especially in short stories I feel that at least most of the traditional plot arc needs to be respected so that the reader has some grounding.
  • There was a fairly frequent use of exclamation points in the narrator’s text, which just struck me as odd. Now I’m definitely a fan of exclamation points (see above), but it takes away from the narrator’s voice if they are used too frequently. You shouldn’t use exclamation points to make the reader understand something is exciting, you should use your text.
  • Similarly when it came to the narrator’s voice, there was a bit too much info-dumping for the sake of the reader’s understanding, to the point that I felt like the narrator was explaining parenthetically to me because the narrator didn’t think I’d get what was going on otherwise. It’s important to trust your readers to pick up on things without as much hand-holding; it keeps them on their toes ;-).

Summary:
While there were some really great characters and ideas in Wothlondia Rising, it just didn’t perform as well as it could have. I say it over and over, but it’s really important to get some good editing even for indie books, since otherwise those great ideas will get muddled. If you are a reader who doesn’t mind this frequent problem with indie books, and perhaps does some table-top gaming, then you should definitely pick up Wothlondia Rising. If, on the other hand, those types of mistakes would bother you greatly, perhaps just wait for another book by Vanucci to come out, since I’ve definitely found those things to improve in later books. Also I love table-top roleplaying. :D

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-A
Anya from About The StorySimilar Stories Reviewed:
Time of the Twins by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – More table-top gaming inspired fantasy!
Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – Even more! OMG so good!

Wothlondia Rising by Gary Vanucci