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The Book Barrio

A Blog for Fantasy and Romance Readers

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Fantasy

My Robin Hobb Book Hangover

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Where have the Robin Hobb books been all my life? I mean it’s crazy how good all her books are. It all started when I was bored and depressed and I needed something to cheer me up. So i re-read Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind series. There are two amazing books out right now and they’re not without flaws but I really love them both. So anyway I spent maybe a few weeks straight just reading my old favorites and then suddenly, I’ve finished. And I didn’t have anything to read next and then I was back to being sad and depressed.
So I went on reddit, looking for recommendations from people and Robin Hobb just came up consistently as the most recommended. So I decided to give it a shot. And it was amazing. I think I probably spent just 2 months reading everything Robin Hobb wrote. The Farseer Trilogy series just worked for me.
The characterization was amazing. Fitzchivalry was just so real that you know the author poured part of her soul just writing these books.
The Farseer trilogy is about a royal bastard turned royal assassin for the kingdom. There’s a lot of court intrigue, politics, fantastical elements like dragons and magical abilities. This book has got it all. I think the one thing that these books have that I rarely ever see in other fantasy books is the depth of characterization. The author really goes deep into the soul of the character. And once I was hooked, I just couldn’t look away. i was emotionally invested in the well-being of these characters.
I’ve noticed that I also have certain triggers that usually send me crying. I usually cry whenever I read a scene about a woman being beaten. It doesn’t have to be the main character, it can the heroine’s mother and I’ll still go into tears. These books didn’t really have any scenes that are like my usual tear triggers, but boy did each book in the series send me to tears. I cried the first time reading the series. The second time I read the books, I found some other scenes to cry about. It’s just that emotionally powerful. Robin Hobb is such a master.
The Farseer Trilogy is the first series of books about Fitzchivalry Farseer. It covers his life from childhood until he’s around age 20. The second series, the Tawny Man trilogy takes place when Fitz is 35 years old onwards. And the third series, Fitz and the Fool Trilogy takes place when Fitz is in his 60’s. Yes, we will be following the whole life of a book character and it’s so great.
Now in between these three trilogies are two spin off series. The Liveship Trilogy is really good too. It’s about a different set of characters and the adventure & fantasy elements were beautifully done. The Rain Wilds series, are another set of 4 books written in the same world.
And all of these books tie in together to make one big picture. All the books are lengthy, but in the best way. You really get to savor the beauty of these books. I literally lived for these books when I was reading them.
I have read all of the books more than twice now. And I’ll probably read them some more in the future.
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Review: Dark Ascension (Generation V #4) by M.L. Brennan

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Dark Ascension (Generation V #4) by M.L. Brennan

Review:

Dark Ascension by M.L. Brennan is the fourth book in the Generation V series. I loved reading the previous books in the series. Fortitude Scott is the youngest vampire of the Scott family, who rules all the paranormal creatures in the area. He is the most human like of all 3 vampire siblings of the Scott family. He is capable of empathy and compassion unlike his centuries-old vampire siblings, Prudence and Chivalry, who have a limited supply of humanity.

Now that Fort’s mother the great vampire Madeline is weakening and dying, Fort will have to figure out a way to get along with his siblings and transition into a full vampire. The whole paranormal community is also abuzz about the change that is to come once the old vampire ruler is dead.

This book was a bit low key compared to the first three books in the series, Fort had to settle some issues among the other paranormal creatures living in the city. The problem is that Fort, Chivalry and Prudence can’t seem to get along or agree on anything. Prudence is always up for the most violent approach, while Fort wants to settle everything the peaceful way.

The thing I love most about this book is how we see Fort grow into himself. He becomes a full vampire and still manages to hold on to his humanity. His relationship with were-fox Suzume is one of the best bestfriends to lovers relationships in YA/NA paranormal lit. I like how Suzume is always her foxy self, playing tricks here and there.

Overall, the this feels kind of like a long version of an epilogue where the characters find ways to settle and go on with their lives. It’s not like the usual episodic mystery novel that we’ve seen from previous books. It’s more like a feel-good episode of your favorite family show. Still, the world-building, humor and endearing characters are well worth the read. I look forward to future books in the series.

Rating: 3 Stars

Amazon

The Epicness of the Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S. Pacat

Captive Prince Trilogy by C. S. Pacat

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Genre: Fantasy, Romance, M/M

Review:

Okay everyone, the Captive Prince trilogy is the one and only M/M book that I have ever read and I loved it so much so you have to read it too. It’s set in a fantasy world with two warring Kingdoms. Damianos, the prince of Akielos is betrayed by someone close to him. He is turned into a slave and sent to the enemy kingdom (Vere) to become their slave. Since this is a book, Damen becomes a slave to Prince Laurent of Vere, whose brother Damen killed in battle. Laurent has sworn to have his revenge on Prince Damianos for killing his brother. So the enslaved Damen has to hide his identity from everyone, because once they find out that he’s actually a prince from another kingdom, he’s dead.

Since both kingdoms are at war and there are lots of internal politics going on, we see a lot, as in A LOT of political intrigue and such. My favorite kind of thing. Laurent is a brilliant strategist and tactician. He’s so fierce and smart. He can flay people just by speaking. Damen is a great war hero. He’s the one who fights well, and he’s a good leader on the battlefield. Each has his own strengths, and together they learn to outsmart their enemies and take back what is rightfully theirs.

There is so much going on in these books. The first book, Captive Prince, is all about Damen getting betrayed and enslaved. It is a dark book that contains a lot of violence and suffering on Damen’s part. In the second book, Prince’s Gambit, we see Damen and Laurent slowly get to know each other. This is where they start to help each other, form a strong bond, and develop complicated feelings for each other. Of course, at some point in the trilogy, the secret of Damen’s real identity will come out which promises all sorts of tension and drama. The third and final book, Kings Rising, was a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It was a perfect blend of warfare, romance and political intrigue.

Rating: 5 Stars

Links:

Read for Free on the Author’s Blog

Book 1 – Captive Prince

Book 2 – Prince’s Gambit

Book 3 – Kings Rising

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

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Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Review:

Truthwitch is about two girls, who have some special abilities that may be prophesied to do who knows what. The two girls are Safi and Iseult. Safi has a truthwitchery gift, she can tell when people are lying. Her ability is so rare that it is almost unheard of. Iseult is Safi’s BFF and threadsister, which means that they have a stronger than average friendship bond. Iseult can sort of feel people’s emotions from the “threads” that come out of them.

One day, chaos ensues when Safi and Iseult have a heist gone wrong and have to hide. Then people suddenly find out that Safi is a truthwitch, and everybody wants Safi so they have to go on the run. Prince Merik, a guy from a poorer kingdom is contracted to help Safi escape in exchange for a trade contract for his country. It gets difficult because everyone else is after Safi, and they have a bloodwitch, who can track people through blood scent, on their trail.

This book was a lot of fun. It was a bit hard to get into at first. We don’t have a clear picture of the plot and the characters’ motivations. There are a lot of unanswered questions, which I do not know if they will be explained later or are simply oversights. Some slight inconsistencies in logic, like how people found out about Safi’s powers and stuff like that. It implies that there might have been a lot more things going on outside of the main characters’ points of view. I also liked that the action was non-stop. I really loved the fantasy world that Susan Dennard built. I wanted to see Safi use her powers some more.

I also feel that this book was not well concluded enough. There were just too many unanswered questions, and just a hint of a prophecy that might be important. I need the shocking revelations and I want to see what kind of path the characters are going to take. It seemed that at the end, only temporary decisions were made and some ambiguous goals were declared. Nevertheless, it’s a good start to a YA fantasy series, and I would definitely read the next book when it comes out.

Rating: 3 Stars

Amazon

Review: Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2) by Brandon Sanderson

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Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:

The impossible has been accomplished. The Lord Ruler – the man who claimed to be god incarnate and brutally ruled the world for a thousand years – has been vanquished. But Kelsier, the hero who masterminded that triumph, is dead too, and now the awesome task of building a new world has been left to his young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves.

As Kelsier’s protégé and slayer of the Lord Ruler she is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since the Lord Ruler died, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.

Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal.

As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

Review:

So I’ve been binge reading the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. After the events of the first book, The Final Empire, the characters are now facing the consequences of their actions. In short, they’re trying to keep things together amidst all the chaos they started.

I really like the fantastical elements of these books. Brandon Sanderson continues to expand the Empire. We learn more about the world and the magic. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this series is worth the read if only to witness the amazing world building that Brandon Sanderson is a master of. The world continues to grow, we learn about some of its history and the things to come. We also get to see Vin and Elend grow into themselves. They face up to the challenges and we see how their characters change and yet not change. I particularly like how Elend learns to take command and be a king, while still holding up his ideals.

My one complaint remains the same though, that the romance between Vin and Elend feels bland. There are some lovely Vin & Elend parts, but I need something more to make their love epic. Their love is more like a pleasant love rather than the soul destroying kind. It’s probably because they have so much to give to the people, and with everything that is happening, a lot of other things have to come first.

We see more of the side characters and learn about their lives, which is a definite plus. The action, politics and scheming will keep you turning pages until you reach the end. Not a moment of boredom in the Well of Asecnsion. And good news, the ending left me wanting to read the next book asap. So that’s what I did.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goddreads | Amazon

Review: The Final Empire (Mistborn 1) by Brandon Sanderson

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Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage – Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

Review:

I first discovered Brandon Sanderson from his Youtube Lectures on Creative Writing. I found his class very useful and practical for fantasy writers.

When I was browsing through my kindle, I saw the Mistborn series parked there and thought I’d give it a try.

The Final Empire is about an oppressive fantasy world, wherein the Skaa are treated as slaves. A band of thieves decide to take on the task of overthrowing the tyrannical rule of the Lord Ruler. Each of them has their own special ability that involves using metals to manipulate emotions, gather strength, push or pull on objects, etc.

About a third into the book, I began to realize that I’ve read it before. I recognized some scenes in the book, particularly the scenes involving a budding romance, which was maybe even less than 5% of the entire book. It wasn’t enough for me to recall the entire plot, magical laws, and politics. But something clicked and I just knew that it was something that I have already read before. The experience was both new and old.

I liked the premise of the book. I was fascinated with the character’s manipulation of different metals. I had to suspend my disbelief at some of the magical elements. My favorite parts are the plotting and scheming. I could not put the book down, the plot is fast paced and action packed.

My main criticism is that some of the characters lack depth in their relationships. (Here comes a slightly spoilery part.) I think that Vin and Elend’s relationship is too shallow. They need more time to develop a deeper bond to justify their declaration of love. Same goes for the band of thieves. They always talk about working together, being crazy and taking risks, but there isn’t much backstory to them. I never saw the reasons for the depth of their friendship, and what makes them loyal to each other.

I think this flaw is also what led me to forget about the story after I read it the first time. The Final Empire is not the kind of story that stays with the reader forever or leaves a big stamp in one’s mind. That’s how I felt after reading Harry Potter, and the Name of the Wind. And The Final Empire failed to do that for me. The characters in the Final Empire are not real enough to live beyond the pages of the book.

Nevertheless, it’s very fun and enjoyable. The world-building and magical laws alone make this book well worth the read.

Rating: 4 Stars

Link: Amazon

Review: Tower of Thorns (Blackthorn & Grimm 2) by Juliet Marillier

Genre: Fantasy, Romance 22567177

Blurb:

Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.

Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.

As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.

Review:

Tower of Thorns is the 2nd book in Juliet Marillier’s Blackthorn & Grimm series. As told in the 1st book, Blackthorn struck a deal with Conmael, one of the magic folk. In exchange for helping them escape prison, Blackthorn must never refuse a call for help, or actively seek revenge against her enemy for 7 years.

The book starts when Blackthorn is already in her 6th year of her deal with Conmael. So far, life has been peaceful and simple, she is the local wise woman at Winterfell. Her loyal friend Grimm, is happy to stay with her and help.

Blackthorn meets someone from her past who offers her a rare opportunity to bring her enemy to justice. This would mean breaking her 7 year deal with Conmael and giving up her freedom with Grimm. Blackthorn very much wants to avenge her lost family and seriously considers the undertaking.

At the same time, Lady Geilies needs help. There is a tower in her land surrounded by thorns. By day, the creature that resides in the tower cries and leaves everyone with dark, depressing feelings. It has taken a toll on the land and the people. Lady Geilies needs someone to help stop the howling monster in the tower. She believes that Blackthorn is just the person who can stop the monster.

As with any Juliet Marillier novel, the story is interwoven with little tales and myths with a strong folk tale influence. The love between Blackthorn and Grimm is a slow burn. They are both too damaged to go into a full blown romantic relationship. They are comfortable with their friendship, and it’s good step towards healing and moving on from the past. Their loyalty to each other will be tested. I think this is the book wherein they realize how much they really mean to each other. We also learn a little about Grimm’s past that haunts him.

I also liked the mystery about the tower and the creature. Marillier keeps us guessing at the true nature of the curse and the secrets surrounding it.

The ending is bittersweet and hopeful. I recommend this to fans of the series.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: Dragons Realm by Tessa Dawn

Genre: Fantasy, Romance 27006898

Blurb:

Mina Louvet is a fighter, a human with a powerful will to survive in a world dominated by warlocks, soul-eaters, and shifters. Identified by the king’s witch as one of the rare, invaluable females in Dragons Realm who can give birth to a dragon’s son, she was stolen from her parents as a child and taken to the Keep to be reared in the ways of the Ahavi. As one of the few, the elect ~ the Sklavos Ahavi ~ Mina is expected to feed her master’s fire, reanimate his blood, and above all else, give him strong dragon offspring: children who will one day rise to power. But Mina, to her great misfortune, is far too intelligent for her own good: She has a stubborn sense of justice, and she is wholly incapable of blind submission.

Dante Dragona is as cunning as he is lethal, as methodical as he is dangerous, and as terrifying as he is powerful. As the eldest of three dragon princes, he is destined to succeed his merciless father to the throne of Castle Dragon. But first he must do his duty to the Realm by governing one of its harsh, unforgiving districts and claiming a Sklavos Ahavi. Hardened by the sadistic abuse he endured as a child and shaped by the tragic suicide of his twin, the prince lives only to fulfill his obligations to the monarchy: to maintain law and order in a bestial land, to contain its magical inhabitants, and to keep the kingdom safe from its mortal enemies, the Lycanian shifters across the sea. Like all primordial dragons, he rules with an iron fist, dominates with absolute power, and punishes with fire. Those who oppose him die a swift and brutal death ~ subject, enemy, or slave ~ the Realm has no tolerance for weakness.

When the iron resolve of a dragon prince clashes with the stubborn will of a slave, bonds will be broken, alliances will be tested, and a kingdom will be set ablaze.

Review:

When I read about the plot involving dragons and arranged marriages, I was really curious to see where the story would lead. This is my first time to try this author so I came in with no expectations.

Mina, one of the Sklavos Ahavi, is foretold to be able to produce male heir dragons. For this reason, she is taken from her family and groomed to be one the wives of the royal princes. She is not content about her lot as a prized broodmare for dragons, and would escape if she could.

From the first meeting, Mina feels a strong connection towards the eldest dragon prince, Dante. However they will have to wait for five months until the autumn festival wherein the King will choose the brides for each prince.

Both Mina and Dante fell a bit flat for me. Mina fit the typical romance heroine stereotype – headstrong, beautiful, submissive, willing to stupidly put herself in danger and be rescued. While Dante had a uber alpha thing going on, his “beast” needed to assert its dominance all the time. He was all, “You are mine,” to Mina.

The plot was well paced enough that I was able to keep on reading. However I felt that some of the events of the book weren’t really that believable. For example, Mina’s sister got kidnapped and sold into slavery. Even though Mina is one of the kingdom’s prized brides, she was able to easily escape the palace to spy on slave traders, and learn of her sister’s whereabouts. Mina would put herself in danger and Dante would be there to save her at the right time.

I also wanted more details about the world, its laws, the politics and the war going on. Some parts felt rushed to me. I just felt that there was a lack of balance between romance and fantasy elements, and the characters.

Rating: 2 Stars

Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Land of the Beautiful Dead by R. Lee Smith

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Horror, Erotica 

Blurb:

SHE WOULD DARE ANYTHING TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM HIS RULE. 

EVEN HIS BED.

He ascended from the darkness years ago—Azrael the Eternal, Azrael the Undying, Azrael Who Is Death—bringing with him the black rains, the fires, the souring of the sky, and the Eaters. Now he rules in the walled city of Haven with his favored Children and his dead court, while all that is left of the living struggles to survive in the ruins of a world that used to be their own. But even as extinction looms, humanity will never surrender to their monstrous conqueror.

For Lan, this brutal life has been the only one she’s ever known, but she still believes it can change. If the war can never truly end until the Eaters are ended, she will go to Haven, to Azrael himself, and demand he end them. To her surprise, she does not immediately die the hero’s death she expected. Instead, Azrael offers her a chance to convince him, and all she has to do is submit herself to the chill embrace of the lord of the Land of the Beautiful Dead.

Review:

When I heard that R. Lee Smith had a new book out, I just knew I had to stop everything and read it. And it was a very long, very satisfying read. I was totally obsessed. My eyes were tired, I knew it was unhealthy to stay up so late reading but I just couldn’t put it down.

The story is set in a post apocalyptic world. Azrael, the Lord of the Dead, has conquered the world. He has the power to control the dead, make them live again, or turn them into zombies called Eaters. He invaded England, and is enjoying his victory over mankind. Lan, a young woman born in a harsh world, decides to face Azrael to ask him to end the Eaters. She believes in peace and she wants to end the suffering.

And herein lies the dilemma. If Azrael ends the Eaters, which are what keeps the humans at bay, the humans will surely attack and there will be war and death all over again. But Lan is stubborn and she is not leaving until she gets what she wants. So Azrael decides to grant her an audience. She can plead her hopeless case again and again, in exchange for being his whore, courtesan, mistress, his dolly.

Azrael is not exactly human, think demonic, scarred human-like immortal creature. He has been betrayed, tortured, hunted down, burned, piked, anything you can think of, but he does not die. And humans, being really stupid kept on trying to destroy him and provoked a war. Azrael did not want a fight with the humans, but in order to have his peace, he was pushed into creating his dead army to protect himself. War became the only way he knew how to live.

Lan  has lived a harsh life. She was born in a post apocalyptic world. People who die turn into Eaters. There was no proper grieving for the dead. There was a lack of food, and she has had to sell pieces of herself to survive. Despite all this, she believes that if the Eaters just went away, the world could move on from the war. And she is willing to do anything to stop the Eaters.

The story is very raw, emotional and obsessive.  It was about humanity, death and love. It’s a character driven epic love story. And their love was so beautiful, unforgettable. The ending was one of the best endings I’ve ever read. I know on the surface it sounds really horrific, but trust me and give this book a chance.

It is even a bit more tame and less violent compared to the other novels by R. Lee Smith. So if you have never read anything by this author before, then this would be a good book to start with. You won’t regret it.

Rating: 5 Stars

LinksAmazon | Goodreads

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