Thursday, November 30, 2017

Short Reviews: Mages, Djinn, and Circuses

The Tethered Mage
(Swords and Fire #1)
Melissa Caruso
Release: October 24, 2017
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In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled -- taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army.
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.

But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre

The Tethered Mage is the perfect blend of politics and adventure where the politics do not overwhelm or drone out the story. Instead they highlight the events that occur. This story has not one but two conflicting heroines bound by a duty thrust onto them. One with politics and the other with the tether of burning fate that she can unleash upon others with just one word to release her. Amalia and Zaira must find a way to tolerate each other as they and their trusted companions try to solve a dire situation that arises.

Character development keeps the reader engaged wondering what is going to happen from page to page. There was not a character that I found uninteresting. I either loved, hated or felt sympathy for many. I have to admit Domenic is my favorite reluctant hero who steps up to the plate even though he would rather stay on the sidelines as the scholar. 

f you give the book a chance, you'll find the characters memorable, the world building intricate, and really the politics were my favorite bit. It's not often politics are so well detailed, so intricate and well woven into a story. This is certainly a great beginning to a YA series! I would definitely recommend this book to others.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

  4 / 5 Stars

The City of Brass
(The Daevabad Trilogy #1)
S.A. Chakraborty
Release: November 14, 2017
Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass?a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for . . .

The City of Brass was a fantastical journey into the world of djinn and magic. Filled with political intrigue and mounting tensions, the story followed Nahri in her quest to find her people upon learning she's the last of her kind. With the help of a revered warrior, they travel across many lands to reach Daevabad, escaping death on the way, only to find out too late that this city of brass is far from safe for a girl of her kind.

Nahri's journey throughout the story was tumultuous at best, but true to a young woman's stubbornness and independence when thrown into this situation. Her struggle for identity forced her to split herself into two halves; one that couldn't release her old self and one that tried desperately to fit in to an ill-fitting version of what was expected of her, and it was all too easy to see the two sides clash as the story developed. Though the romance is small and uncertain at this point. I expect there will be more to come since it wasn't the focus of this book. I'm very curious to where the author plans to take it. Even as full of a story as this was, there are still many questions to answer and plenty more story to tell.

As the first in a trilogy, it was a densely-packed tale and won't be a quick read. The world was intriguing and detailed and once I started reading I didn't want to stop. It's going to be a long wait for book two. I'm curious to see where this story will go.

ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.

  4 / 5 Stars

The Emerald Circus
Jane Yolen
Release: November 14, 2017
Enter the Emerald Circus and be astonished by the transformations of your favorite tales. Ringmaster and internationally bestselling author Jane Yolen (Briar Rose, Sister Emily’s Lightship) spins modern fantasy classics in tales that go well beyond Wonderland and Oz, down the rabbit hole and back again.

Where is Wendy? Leading a labor strike against the Lost Boys, of course!

It’s time to go back to—and beyond—the treasured tales you thought you knew: The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and many more. Ringmaster and internationally bestselling author Jane Yolen (Briar Rose, Sister Emily’s Lightship) spins modern fantasy classics for delighted readers. A girl blown away from Kansas returns as a sophisticate with unusual gymnastic abilities. A talented apprentice, forging her first sword, is suddenly left to the mercies of Merlin. Alice’s infamous nemesis has jaws and claws, but also lacks the essential: a sense of humor.

Witty and bold, and unexpected, these tales go well beyond the rabbit hole and back again.

I have been a fan of Jane Yolen's books ever since I discovered Dragon's Blood and Briar Rose in my teens. The thing is I've never read any of her short stories before even though I'm a fan of short stories as a whole. 
As soon as I picked this up, I found myself sucked into her writing again. I was intrigued and absolutely captivated by her take on well-known fairy tale and literary figures I couldn’t stop at just one or two I had to read the whole collection in one sitting including the poems and story notes at the end.

The author's story notes with the poems at the end are worth it all by themselves to pick this up as you feel like you get to know her. It's almost as if she’s sitting with you by the fire one late wintry night spinning tales just for you. Jane Yolen is the epitome of what the title “storyteller” hopes to define.

This anthology helps you to relive stories and people from long ago in a whole new way such as Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz, Anderson’s Snow Queen, Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood, Arthurian Legends as well as nods to other works. It was both entertaining and satisfying on an intellectual level. 

My favorites of the collection were "Sister Emily's Lightship" and "The Quiet Monk".

ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.

  4 / 5 Stars

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