Banebringer by Carol A. Park

banebringer

Banebringer is a book that was on my radar for quite a while, especially with such a cool cover and a few good reviews from trustworthy sources.  Here are just some of the ways in which I think the book  shined:

  • Well-written characters that are flawed, are willing to explore their motives and biases, and who ultimately land on the side of a code of morality.
  • A world that is both well outside of what could be humanly possible, and yet strangely comfortable and plausible.
  • A multi-layered, multi-faceted plot that has plenty of unpredictable moments, and is full of political and familial involvement.

 

While the best books will need to hold up in all those areas, I will always be drawn most to books that handle its characters best.  This book did that extremely well, most notably in its main characters.  I was especially compelled by Ivana.  She was written with such a complex backstory that was revealed in small tantalizing glimpses as the story progressed, and by the end, her motives that were shown throughout became not only clear, but filled me with so much respect for her.  She has flaws, and she does not let many people get close to her, and that makes her very relatable.  I found myself running the gamut of emotions around her arc from frustrated to disappointed to simpathetic.

 

The world was full of texture, nuance and depth.  Just one example was the magic system.  It felt somewhat fresh and new, authentic and viable.  I especially loved the twist that demonic creatures would be unleashed into the world if certain individuals were killed.  This added a layer of consequence to every action, and prevented fight scenes from simply becoming a bloodbath.  Speaking of the creatures, there were so many unique and interesting monsters that were a treat to read.

 

Finally, I loved the tone of this book.  This a world with its share of darkness and struggle, but it wasn’t grim.  (After a run of several grim books I have recently read, this struck a perfect balance between morality and a broken world.)  I loved that there was a little hope interwoven through this book, a willingness to stand up for those who are disadvantaged, and a commitment to what is right.

 

This is a book that I easily recommend, easily giving it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.  I am very curious to see where the series goes from here.  I would like to thank the author for the copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review – The Boy in the Window by Ditter Kellen

The good: Grief is a very real thing, and for Jessica 3 years hasn’t been long enough to emotionally heal from the death of her son Jacob.  This has put a strain on her relationship with her husband Owen, a man who is trying to support his wife in her pain while feeling ready to move on.  I thought this book portrayed grief very well, acknowledging that the timing and the healing is unique to the individual.  I thought that it also showed how unresolved grief can negatively all other aspects of someone’s life.  Finally, even with the support of caring individuals (including trained professionals), time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds.

The not-so-good: (I should probably start with a disclaimer that thrillers are not usually my go to.  I was probably not the target audience for this book, so I will take that into account.  In other words, I will not be unfairly harsh in my critique, but I will note what was not for me.)  As much as I thought that Jessica was well-represented in her grief, and I understand that IRL people dealing with grief has poor judgment, it became frustrating seeing Jessica make one misguided assumption after another.  While I applaud her efforts to find answers to a cold case, she became obsessed with that and quickly distanced herself from the person who cares about her the most, not allowing herself to see it.

I was also very upset at both how quickly sought comfort from another man, and then how much he seemed very willing to be the one to comfort her.  I am someone who wants to see faithfulness in relationships, and I did not like the scenes where these two interacted with each other.

Finally: This book has some parts that I think were done well, but others that I did not enjoy.  The book was written well, and it was easy enough to follow, even if there were almost no characters that I actually liked.  Again, being fair, I don’t think I was who this was written for.

I would like to thank the author for the copy of the audio book that was given to me in exchange for my honest review.

The Shadow Saint by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

shadow saint

I have spent the last 12 months eagerly anticipating The Shadow Saint by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan after I read (and absolutely loved) his fantasy novel of The Gutter Prayer.  Few books that I read last year came close to The Gutter Prayer in terms of sheer insanity, unforgettable characters and never-seen-before creatures, many-layered world building, and a plot that didn’t let go until the last page.  To be honest, as much as I was looking for the second installment in The Black Iron Legacy series, I was nervous that The Shadow Saint wouldn’t quite rise up to me sky-high expectations.  The bar was set very high.

This book takes place a few months since The Crisis, the cataclysmic events that culminated at the end of the former book.  Everything and everyone in Guerdon has been changed as a result of The Crisis, most notably the New City that has transformed the geography and political structure of the city.  The book starts with a clear sense of unrest and the unknown, and there is a jockeying for power.

We are introduced to several new characters, and some of the ones we met in the previous book, although some have gone through substantial changes.  Returning, and playing a major role, is Eladora, the meek and subservient cousin to Cari (the main character from Book 1).  Eladora’s unique familial and political connections thrust her out of her comfort zone constantly.  Rat also returns although he now rules over the world of the ghouls.  Several other supporting characters return, offering a bit of a connection to the cast from The Gutter Prayer.

New to this book is a mysterious Spy who assumes several different personas depending on the situation.  He is clearly a person of great influence, shifting from affable to sinister from one page to the next.  We also meet Terevant who is a nobody in a powerful family from Old Haith, only to discover that he is in much deeper than anyone expects.  Finally, several of the Dark Gods are featured, mostly vengeful, powerful, and awesome in scope.

Let me get it out of the way.  I missed Spar.  He was by far the reason I loved The Gutter Prayer as much as I did.  His desperate quest for survival and companionship was arguably my favorite from any book I read last year.  His role in The Shadow Saint is much less direct and that is probably my biggest regret for The Shadow Saint, an otherwise outstanding book.

Another regret I have about this book is that some of the terrible “monsters” that I loved (hated?) from The Gutter Prayer were either minimally involved or otherwise absent here.  I would have loved more of the Tallowmen and the Crawling Ones.  They were equal parts creepy and terrifying.  They were also sorely missed.

Setting aside that, the characters here are nearly as unforgettable as in The Gutter Prayer, and it could be argued that more characters are given deeper attention.  Also, I am a sucker for the overlooked and the underdog being given a featured role, and that was certainly true for Eladora and Terevant (among others).  I will give the slightest nod to The Gutter Prayer, but The Shadow Saint easily keeps pace.

Furthermore, for someone like me who holds quality characters as a highest criterion, everything else about this book was probably even better.  Where The Gutter Prayer’s plot at times had the slightest sense of “let’s just come up with something even weirder and cooler because we can”, this plot felt much more sturdy and foundational.  There was a more clear and concise path that the story was traveling (or so I thought until the inevitable twists were dropped) and boy did it build in intensity.

The world-building is something that can often trip me up in books, especially when dumped in page-long narratives.  The Shadow Saint wove in a massive amount of geography, history, politics, and religion, but I found myself wanting more (which is rare for me).  It all felt strangely plausible in a world that left me thinking WTF on several occasions.

Lastly, the writing was “just right”.  It effortlessly moved it all along with the right tone, the right timing, and the right voice.

Just like The Gutter Prayer, this book is unlike anything I have read.  If you are looking for something new and fresh (not to mention really weird – in a good way), and if you haven’t already picked up The Gutter Prayer, please, please, please pick it up along with The Shadow Saint.  And then shuffle them both to the top of your TBR pile.

I highly recommend this book!  4.7 / 5 stars.

I would like to than Orbit and Angela Mann for sending me this early copy for my fair and honest review.  My review was in no way influenced as a result.