Book Review: The Quest of the Unaligned by A. L. Phillips

Title: The Quest of the Unaligned

Author: A. L. Phillips

Rating: ★ ★ ½

Genre: Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure

Published: 2013 by BorderStone Press LLC

Format: E-book, 356 pages

Synopsis: “In the city of Tonzimmel, where hover-cars zip over anonymous crowds, contracts are king, and education is everything, Alaric has worked hard to make a decent life for himself. As a level nine security chief, he needs no one and nothing, and is in control of his fate. Or so he thinks. When a stranger from neighboring Cadaeren suddenly appears, however, babbling of magic, quests, and long-lost princes, Alaric finds himself contractually obligated to undertake a journey that his training hasn’t prepared him for: the Quest of the Unaligned. Accompanied by Laeshana, a Cadaerian native who has reasons of her own for helping him on his quest, Alaric is soon plunged into a perilous adventure that will force him to confront a seemingly impossible truth and embrace his destiny, even as the fate of Cadaeren hangs in the balance.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

I thought this book started off a little shaky, but definitely picked itself up in the middle. As the story opens, we meet Alaric, a level 9 security officer who has been raised all his life in Tonzimmel. Tonzimmel supports a Gesellschaft culture where each person fights for themselves in order to move up the social ladder. When we meet Alaric, he seems rigid and unimpressionable, similar to the masses in his black uniform and boots. He was extremely bland until he meets Ruahkini, an air mage from Cadaeren who declares he’s the missing prince and heir to Cadaeren. Hearing this news, Alaric is both disgusted and amused as Cadaeren is depicted as a crazy place outside the walls of Tonzimmel. While Tonzimmel boasts hard work and science, Cadaeren encapsulates the ideas of a Gemeinschaft culture where your birth determines your status. Not only that, but the mage declares that he has magic, which Alaric almost laughs himself unconscious at.

Ruahkini convinces Alaric to take on a wager with knife-throwing (Alaric’s best skill). If Alaric won, his bar tab would be pre-paid for a month, but if he lost, he has to attempt the Quest of the Unaligned. This is a quest that the prince of Cadaeren must go on before their coronation ceremony. Of course Alaric takes on the wager as he considers himself the best knife-thrower in Tonzimmel – and of course he loses. And from there, we follow him as he leaves Tonzimmel and journeys to Cadaeren to begin his quest. On his way to Cadaeren, he is accompanied by Laeshana, a friend who he had believed was a mechanic/engineer back in Tonzimmel, but was in fact an aesh (a mage aligned with fire).

At this point, Alaric’s personality was really annoying and rubbed at me in all the wrong places. He was condescending and ignorant, which I knew was intentional. Because of his ‘Tonzemmelian’ traits, he almost gets both he and Laeshana killed when he declares that he would take the mountain path, even after she warns him of a dragon lurking there. Of course, as a person of science, he scoffs at the idea (fair enough) and declares that will do whatever he wants even though Laeshana was there to be his guide. He’s a level 9 security officer, of course he knows best! (Sarcastic) Not surprisingly, they meet the dragon which made for a very exciting read. However, it was pretty unbelievable as I kept wondering why the dragon didn’t bother to use fire to incinerate them. And Alaric definitely defeated it too easily.

Following that encounter, we see a little bit of change within Alaric, he becomes less sceptical of magic and of Cadaeren being as insane as he first thought. While he still exhibits many Tonzimmelian traits, his character was changing. After a while, they arrive at the Temple where the King’s Crown is held, but alas, it’s stolen! The second half of the novel follows Alaric, Laeshana and the apprentice of the temple on their journey to retrieve the crown. This was where everything got much more interesting and where Alaric definitely grew as a character. What I found a little sceptical was how much he changed in just a few weeks – while it was definitely nice to see, 21 years of upbringing within one culture does not equate to immediate assimilation into a culture that is directly opposite to what you’re used to.

What I do applaud is Phillip’s ability to develop her characters. I think character development is one of the most important things within a good novel, right after plot, and she did it really well with Alaric. Throughout his quest, he is faced with the themes of duty, trust, morality and the continual issue of statuses depicting a persons’ worth. This was done extremely well with Alaric. What I had problems with was his parents, the king and queen of Cadaeren and their decision to send Alaric away to be brought up in Tonzimmel in the first place. This was only explained briefly, and not even enough for it to make sense. From what I could tell, they sent him away so he could be ‘unbalanced’ and not lean towards any one element. What they essentially did was send him to a MAGIC-LESS place which was not only idiotic but what kind of parents does that make you when you send your ONLY child away to be brought up parentless. How are they even fit to rule when your actions show you don’t even love your child, let alone your people. I’m surprised civil war did not start while Alaric was away.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read as the action picked up in the second part of the novel. I liked Alaric’s character development but I can’t say I was invested in any of the other characters enough, which is a shame. Especially Naruhan for his selfless sacrifice to buy Alaric time and save him from death. It would have been good to get some insight into the monarchy of Cadaeren as the two rulers seem quite … oblivious to everything. Very fairy-airy to be exact. But the book does have a nice ending, which was a good close to the story.

Thanks to A. L. Phillips for providing an e-copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Cover Reveal and Giveaway: The Dragon Carnivale (The Queen of the Realm of Faerie #3) by Heidi Garrett

TheDragonCarnivaleCoverFinalWhy Do I Write Fantasy? or You Never Know Who Might Show Up at Your Front Door

By Heidi Garrett

__________

As long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the truths that my physical senses cannot explain: the mystical things occurring on this planet. Writing fantastical stories is my testament to these other layers of reality.

There are many ways of looking at our world. Imagine sitting at home, perhaps in your living room. There’s a knock on the door. When you open it, a funny little woman is standing there. She is about half your height, and a plaid crimson kerchief—knotted under her hooked chin—covers her head. Her dress is sack-like over her square body. She’s wearing an apron that could use a good ironing and she’s carrying a battered brown suitcase that’s almost as big as she is.

“As long as you’re staring, a glass of water would be nice,” she says.

Despite her gruff manner, you sense something mysterious about this stranger, and to be honest, you’re dying to know more about her. When she crosses the threshold of your home, a strong wind slams the door behind her. You both jump. There hasn’t been a breeze all day. In fact, it’s sweltering and heat waves have been rising from the melting pavement for weeks.

When you offer it, she almost grabs the glass from your hand, and you can’t stop your staring—even though you know it’s rude—as she drinks in noisy gulps.

“What? You’ve never seen a spring faerie before?” she asks.

Before you can answer, she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. “Guess not, there aren’t many of us left. And I haven’t been to the Mortal World, since…”

She stops. Her deeply etched face softens. Something like sorrow pools in her dark brown eyes. She waves her hand. “That’s not what I’m here to talk about.”

Your heart tugs. You want to pull her from that sad place. “What’s in your suitcase?”

She points to the table. “I’ll show you.”

The suitcase is filled with eyeglasses. There are so many. Some have square black frames, others have round wire frames; there are a few speckled frames with octagonal lenses. You spy a pair of purple ones.

She shoves a pair of thick black glasses into your hand. “Put these on. Tell me what you see.”

With the eyeglasses settled on the bridge of your nose, you can’t see anything but yourself. You blink. You can see your hands and feet, your legs and toes. But the spring faerie—if that’s really what she is—is just a blur. You pull them off. She trades them for a pair of wire rims. With these glasses you can see her and your home.

“What’s your name?” you ask.

“Flora.”

“Like flowers blooming.”

She nods and looks away with that whiff of sadness.

Again, there is something about her that pulls at your heart. You think of the miracle of spring after a long hard winter, and that she shouldn’t be sad—if she really is a spring faerie.

“But…you don’t have any wings,” you say.

She smoothes the wrinkles in her apron. “Not all faeries do.”

“But—”

She almost jerks the wire-rim spectacles from your nose. You reach for that purple pair. She doesn’t stop you. Now, you can see down the street; your eyes travel the highway. Your view elevates, as if you are a bird. Soon you see the entire city you live in. With each pair of glasses, you see the bigger world.

When Flora tucks the temple arms of a pair of red frames behind your ears, perspective zooms around you. It’s like the lens pulls you into outer space, and you can see the entire world and all the billions of people who live on Earth.

Your heart flutters in your chest; it’s a lot to take in.

“Now—” Flora hands you a pair of fuchsia glasses with tiny rhinestones embedded in the frames. “Try on these.”

When you put them on, you’re able to see beyond the physical entirety of the world into the things that you’ve always known exist, but since you can’t see, touch, smell, or hear them, sometimes you’ve doubted. But you’ll never doubt again, because now—with these special glasses—you can actually see the bonds of love that death can never sever, the strings of fate that wrap the brown paper package of all our lives with twine, the tide of time that alters us, even as we never change…

But most importantly, you’ve seen that you belong here, on this planet. And you know—without a shadow of a doubt—that everything fits. Including you.

“I don’t ever want to take these glasses off,” you say.

Flora is already cramming the rest of them back into her bag. “Then don’t.”

__________

The Queen of the Realm of Faerie is a fairy tale fantasy series that bridges the Mortal and Enchanted worlds. The main character, Melia, is an eighteen-year-old half-faerie, half-mortal. She lives in Illialei, a country in the Enchanted World, with her two sisters and their mother. Melia’s father has been exiled to the Mortal World, and her best friend is a pixie.

When the story opens in the first book, Melia is troubled by her dark moon visions, gossip she overhears about her parents at the local market, and the trauma of living among full-blooded faeries with wings—she doesn’t have any.

As the series unfolds, the historic and mystical forces that shape Melia’s life are revealed. Each step of her journey—to find the place where she belongs—alters her perceptions about herself, deepens her relationships with others, and enlarges her world view.

In The Dragon Carnivale, book 3 of The Queen of the Realm of Faerie, energies in the Enchanted World are shifting and new alliances are forming; the Battle of Dark and Light has begun. Melia is desperate to make things right with Ryder, the young priest from Idonne, but first she must warn the half-bloods in the Mortal World that Umbra is coming for them, and face the powerful Dragonwitch and her spectacular Dragon Carnivale.

The first two books in the series: Nandana’s Mark and The Flower of Isbelline are currently available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords. Nandana’s Mark is free.

The Dragon Carnivale is scheduled for a June 18, 2013, release.

Sign-up for Heidi Garrett’s new release email List and receive a lavender and gold Half-Faerie bracelet while supplies last…because you’re half faerie, too, right?

Half-FaerieBracelet

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Author Bio

Heidi Garrett is the author of The Queen of the Realm of Faerie series. Her personal message to all her readers is:

Once upon a time, you lived in an enchanted world, too…

There is magic in all our lives; sometimes we need to look through different eyes to see it.

The Queen of the Realm of Faerie includes many strong female characters within an intricate fantasy land. It is also a fairy tale fantasy.

The first book, Nandana’s Mark, is one of those free ebooks; the second book, The Flower of Isbelline, is now available; and the third book, The Dragon Carnivale, will be released in June 2013.

The series was inspired by the 15th century French fairy tale, Melusine.

Heidi’s hope is that when you read her books, you will rediscover the enchantment in your own life.

She currently resides in eastern Washington with her husband and their two cats. So far, she loves the snow. Being from the South, she finds it magical.

Learn more about Heidi and enjoy her stream-of-consciousness reading journal, Eating Magic, at: www.heidigwrites.blogspot.com.

If you want to say hello, give her a shout out on Twitter at @heidigwrites or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/heidigwrites.

Book Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Heidi-Garrett/e/B008Y61UYM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nandanas-mark-heidi-garrett/1112474235?ean=2940014866026

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/heidi-garrett/id554801992?mt=11

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=%22Heidi+Garrett%22&t=none&f=author&p=1&s=none&g=both

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/HeidiG

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For your chance to win a $25 Amazon Express Giftcard, just follow the link below. Good luck! 

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Book Review: Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman

Title: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ½

Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Mystery

Publication Date: 2 July 2012 by Random House Children’s Books

Synopsis: “An new vision of knights, dragons, and the fair maiden caught in between…

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisite debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina’s tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they’ve turned the final page.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

I took a glimpse through the ratings for this book on goodreads prior to picking it off my book shelf, and was amazed by the number of 5-stars littered throughout the page. Everyone seemed to love this book and it’s even won a few prizes. I tried not to get my hopes up too high in case the book did not meet my expectations, but unfortunately, I did fall to the hype and was expecting a wondrous story with epic dragon battles akin to other high fantasy novels. It didn’t even have to be filled with battles, I loved The Hobbit for its characters, journey and wit – even though Bilbo blacked out during the final epic battle and basically missed the whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong though, I did thoroughly enjoy this story as a whole when I look back on it. It was probably due to my own tastes as a reader that lowered the overall score. This is really a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.

Seraphina starts off so strongly. I was dazzled by the first chapter in which we learn that she remembers being born. How trippy is that? With a knowledge like that, I was instantly interested in her character. And she doesn’t disappoint. Like every other review out there on this book, I agree that Seraphina meets all the expectations of being a brave, smart and loyal heroine. It wasn’t all words and no action. Hartman has truly created a character that could stand up for herself during hard times, and she’s become one of the best heroines I’ve had the pleasure to meet in a book. She will have a spot on my ‘Top 5 kick ass girls'” list for a long time.

When I think about it, Seraphina’s world is full of fantastic female characters. The royal family is ruled by Queen Lavonda, and the first and second heirs are also female. I love that Hartman has created a world that doesn’t spit upon the idea of females being in power – it is so refreshing to read about female characters that don’t need to be continuously rescued by men.

I would also like to praise Hartman on the beautiful world she has created. While I cannot say that Goredd is a city that I can picture in my mind, its characters are as vivid as they come. They all feel so real, it’s almost as if I’ve known them all my life. My favourite would definitely have to be Orma. His eccentric dragon personality is so quirky and loveable that you can’t help but wish he really existed. Then there is Fruit Bat, Loud Lad and Miss Fusspots – the grotesques of Serphina’s mind who are all so unique and wonderful. And the dragons – the saarantras – definitely a very refreshingly new take on them. If I had to praise Miss Hartman on one thing, it would be on her characterisations and development.

However, and here comes the bad part, I did rate Seraphina a 3.5 star novel for a reason. A part of it was because of me, and I found that half the novel was so slow and boring that I almost gave up on finishing it. If it wasn’t for the lovely characters that I rooted for, I don’t think I could have continued. Miss Hartman’s Goredd is extremely religious, and we learn this through the many religious teachings Seraphina throws at us. There are seriously way too many Saints to even keep with, and if it weren’t for the glossary at the back, I wouldn’t even understand what half of them stood for. While I don’t mind reading about a religious city, there are limits to the amount I’m willing to endure when all these teachings have no relation to the overall plot of the story. Aside from St Ogdo, whose faction hates dragons and despises the treaty of peace made between the dragons and Goredd, all the other Saints play little to no role in the story.

And the plot – my god was it slow! I am someone that loves a fast placed plot with lots of action. While I understand that this is a fantasy story of mystery and politics, it has dragons too. Who can really say that they don’t expect lots of action and adventure when dealing with a story that has dragons? What we get instead is a small mystery about a rogue dragon being sighted, with the main focus on the celebration of 40-years of peace. Seriously, half the story is really about Seraphina organising the music for the celebration of the treaty. Make that around 80% of the story … and the only fight we see is at the end of the novel, which probably lasted two or so pages and was resolved much too easily.

What I really wanted to read about was Seraphina’s ‘mind garden’, which holds these grotesques that end up being other half-dragons like herself. This was the most intriguing thing brought about by this novel, and I wanted to learn so much more about it, but sadly it was barely touched upon, overshadowed by the need to talk excessively about the different Saints being worshipped in Goredd. However, Seraphina is setting out to find her grotesques in the next book so I may just pick up the sequel to find out how that goes. It sounds like a much more promising story with an actual war brewing and potential action. Hopefully that rings true or I would be more let down than I am right now.

Overall, a very well written story that lacks the oomph I was so looking forward to.

Book Review: Zephyr The West Wind (Chaos Chronicles #1) by R.J. Tolson

Title: Zephyr The West Wind (Chaos Chronicles #1)

Author: R.J. Tolson

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆☆

Shelf: Read-in-2013, Young-Adult, Fantasy, 2-out-of-5, Released-in-2012, Kindle-eBook, Netgalley-Read, Book-Tour

Publication Date: 21 August 2012 by Universal Kingdom Print

Synopsis: “Seventeen years ago, in the island village of Dentro, lived a large and powerful demon. With just a howl, mountains were obliterated. With the help of an outsider, the chief of Dentro destroyed the demon and sealed its dark power within three powerful ancient weapons: a spear, a shield, and a sword. After leaving the unwelcoming village, the man who had helped destroy the demon took the sword in an effort to keep the village and its people safe.

Months later, a villager bore the son of the outsider. Carrying the child of a stranger was in violation of a sacred village law, and everyone knew whose child the boy was. Born into a village filled with hateful people, Zephyr grew up not knowing why he was so hated. With no friends, and eventually no family after the passing of his mother, Zephyr was forced to survive by himself as an outcast.

Zephyr’s only wish was to make his mother proud and force the village to recognize him–while surviving in a world filled with demons, paranormal abilities, love, hate, and undiscovered lands.” (Taken from Goodreads)

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I think this book started out very strongly. I was entranced by the prologue with its promises of ancient Greek mythologies and was very, very excited to devour this book. However, that was just it – the prologue was full of promises that Tolson did not deliver. What I did like about the book was that Zephyr is a good role model for children reading his story. His strong afflictions towards being the best person he could possibly be, even to people that had treated him like trash, was a message that put a smile on my face. I think Tolson created a character that was strong in this sense. This was the one consistent trait of Zephyr’s that I liked, because there were SO many inconsistencies riddled throughout the book.

The biggest problem I found with Zephyr’s character was when he said he wanted to gain power to protect the people he loved. These were people that he’d only met recently. While that could be overlooked, I couldn’t read about him leaving his boy tour guide unconscious within the palace that he was touring while he ran away from a fight that he’d started. At that point I was like, ‘Really? You left him unconscious and you’re just going to leave?’
There were many other inconsistencies that I couldn’t bring myself to overlook. On his quest to recover the ancient weapons in order to save his village, Zephyr had to visit two cities that were at war with each other. They were called Cheshria and Sleeves. At Cheshria, the guards manning the gate didn’t even bother to check the carriages that held Zephyr and his companion, Leon, and let them through into the city without a second thought. The driver of the carriage was a friend of Zephyr’s and had told the guards that the carriages held his servants. I found it hard to believe that the guards would not bother to check the carriages at all, or question as to why servants are riding in the carriage while their master drove it.

What irritated me more than these inconsistencies was the way this story was written. At the beginning of the story, Zephyr narrates the story as if he’s addressing the reader. Thankfully this doesn’t last long because I really dislike novels that are narrated like that. Moving from that, Zephyr then continues to narrate the story by repeating things the readers have already learned by voicing them aloud as if we were stupid. And as if that wasn’t irritating enough, the story suddenly switches to Leon’s perspective suddenly and without warning for a few chapters near the end. Not only was that change in perspective abrupt, it just totally ridiculous because Tolson does not tell that audience that it’s Leon’s perspective, you have to figure it out yourself. When this first happened, I had gone halfway through the chapter before I stopped in my tracks and was like, ‘Wait…this cannot possibly be Zephyr narrating this…what’s going on?!’
And please don’t get me started on the ‘love’ story. Was it really necessary? Because it was just so cringe-worthy reading through it. While I do think Zephyr and his love interest, Autumn, are good people, I really couldn’t root for them. From the beginning, Zephyr turns into a blubbering idiot when he meets her. And from then on, she’s The One. Yeah, ok. And don’t even get me started on how he manages to have visions of her sneaking away from her village in order to come find him and help. That is not even explained. Was he thinking about her so much that he just suddenly have these visions in his sleep that actually turn out to be true?

While you may think I hated this book, it wasn’t horrendous. I really enjoyed the fight scenes and they were exciting to read about. Especially the ones at the end when they really felt genuine and you couldn’t tell that Zephyr was definitely going to win. However, this was a book that I did have to force myself to finish – and that is never a good thing. I will probably be giving the next one in the series a miss.

THANKS TO: Samantha Lien from JKSCommunications for providing me an electronic ARC to review honestly.

Book Review: Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem by Melissa Lemon

Title: Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem

Author: Melissa Lemon

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Shelf: Read-in-2012, Young-Adult, Fairytale-Retelling, Fantasy, 3-out-of-5, TBR-in-2012, NetGalley-Read, Kindle-eBook

Release Date: 11 December 2012

Synopsis: Stuck in her family’s apple orchards, Kat’s got plenty of work to do and only pesky Jeremy to help. But when Jeremy convinces her to run away, Kat will discover that nothing—and no one—in her life is quite what it seems. Wonderfully reimagined, this is the magical tale of Snow White as you’ve never read it before!” (Taken from Goodreads)

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Book Review: UnEnchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale #1) by Chanda Hahn

Ever since I got a kindle for my birthday, I’ve gotten back into the swing of reading. For a pretty long period, I had continued purchasing books, but stopped reading … which was horrible for my wallet, but pretty good for my bookshelf.

With the kindle, I’ve discovered some free books that I’ve never heard of, so I decided that for the benefit of updating this blog and also just to write more than I do now, that I should get into the swing of writing some book reviews! Yay! I wouldn’t mind delving into writing other reviews on tv shows and movies either (because I spend a lot of my free time just watching things) so maybe that’s something I’ll look into if I’m stuck on things to update on this blog.

But alas, let’s move on!

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