Book Review: Thornlight by Claire Legrand

Thornlight is a book I picked up recently—an adventure-filled fantasy novel that exudes creativity, combined with heartfelt character development.

Before anything, though, I want to take a moment to appreciate Jaime Zollars’ beautiful illustrations that help to set the fairy-tale atmosphere straight from the get-go.

Thornlight: Legrand, Claire: 9780062696663: Books

Okay. The story follows twin sisters Thorn and Brier, who, despite being twins, have utterly distinct characterization with unique struggles, not to mention their equally unique yet lovable animal companions. On a journey to close the chasm, known as the Break, that divides their world, the story’s characters encounter witches, evil creatures, and numerous obstacles that keep you intrigued.

One thing I love about this book is that it’s told from three points of view—the twins and a third character named Celestyna—that alternate consistently. You would think you’d lose track of the story because of this, but it’s quite the opposite while reading. The story flows smoothly and the changing perspectives keep you hooked.

I also love how Legrand conveys the relationships between her characters. No matter how fantasy-driven this novel is, the interpersonal relationships and the struggles that accompany them are portrayed realistically, in a way that touches your heart.

The only criticisms I have about this novel is that the pacing can feel rushed in some moments, particularly with Thorn’s character development. A few side characters also have resolutions that come off as unsatisfying, or don’t align with prior emphasis placed on them. Other than that, Thornlight was nothing short of an entertaining read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys well-written fantasy.

Book Review: Konosuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonder World: Oh! My Useless Goddess (Yes I am aware the title of this book is overly long)

Okay, so Konosuba I’m not writing out that whole title again is an isekai comedy written by Natsume Akatsuki and is the first novel in a long-running series. (Also for those who don’t know isekai is a Japanese word for other world and will be used frequently in this review). The series follows its protagonist Kazuma Sato as he blunders his way through his journey where the only thing he really has going for him is his above-average luck and genre awareness.

So as mentioned above Konosuba is extensively a comedy. Said comedy is mostly drawn from subverting tropes commonly found in its second genre: Isekai. You see the isekai genre as it currently exists mainly contains teenage male power fantasies; stories where a normal nerd can gain insane amounts of strength, power, and magic with about as much effort as it takes to open a bag of chips. This is not the case for Konosuba’s protagonist however as he is recognized in-universe as one of the weakest adventurers in the guild. Additionally, this is not something that changes later in the book with Kazuma’s biggest achievement by the end of the novel being the fact that he killed a larger-than-normal amount of sentient cabbages during the harvest.

Another bit of comedic subversion in this book is how Kazuma’s team is set up. You see in normal isekai stories the protagonist is typically surrounded by a party whose gender ratio generally leans in the opposite direction to the protagonist, i.e. if the protagonist is male there will be a disproportionate amount of females. However, the subversion with Kazuma’s group is not that they are mostly male but rather the fact that they are completely worthless. With a group that consists of a healer who refuses to do anything unless she’s in crippling debt, a wizard who only knows one spell that can be cast once per day, and a paladin who can’t hit a target that is standing right in front of her Kazuma almost has to play the role of babysitter for the group of idiots that he found himself with.

None of this is to say that Kazuma himself is not also an idiot, he is, just less than the others. For example, the only reason the group’s healer, Aqua, is with the group is because Kazuma dragged her along. You see in this novel Kazuma is brought to his new world after he died a tragic death in our own. Upon dying he met Aqua, who claimed to be a goddess who could send him to a new world with one item or power of his choosing. However since Aqua mocked the way Kazuma died, in an act of pettiness he decided to bring Aqua with him to the new world.

However, I have gushed about this book for long enough and need to finish this review somehow. All in all, I personally believe that if you are a fan of the isekai genre this is a novel worth picking up and if you aren’t this novel still contains its fair share of good jokes.

The Dark Ascension Series: The Wicked Ones by Robin Benway

“The sky was glorious that morning, so blue and sharp that it looked like it could shatter, raining shards down on all of them, but instead it stayed in place while the rest of their world fell apart.”

We all know the story of Cinderella, enslaved by her evil stepmother and ugly stepsisters when her beloved father passes. She wishes upon a star, and, poof! Her dreams become true and she can finally escape from her horrible stepsisters to a land of charming royalty.

But before the two sisters became wicked, what changed them? They had a father who left them one day, a callous mother with a terrible temper, and a feeble stepsister unable to protect herself from their mother’s wrath. Scrutinized and criticized by even their own mother and villagers, the two sisters were misunderstood and abandoned.

Drizella, the older of the sisters, is a sensible young woman who is almost entirely sure that life is meant to be difficult and struggled through. It’s not like life is perfectly mapped out and lined up like the constellations that secretly fascinate her. Besides, a woman’s expected duties are pointless without learning anything new.

Anastasia is a dreamer who sees the world not for the cruelty and struggles it forces her to endure, but as a vast place to explore and even find romance in. Unfortunately, her sympathetic nature is muted by despair.

Though they are determined not to let evil lead them down a forlorn, empty path, can they remain hopeful forever?

I found this novel pleasant and a change of pace from the fantasy-fairytale books I usually read. I do remember reading another book—Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly—that was a more challenging read with a complicated storyline but had a similar idea to The Wicked Ones.

The stepsisters’ lives weren’t handed to them tied with a bow, it was paved through resentment and struggle. The reader can sympathize with the stepsisters and see their perspective and growth as characters.

Originally, I thought this book was simple and predictable, but it is really just a good novel to sit back and read. The fairytale sweeps you away and you can learn about the stepsisters’ detestable characters.

Through this novel of suffering and strife, the reader learns how the past of the stepsisters’ fostered the black-hearts that they have today.

The Wicked Ones by Robin Benway is available to download for free from Libby.

The Liar’s Crown Book Review

This novel was a quick read for me and is what I think a little confusing of a fantasy plot.

It is about two magical princess twins: Meren and Tabra. Tabra lives a royal life in the palace, enjoying all royal amenities, while Meren lives with her grandma hidden in one of the slums.

Meren is supposed to protect Tabra at all costs from King Eidolon, the evil king who has been alive for centuries. He is made out of shadow and sheds a new body every few hundred years to ensure that he lives and reigns forever.

When suddenly their grandma dies, Meren is taken by a shadow wraith (Reven), a mysterious man who is made out of shadows and has many dark secrets. They go through a long journey to get to his home which is apparently full of people he has saved and Meren realizes that he needs her help to save his people.

Of course, Meren falls in love with him along the way and figures out that he is not that bad after all. But, they hear news from her sister Tabra who has fallen into the trap of King Eidolon and Meren is intent on taking her place (since they are twins) and it is her duty to protect her. Oh yeah, forgot to tell you all, Reven thinks Meren is still Tabra.

Anyway, the plot just continues to get more confusing until Meren confronts Eidolon and she casts as Tabra to save her sister.

So, the book pretty much just ends with her marrying the King Eidolon and Reven trying to save her from his wrath (yes, there is a book 2).

Honestly, rating wise I would give this book a 5 out of 10. The plot was a little confusing and it just wasn’t as intricate as I wanted it to be. If you are looking for quick fantasy to pick up, it’ll give you a quick fun read.

The Crave Series: Book Review

This series is the first fantasy series that I read after I was able to finish my classical reading that was required for high school. I simply just wanted a quick and easy-to-read fantasy book to get back into reading the genre, and I was so glad I picked this series.

Simply put, the series revolves around a paranormal romance between two main characters, Grace and Jaxon which eventually leads them on a mission to save the world pretty much. Yes, it is one of those books that are pretty vanilla, but is still entertaining if you’re look for something to get your hands on really quick.

The first book starts with Grace starting a boarding school at Katmere Academy after her parents died in a car accident about six months ago. Her Uncle Finn is the principal of the school and Macy, her cousin, also attends there as well. Not even after a day at Katmere, strange accidents keep occurring and they are all targeted at her! However, as Jaxon, a boy with a mysterious and aloof aura around him keeps saving her, a romance suddenly sparks.

Later on in the series, she finds out what she truly is and why she is being targeted by all the paranormal creatures. There are also pretty major plot twists that you wouldn’t think are coming and honestly I was even surprised by some of them considering the amount of fantasy books I read!

Honestly, what I liked most about the book is the modernness of it all. It really relates to me because they include many of the famous TV shows, singers, actors that made it quite interesting. Grace is also a funny but brave character and makes many jokes along the way that are pretty amusing. I finished the first book in about two days and the second one in about three. I haven’t finished the third one yet, but there is looking to be a big plot twist up ahead so we’ll see!

This series probably should be for ages 14 and above since there are uses of cuss language and some minimal violence here and there.

– Aleena C.

Crave by Tracy Wolff is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Malice by Heather Walter

Once upon a time, Princess Aurora was cursed by an evil sorceress with the only solution being true love’s kiss. Many would imagine the story where Aurora was sent to be raised by three fairies and was awaken from her cursed sleep by Prince Charming. However, in this retelling of Sleeping Beauty, that is not the case.

Alyce is who someone called a “Dark Grace” but that doesn’t quite summarize what she actually is. A Grace is someone who tends to the needs of humans either by healing people through or making them more beautiful through their blood. But Alyce isn’t like the rest of the Graces since she is half-Vila, someone who is demonized by all of society.

Princess Aurora is stuck with a curse in which she would die by the age of 21 if she hasn’t kissed someone who is her true love. No one truly cares if she lives or dies since they have seen the same thing with her sisters and the ancestors that came before her. It seems as though Alyce and Princess Aurora would have no reason for their stories to intertwine but Fate turns the table and have the two unexpectedly fall into love with each other.

I find this fantasy book to be truly amazing. The world-building is spectacular, the characters are seen as genuine and relatable, and the plot is amazing. There are many plot twists that occur in the book and has developed the story into a tale of what love and hate equally could do to a person in desperate times. Many times, I couldn’t stop reading the book even when I needed to do something because it had intrigued me so much. I recommend this book for anyone who loves fantasy and loves the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Malice by Heather Walter is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Nightfall by Shannon Messenger

Nightfall is the sixth book in the Keeper of the Lost Cites series (which is currently 8.5 books long), and the events come as a definite surprise to anyone who has read the other five books before it.

In this book, the main character of the series, a powerful young elf named Sophie Foster, has to rescue her human parents from a Neverseen hideout called Nightfall. (The Neverseen are a deadly rebel group that formed in the Lost Cities, and they always seem to be out to get Sophie and her friends.) But Sophie knows that the Neverseen might be using her parents as a diversion to distract her from the larger issues at hand, so, no matter how painful it is, Sophie is forced to look at the bigger picture and accept that the threat looming over her human parents might not be the problem she needs to focus on. She helps her friend, Keefe Sencen, with the issues he has with his mother, Lady Gisela, (who also happens to be a leader of the Neverseen) and attempts to figure out the identity of the prisoner who escaped from the Lumenaria dungeon in the previous installment of the series. But all of these issues seem to come together in the end of the book, when Sophie and her friends (Tam and Linh Song, Biana and Fitz Vacker, Keefe Sencen, and Dex Dizznee) and her foster father, Grady Ruewen, enter Nightfall. There, they encounter some members of the Neverseen and discover who their new ally is–the former prisoner of Lumenaria.

While all of this was going on, they also had to deal with another enemy, one whose alliance with the Neverseen hit extremely close to home. Alvar Vacker, the older brother of Fitz and Biana, was found abandoned by the Neverseen in one of their old hideouts, bleeding to death. They had discovered that Alvar was a member of the Neverseen in the earlier books, but they’d never have guessed that the group would leave him for dead. He doesn’t give any information in his interrogations except for one, crucial detail, which readers will find out in the beginning of Flashback.

The reason why I love this novel is because of all the plot twists and the fact that the characters have realistic personalities. Their problems kept me rooting for them the whole time the book was in my hands, and the storyline stuck with me for a long while after I’d finished. This book (and the series it belongs to) is a magical read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves the fantasy genre.

Nighfall by Shannon Messenger is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Warlords of Nin by Stephen R. Lawhead

The Warlords of Nin is the second book of The Dragon King Trilogy, by Stephen R. Lawhead.  The main character of this series is a young man named Quentin.  Peace has been returned to the kingdom for several years, following Quentin’s perilous adventures in the first book.  However, trouble is lurking from a distant land.  A group of warlords is led by a deified leader known as Nin the Destroyer.  This evil threat is on a rampage of destruction and conquest.  Quentin is once again destined to restore peace to the kingdom.

Most of the characters are interesting, and their personalities are unique.  However, this book does not provide much of a backstory for the antagonists.  The warlords seem to be nothing more than stock characters.  They are supposed to be villains, but their personalities lack depth.  As a result, the conflict in the story seems inadequate.  However, the development of some of the other characters improved as the story progressed.  The story was gripping enough to keep me engaged through the end of the book, even though the warlords themselves were not very interesting.

Overall, I would say that this book is enjoyable.  I do not consider this to be the best fantasy book that I have come across, but I still consider it worthwhile to read.  If nothing else, this provides a good transition to the third and final book in the series.  I would recommend this book, but not as a stand-alone novel.  I would recommend reading this along with the other books in the trilogy.

The Warlords of Nin by Stephen R. Lawhead is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: These Rebel Waves

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch is a two book long series including the sequel These Divided Shores.

These Rebel Waves is a fantasy book that revolves around the magical land of Grace Loray, and the religious kingdom of Argrid.

Adeluna (or Lu for short) is a soldier who helped free the magic rich country of Grace Loray from its Argridian oppressors. Devereux is a stream raider who steals the magic plants of Grace Loray to sell on the black market. Ben is the heretic prince of Argrid, who finds himself secretly interested in Grace Loray’s forbidden magic.

Adeluna grew up during the rebellion and knew nothing but how to be a soldier. Now that she helped Grace Loray overthrow Argrid she found herself lost on what to do with her life. She doesn’t need to find out because there’s trouble in the council as one of the Argridian delegates goes missing. Devereux is a raider with no alliances, one of the most notorious outlaws to walk Grace Loray, but he soon finds himself launched straight into the political mess of Grace Loray, and as he finds out that the raiders are being blamed for the disappearance of the delegate Ibarra, he agrees to help Adeluna find the missing delegate to prevent the upcoming war. Ben has only known to fear the magic of Grace Loray after his dear uncle and cousin were burned for researching magic. But when his father asked him something unbelievable, he now must find out if he is being set up to die, or can he really change the minds of Argrid.

I found this book interesting because of the endless plot twist, the frequent cliffhangers between chapters, and how you can really see what each and every character is feeling, and every character is going through in the story. I would recommend this book to age’s 13 and up.

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King by Jenny Nimmo

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King is the fifth book in the Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo.  At the time this book was written, it would have been the last book in the series.  However, Jenny Nimmo later decided to write more books to continue the saga.  In this book, Charlie Bone is on a mission to finally discover the identity of his father.  Throughout the series so far, Charlie Bone has wondered about his father.  Charlie had been told that his father died, but the circumstances surrounding his death were mysterious.  In this book, Charlie is determined to find out the truth about his father.

Other than the main character, Charlie Bone, my favorite characters throughout the series are Lysander Sage and Tancred Torsson.  These two characters do not disappoint in this book, either.  I really enjoyed reading about how they used their magical powers to help Charlie, and that they always remained loyal to their friends.

I also enjoyed a part in the story when another of Charlie’s friends, named Olivia, helped him to obtain a magical mirror.  After a battle against mysterious dark forces, Charlie is able to use the mirror to learn the truth about his father.

It was very satisfying to finally learn more about Charlie Bone’s father.  This book is exciting and action-packed, and I enjoyed reading it very much.  I would recommend it highly to anyone.  This book seems like a fitting conclusion to the series, even though the author went on to write more Charlie Bone books after this one.

-Simon H.

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King by Jenny Nimmo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.