This week’s One Word review will be Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula by Bram Stoker and Valdimar Asmundsson.
And the award for the book that could have been cleverly edited into a plotline in the first book goes to…
Namesake by Adrienne Young
Reading Challenge: Popsugar Reading Challenge
Prompt: A duology (2)
I liked the first book so I had high hopes for the sequel. Following straight on from the events of the previous book, Fable finds herself at the mercy of a notorious thug with whom she’s previously tangled with. Now, she doesn’t have a crew to help her so she has to cooperate with him for now. Fable has to contend with a hostile crew, some of whom seem to have a personal grudge against her, and the machinations of her old enemy who wants to earn the favour of Holland, a powerful gem trader looking to win high status with the merchant’s council. Holland, however, is not what she seems.
This felt like a very unfocussed story compared to the first one. The first one had a clear aim but this one felt like the characters were just muddling through rather than aiming towards an interesting goal. There was a lot that could have been cut out, including Zola’s initial gem collecting and the return of a figure from Fable’s time on Jeval (which turned out to be rather anticlimactic). In fact, if this could have been cut down to just the Holland plot, it could have been attached to the end of the first book and made it into a longer but well-formed story. The big twist with Holland was a pretty decent one as was the climax in the council chambers. I honestly didn’t know which way that was going to go. The slowly unfolding story of Fable’s mother, Isolde, was pretty interesting and I liked the treasure hunt it led to. Mostly because the book does adventures on the open sea a lot better than it does intrigues on land. The intrigues around the merchant council and Holland tried to be interesting too but, unfortunately, the characters were too distanced from it to really get into it. There were some good parts but this gem was a bit too rough-cut and flawed to be worth as much as the first book. It’s readable but rather disappointing.
And the award for the book that really didn’t need the timeskips goes to…
The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco
Reading Challenge: Bookforager’s Picture Prompt Book Bingo
It’s been quite a while since I read the first book. I wasn’t too thrilled with it but, since this comes free on the Audible Plus catalogue and it has the word ‘heart’ in the title, I decided to make this part of the Picture Prompt Book Bingo. Tea’s mentor, Mykkie, is fading fast without her heartglass, a vessel that contains part of the soul. Tea will not allow her to die, even if it means breaking her exile from the kingdom. She returns just as the crown prince is betrothed – and then struck down with a mysterious sleeping sickness that turns his healthy heartglass grey. Tea is blamed and has to flee. With the help of a forbidden spell book and the few allies she still has, she must find a way to cure the sickness that is sweeping through the princes and princesses of the kingdoms and stop whatever dark force is behind it.
The timeskips were completely unnecessary. The ‘present’ sections clearly tried to offer clever hints and foreshadowing as to what was going to happen next. Unfortunately, it didn’t manage that half the time and only succeeded in confusing me. In fact, I was fairly confused about characters and plotlines all the way through but that may have been because it’s been a while since I read the first book. The romance didn’t sway me as it took too long and too much drama to get going and the reader is told far too early how it’s going to end. The world building was very good as it introduced another of the kingdoms. This one, unfortunately for Tea, has a very self-absorbed emperor who is fond of taking concubines and not fond of the word ‘no’. We learn more about heartglasses and the ceremonies around it too. We learn about what the colours mean and which are more respected than others. We also learn about the craft and the strong moral codes around it, as well as more of the magic, including some very forbidden spells. I’m afraid that Tea herself doesn’t do much to distinguish herself from the standard YA protagonist template either. She makes bad decisions in love, breaks rules when she’s forced, makes smart remarks a bit too often and doesn’t move the plot forward as much as she should. If anything, she’s a bit more interesting in the present timeline but, since her story is told second hand in those sections, we don’t see what she’s really thinking and it’s not as effective. The side characters like Fox and the princess were more interesting. I particularly loved the way the princess navigated her way into a powerful position within the new kingdom’s court. In the end, I’m afraid the second book hasn’t reignited my interest in the series. It had plenty of action but not enough in between to draw me back into the world enough to make me want to read the ending.
And now for the first nominee of the year…
The nominee for the award for the book that would cement the author’s autobuy status goes to…
Under the Whispering Door by T. J. Klune
Reading Challenge: Be Sure Athon 2023
I was really sure I would love this one. I absolutely adored The House In The Cerulean Sea and it looks like this book was trying the same trick of making someone who would be a low level antagonist in another book into a very likeable protagonist. There were all the Gaiman-esque flairs and whimsy present. In fact, the concept of Reapers and a tea shop between life and death could have come right out of The Sandman. In fact, I got the sense that this would have been much better if this was a graphic novel. The scenes were mostly quiet, contemplative scenes as Wallace slowly gets used to life at the tea shop and Hugo and Nelson impart their wisdom on him. I could see this becoming a beautiful cosy graphic novel like The Tea Dragon Society (hey, tea’s already involved). Unfortunately, as a straight novel, it ends up being very slow. At least, The House in the Cerulean Sea had lots of background characters and side plots to keep the plot going. This doesn’t have anything of interest going on apart from occasional flickers of character development from Wallace. Maybe, my reading of this is suffering from comparisons with other books but, for me, this just couldn’t get itself off the ground. I stuck around past the usual 25% mark because the style was nice and I was hoping for more from this author. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like anything was forthcoming so I have to look elsewhere.
DNFed at 33%
I hope to see you again very soon.