I had heard so many wonderful things about Legendborn that I was a little scared to read it. What if I didn’t love it? After all, YA tends to be very hit-or-miss for me. I needn’t have worried, because this book was absolutely fantastic. I was blown away by the world-building, the concept, and the character development. Bree was a phenomenal protagonist. She was far from perfect, but I loved watching her strengths solidify and rooting for her as she wrestled with the trauma and loss life had dealt her. And it’s a campus novel with a secret society, which is an added bonus. This is also one of the freshest, most original takes on Arthurian legend I’ve experienced, even making me want to go back and reread some of the source inspiration.
“Don’t make your life about the loss. Make it about the love.”
We have an exciting post today. Novel Notions will be hosting the cover reveal to Until the Last by Mike Shackle! This is the third and final book in The Last War series by Mike Shackle. In addition to the cover art below, I also had the chance to ask Mike Shackle his thoughts and feelings on the cover art and being done with the final book. This is one of my favorite series, and I’m so looking forward to reading this novel. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Mike Shackle, and also the cover reveal to Until the Last!
Published: 26th April 2022 by Ace (US) & 28th April 2022 by HarperVoyager (UK)
Mark Lawrence was once asked in an interview if he was a planter or a pantser—whether he planned his stories far out in advance or flew by the seat of his pants—and he described himself as the latter. After finishing The Girl and the Moon, it’s getting harder and harder to believe him. The final chapter of the Book of the Ice series not only caps the trilogy with an exceptionally strong finish but it also feels like an exclamation mark on his entire body of work, culminating all the major storylines from his other series throughout his publishing career into an Avengers: Endgame-style finale filled with triumph, tragedy, and hope.
Books one and two spoilers ahead.
After escaping Black Rock, traversing the ice, and making their way through a warp gate, Yaz, Theus, Quina, Thurin, Mali, and Erris have found themselves inside Sweet Mercy Convent, awaiting trial for theft and murder, thanks to the treacherous Eular. Right out of the … ahem… gate, the first few chapters place our heroes under heavy duress and the book is basically unputdownable until the opening sequence is resolved. Mark has a talent for strong openings, but this is his fastest, most exciting, highest-stakes opening sequence out of any of his novels, full-stop. The second quarter of the novel slows things down a bit as the troupe gets situated into their new surroundings, and the story does start to feel like it loses a bit of direction, as the characters don’t really know the best path to take. That quickly changes around the halfway mark, as there is a dramatic shift, several plot twists, some surprising character choices, and we’re off to the races until the rollercoaster ending.
The last line of dialogue feels like the both the symbolic and definitive end to the Broken Empire & Abeth saga, with a clear message that the last pages of this universe have been written, and something else entirely is on the horizon for Mark’s next projects. I get a sense that for the first time it will be unlinked to anything else he’s written before. If true, I’ll be sad to see this incredible world go, but it has been concluded with the utmost care for its characters and environment.
There was one moment in the closing half when a few lines of dialogue casually dropped, and it changed everything. Careful readers and longtime fans will pick up on the reference and will have their perspective on the whole trilogy re-evaluated, though it is possible to miss! Looking back, knowing what I know now, I am seeing the clues doled out along the way. I like to think I’m good at picking up on these things, but this time I was blindsided by the revelation and absolutely adored it. It’s rare to feel such an unexpected payoff that feels so earned and justified, and Lawrence pulled it off beautifully.
The Book of the Ice series is less of a sequel series than a companion series to The Book of the Ancestor, and strangely enough, I think that can be said for all of Mark’s series. Even though they take place at different points along the same timeline, there’s a fair argument that a new and thrilling experience can be gleaned by reading any of his series in any order you choose. I read them in order of publication, but I’m now curious at the different perspective I’d have gained if I read them in a different order. It’s a testament to Mark’s jazz-like style of storytelling – sometimes it’s the words not said that speak loudest – which adds to the mystique of each new volume’s release.
The Girl and the Moon is not only an exciting and rewarding finish to Yaz’s saga, but also a love letter to the universe and the fans who have appreciated its construction over the years. It is a rare book that makes its preceding books even better.
I’ve never watched Pan’s Labyrinth. I remember borrowing the DVD from the library about a decade ago, but Chris vetoed it about 10 minutes in because it was subtitled and our tv was small. While I always intended to go back to it one day, I just never got around to it. That’s going to have to change, because I absolutely loved this novelization of the story. I feel like “novelization” is almost an insult, actually. Because, while I’ve never seen the movie, I know that the care with which this book was written and illustrated demands more respect that such nomenclature usually provides. Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun, is gorgeous in the same way poisonous mushrooms are: lush, inviting, but deadly.
The only books I’ve read from Maas are those in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, and even those were very recent reads for me. In comparison to those, Crescent City is pretty wildly different while still delivering the plucky, surly, fallible heroine archetype and sultry, multifaceted, misunderstood love interest they’ve come to expect from her work. While the world building was excessive and clunky, the addition of an intriguing murder mystery kept me interested enough to keep reading. I’m glad I did because, though this book had some issues, the back half made it very much worth reading. …
Published: 22nd February 2022 by Cryptid Press (Self-Published)
Legends and Lattes is the wholesome and cozy fantasy you didn’t know you need.
For those of you who don’t know, Travis Baldree has been well known for his role as the audiobook narrator behind Will Wight’s Cradle series. And many other series, really. Legends and Lattes is his debut novel, and I do think Baldree should now be known for his fantasy novel, too. I wouldn’t have known about Legends and Lattes if it weren’t for Twitter. Most of you probably know already, almost all of my favorite novels and stories are intense, emotional, dark, and serious in tone. But I do love slice-of-life as a genre as well. When I saw the cover art—illustrated by Carson Lowmiller—to Legends and Lattes on Twitter, with the premise indicating this is a high fantasy novel with low stakes, I knew I couldn’t go wrong with my expectations entering this book. I knew immediately I should read this when I’m in the mood for something short, cozy, and wholesome. Despite loving slice-of-life in other storytelling mediums such as manga, anime, and TV shows, I seem to struggle to find a terrific slice-of-life fantasy novel. But I got what I wanted here. Legends and Lattes is the slice-of-life fantasy novel I craved and received. …
A powerful and satisfying conclusion to this refreshing and inventive trilogy.
Locklands is a magic-infused techno-thriller with elements of cyberpunk and an epic fantasy chaser. The cover is telling: you, the reader, are peering through the cover’s keyhole into another realm, and opening the book will unlock its many secrets. This theme becomes especially relevant to the plot, as the stakes of the story involve rewriting the rules of reality itself. Good luck trying to guess what happens next. This is a blockbuster story, split into five parts, with each part presenting one long action sequence. It is tightly written and fast-paced, wasting no time putting you amidst against-all-odds battles. Ever since the opening pages of Foundryside, Sancia and her crew have been pulling off heists in one form or another. Locklands brings the story full circle by upping the heists to a level where the stakes could not be greater. It’s breathless, mind-bending fun.
Some plot spoilers for books one and two ahead.
Book three picks up several years after the end of Shorefall. Tevanne, an amalgamation of former ally Gregor and Valeria, is using its advanced scriving techniques to conquer the known world. All humans who fall under Tevanne’s path become part of its host army, to be used as sentries, warriors, or even worse: batteries. Sancia, Berenice, Clef, and some of the remaining Founders crew are part of a resistance group that are doing whatever they can to stop Tevanne from acquiring the means to re-write reality in its own horrifying vision. For years, Sancia and Berenice have been innovating to survive their fight against this unstoppable force and have built a new society along the way. Their own scriving method that allows for the “twinning” of minds has given this resistance society the means to have multiple bodies share one consciousness and work in harmony towards common goals. Contrary to how Tevanne occupies all its human hosts as one collective being, the resistance voluntarily shares their identities and souls with each other, linking to a chain of like-minded individuals who are dedicated toward their given societal roles. When two humans link, they share all thoughts and feelings, are able to see through each other’s eyes, and no longer have the need to speak aloud. Link more caretaking beings to this chain and suddenly you have a high-functioning medical unit who knows exactly how to run at full operational capacity and efficiency, with each person working perfectly in tandem, knowing the needs of everyone else at any given moment. It’s a huge sacrifice of privacy for the gain of unprecedented intimacy. Is this a choice the reader would be willing to make with their loved ones? There is a dichotomy that Bennett presents, showing the best and worst of this identity-sharing theme, and made me question what I would do if given certain choices that these characters had to make.
Although we spend a lot of time with our usual main cast, Clef was the primary focus for character development this go-around. His history was integral to the story; we couldn’t move forward without moving backward, and many of the questions raised in the earlier parts of the trilogy were finally answered. Testing the limits of Sancia and Berenice’s relationship was another major theme to this story, and you should prepare yourself with some Kleenex by the time the epilogue rolls around.
Boy, that epilogue. A heart-stomping piece of work that ties off this series beautifully. For as much of the story is an epic war of wit and machinery, there were a few emotional scenes at the end that are going to stick with me the longest. I’ll replay the awesome and creative battle scenes in my head, but I’ll feel the emotional avalanche of the epilogue for much longer.
Bennett has crafted a fitting finish to the Founders trilogy: one full of devastation, hope, torrid action, mystery, and brilliance. His scriving system of re-writing the rules to reality is one of the most creative, rewarding magic systems in any fantasy series I’ve read. Like The Divine Cities, the Founders trilogy smashes many genres into something wholly unique, fresh, and fascinating. I can’t recommend this author, or series, enough.
Published: 14th April 2022 by Orbit (UK) and 12th April 2022 by Orbit (US)
The Hunger of the Gods tempestuous final chapters have successfully prepared readers for the grand conclusion to come.
So here we are again, another year and another book by John Gwynne, one of my top favorite authors of all time. The Shadow of the Gods was one of the best books released in 2021 for me. The Hunger of the Gods, the second book in The Bloodsworn Saga, is my second most anticipated books—the first one belongs to The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson—of 2022. Before I talk about what worked so well for me in this continuation, it is mandatory for me to give my praises towards the publisher—Orbit Books—and the cover artist: Marcus Whinney. If you somehow haven’t seen the cover art of The Shadow of the Gods and The Hunger of the Gods, do it now. Orbit Books and Whinney has created another epic and distinctive cover seller. The scope of Lik-Rifa and Ulfrir in the cover arts is massive, and the realism looks downright stunning …
It’s safe to say now that with each installment, each book in the The Riyria Revelations series consistently gets better and better in quality. The second omnibus in The Riyria Revelations titled Rise of Empire consists of the third book, Nyphron Rising, and the fourth book, The Emerald Storm, of the series. Whether on the first or second read, Rise of Empire is overall a superior collection of novels compared to the previous omnibus: Theft of Swords. Similar to my Theft of Swords review, I’ll start my review by showing you another beautiful cover art of the series done right by Marc Simonetti, and also a beautiful fanart of a scene in The Emerald Storm.
“Power rises to the top like cream and dominates the weak with cruelty disguised as — and often even believed to be — benevolence.”