Alright, we already know how this is going to go, I love this series. So it’s going to be me talking about why this series is good, but I’ve finally read everything that out thus far from Jim Butcher for the series. This includes the…
Tag: Book review
Yes, that is the series name it’s a bit long and unwieldy. This is another book for my reading challenge, needed a book with an amateur detective, and I decided I shouldn’t just read an Encyclopedia Brown book. This won’t just end up being another…
Burned through another book for the reading challenge last week. This was an interesting book in that it was an enjoyable read, but at the end, you feel like you really haven’t read anything. I’ll get into more of what I mean by that, but what was the book about?
Maire is a baker who lives in a nice little fantasy town. She doesn’t remember who she is or where she’s come from, however, she just knows her name. She also knows that she has a special power that allows her to infuse magic of things like luck, love, or other emotions/characteristics into what she bakes. Her life is turned upside down when bandits attack her village and she is taken away with others to be sold as slaves. The person who buys her is eccentric but seems to know about her powers. What does that mean for her and will she be able to get away from her owner?
The story seems pretty interesting, and I think that it’s okay. Now, what I think the author gets wrong is that she wants this to be an adult fiction book, so tries to toss in some heavier stuff, but this is really a YA book with a little bit off the screen sex and a few intense situations. But beyond that, I think with the plot, it just wanders at time without really feeling like you have much of a purpose when reading it. The writing itself is well done, but the plot if just kind of there. The person who buys Maire is intentionally not fleshed out that well, but is supposed to be a very interesting character and just ends up feeling pretty dull and you don’t get them. Which is some of the point, but it’s not handled in what I would call a good way, instead it just feels like they aren’t driving the plot forward like they should.
The characters, besides Maire and her owner and one other character aren’t really fleshed out. They feel more like your standard fantasy villagers, which they are, but they don’t have much of anything that stands out about them. There are also only three of them that you really get to know. Even Maire and her owner don’t feel like they have a ton of depth. Again, I think this is done somewhat intentionally, but it doesn’t make for the best book, even if it makes sense within the book.
There are a few more confusing bits to this book that I don’t want to get into too much. Let me say that it has some heavy laying on a fairy tale themes in the book. However, there is no reason for that. In the world that Charlie Holmberg has created, she’s done nothing to set-up more fairy tale themes. it’s just a standard fantasy world that she then brings in a few mentions to fairy tales and lays it on fairly heavily in the middle, and then ignores it again at the end. The end is the other big thing that doesn’t make a ton of sense. I won’t spoil it, but let’s say that it tries to get deep, and it feels a bit like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy mixed with an anime that has been about giant mechs fighting and the last episodes are an existential crisis, I’m looking at you Gurren Lagann and Neon Genesis Evangelion. I think it could have been done in a way that would have worked, but you are told bits and pieces of what is going to happen in the end, but you never feel like you have a real chance of discovering it with the character, versus just having her told what is going on.
Now, I have been pretty hard on this book. I do want to come back and say, I think that the writing style is pulled off well. You get this sense of whimsy that ties nicely into the fairy tale aspect and the cake baking. And I was able to read through it quickly and didn’t feel like it was a slog, because there are hints of interesting that you can keep on finding. I would say that this book is like rice. By that, I mean that the rice is good and helps make up a meal, but it’s nothing amazing just by itself and just kind of plain. That’s what this book is, it’s good but in the end, for a fantastical idea like it has, it just ends up being a little bit plain. Not bad and reading it I had my fill of the rice, there’s just nothing that makes me want to come back and have more of this book or things by this author, even though I am slightly interested in her Paper Magician series, but after one book, I don’t feel like I need to fill up on rice.
Have you read the Paper Magician Series or Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet? Did you like them? What are some books that you think a “rice”?
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Back into the world of Ascend Online for a little bit. Now I need to wait until the next one comes out, I should really find series that are complete to read or listen to at this point. Arcane Ascension is still going and Ascend…
Back with another book review, looking at the second book in the series by Luke Chmilenko, Ascend Online. Now, you can see that this is kind of the second book because it isn’t #2, but is instead #1.5. The reason for this is that this book follows a different character and takes place between the first and second books, from what I can tell.
Let’s do a bit of a refresher, what is Ascend Online. Ascend Online is a full dive, full immersion video game with a fantasy setting. While other companies in this world have tried to create games like this before, they haven’t worked, but this one is amazing and it feels right. We are following one group of players who show up in the city of Eberia in the first book and then head out into the wilds. This time we are following Lazarus Cain (great name), a half-giant half-elf who instead of going out adventuring like most players did, joined the thieves guilds in Eberia to try something different in the game. However, when he wakes up in a another thieve’s guilds hideout without his memories and a sigil emblazoned on his chest, he has the adventure come to him.
It was a bit interesting starting this book, because I saw that this was book #1.5, so I knew I wanted to go in what is technically the right order, but I wasn’t sure what I should be expecting. I wasn’t expecting for it to be in Eberia and with a different group of players. That took a few minutes to get used to, but I think that I like Lazarus as well as I like Marcus (Lyr) in the other books. Mainly, because I think that Lazarus is a bit more of an interesting character. I like Marcus, but he is more of the prototypical hero. Lazarus, while part of the thieve’s guild is still a caring person and is worried about the world. Again, Chmilenko does a good job of staying away from creating an edgelord which would have been easy to do yet again. The characters that Lazarus interacts with, the other players in the games and the NPC’s, also seem to be a bit more fleshed out with, which is nice.
Another thing that makes me like this book a little bit better is that the story is a bit more focused. The first one jumps around a bunch more and leaves a lot of open ends to the story. Now, I think that’s good, since we’re in a series, to not tie everything up, but you feel like there are two stories in the first book. This, on the other hand, is all about finding the memories and figuring out what is going to be happening and how to stop it. I think it also helps that this story is in Eberia and not in a larger area. This is actually some good advice for young writers or new Dungeon Masters, keep your story focused to a smaller location and it’ll probably end up being a tighter story because you don’t need to fully build and explain as much of the world.
Now, this book isn’t perfect. You can still tell that Luke Chmilenko is a young author. There are some things, like the NPC’s swearing that is a bit jarring. I feel like in a fantasy world, the NPC’s should have their own way to swear or phrases that they use as compared to just saying what we say now. For the players, I’m fine with it, but for the NPC’s it’s a bit world. The other thing, and I complained about this in the first book as well as the Sufficiently Advanced Magic series, is use and listen to your editor. While I think it was a little bit better in this book in terms of writing, Chmilenko still had a serious issue with repeating or over writing sections of his book. This comes down to describing something and then repeating the same description of the same thing in just a little bit later, sometimes in the same sentence. Any editor worth their salt would have fixed this issue. It’s stuff like “The slow moving river of sewage slowly drifted by, it’s went wafting up to us” or something similar to that, where you have it already described as slow and then repeated. Definitely could save on words that way and make it clearer. I’m not going to knock him for the stat blocks, as I think they are an issue just because I’m listening to the series, not reading it.
Overall, I liked this book better than the first. It definitely still has the issue that I’ve found in so many LitRPG’s where it’s overwritten and just needs a good going through by an editor. I think that this is a better book than the first, and I really enjoyed the story and the main character. This is a very traditional LitRPG, but it’s a good series for someone who wants to start in the genre. I’ve already started book #2, so expect in a few weeks a review on that one as well.
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It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review, that’s mainly because I’ve been reading a ton of Dresden Files recently. However, at work, I’ve been listening to the Arcane Ascension series which thus far has two books Sufficiently Advanced Magic and On the Shoulders of Titans, neither which is that aptly named (but that’s not that important, titles are hard). The Arcane Ascension is a LitRPG/LitJRPG series that hides a lot of it’s RPG trappings beneath the surface, but they are fairly obvious if you start looking for them.
The premise of the books is that on the continent of Kaldwyn there are several nations, all of which have a spire in them. These spires, put there by the goddess, grant amazing powers to those who can afford to go into them, but those powers need to be honed. Corin Cadence, comes from a noble family, so he can afford to go into the tower at the proper time to get his attunement. He really wants to get an attunement that will be able to help him find his brother who disappeared in the tower during his test five years ago. Most likely, his brother is dead, but Corin hopes to find him, or if not, eventually become strong enough to climb to the top so he can entreat the goddess to bring his brother back. Things don’t go as Corin expected in the tower, but he does leave with an attunement, just not the one he had hoped for. We then get to follow him and some old friends and they go through school and unravel the mysteries that the spires have to offer.
The story has an interesting premise and a solid execution on the premise. The main character is actually quite strong, too often not the case in books that seem targeted towards a younger audience, and the supporting characters really shine. I wouldn’t call this a very complex story, but it doesn’t need to be, and the concept of these spires that give you power and that you can basically level up your power is strong direct tie to LitRPG writing. This is also where I’ve seen some reviews say that it isn’t, because it doesn’t do the classic RPG thing of giving you XP and leveling you up, however, attunements become stronger the more mana you get, it’s a very obvious one for one comparison.
I also have to give some props to the author for his writing of the series. I’ve done several LitRPG books, I guess just these two plus one other that I’ve finished and have started a fourth one now and tried to start a few more, but fairly often LitRPG is self published and you can really tell. I don’t know if Andrew Rowe self published, but his work is much more polished than other LitRPG writing. I also have to give him credit for being able to write action with emotion extremely well. While I never truly believe that he’ll kill off one of the side characters, though I do suspect it’ll happen at some point in time, you still tension surrounding it, and the tertiary characters you know aren’t safe, and they are named characters. And when it comes to plot, Rowe does a good job of not over plotting it or leaning into making too many twists, which can often be the folly of younger writers.
With all of that said, there are a few glaring flaws in the writing. Rowe sets up Corin Cadence to be a character who really dislikes being touched, who has major troubles with relationships and trusting anyone. And then he throws him into a romance or some sort of a romance with another character just because that character is mysterious for the reason why Corin is interested. It’s sloppy and forced, which is really annoying, because you have a harem (yes, that is why I said LitJRPG, it’s basically a platonic harem feel) style story, but one that has a strong protagonist that is never written like he’d rush into a romance. Also, why does there even have to be a romance. This issue with writing those romantic style relationships is then exacerbated when the Corin is betrayed by someone he cares about, and we’ve just been listening to how he doesn’t trust people, but somehow in book two he’s starting to trust the character who betrayed him, without anything more than a few throw away lines.
The other major flaw is handling of bisexual, gay, and gender fluid character introductions in the books. This is supposed to be something that is normal on the continent, but the author, treats it like it is 2000. There’s a lot of explaining of what is going on, which doesn’t make a ton of sense, because we’re getting this from first person perspective. The main character who has lived in this society his whole life doesn’t need to think about why someone is gender fluid. Someone who has been in the country for over a year, and if this is common, won’t be wondering about this. It should just be stated and treated as normal. We need more authors to do that in their writing, treating something as if it’s normal in their world so that we understand it as normal there and we don’t break the immersion into the story. It also helps make those things feel more natural in the real world when they are treated as expected in what we read, not called out because the author doesn’t think the readers will get it somehow?
All of that said about the negatives, those parts of the book are small. They are just jarring because the rest of it, like I said, is solidly written and the best example of LitRPG that I’ve read thus far. The first one was basically the writers dream of being an edgelord (someone who want to seem edgy by saying or doing risque or offensive things) and the newest one leans too heavily into the stat block side of RPG’s. This one hides what it is behind the curtain well. I would compare it to Is It Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon with the tower aspect and a character who is always looking to get stronger to try and prove something. In some ways, this book might actually be better as a manga and anime than it is as a novel, and I mean that as a compliment as I think it would work extremely well in those forms, and it works well as a novel.
If you are interested in trying a LitRPG, I would recommend the Arcane Ascension series. I have hopes that it will end up interestingly, and even if it is a pretty straight forward plot thus far, the characters are strong and make the series very enjoyable. It even has a bit of a slice of life feel about it at times. I don’t know that the series will be for everyone because generally LitRPG does tend to be self published, and have more editing flaws in it than your normal novel. Again, though, this one is cleaner than most that way, and work well.
Have you heard of this series and given it a chance? What are your thoughts on it, and does it sound interesting to you? Have you read any LitRPG that you like?
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So today’s book review is a little different than my usual — that’s right, folks, we’re venturing into non-fiction land! I’m notoriously bad about reading non-fiction. Give me a couple of YA books and I’ll happily read them within the space of a week, but…