Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review: "The Unfinished Song (Book 1): Initiate" by Tara Maya

I did a brief spotlight for this book a while ago, but I finally got around to reading it. Here is my full review.

Amazon link:

Amazon description:

Dindi can't do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi's clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn't commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don't kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father's wars and his mother's curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her... assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.

 My review:
1 out of 5 stars--I was able to finish it, but I would not read it again.

I feel my rating needs an explanation, so bear with me while I give a brief synopsis before I go on to give my reasons for only giving this book one star.

The story follows a number of characters, and eventually all of the various stories bring the characters into Dindi's life. She is a youth from a very rudimentary village--as in, the people live in huts made of dirt and their lives are focused on survival. Dindi dreams of becoming a Tavaedi (a magic-user whose powers are invokes through dance), and she will get the opportunity to try for a position in the secret society during her initiation into adulthood. However, Dindi's world is one of strife, and the journey to the place of initiation is more dangerous than she could have imagined.

First let me focus on what I liked about the book. The author is quite a talented writer, and she paints a world that is immediately engaging. The dialogue is natural and convincing, and there are bountiful details that make the world seem more real. The author has given thought to what the people would eat, what they would wear, what tasks would be necessary each day, etc. I love such practical details. It makes a story more rich for me. And even though Dindi (and the other characters involved in this story) belonged to a world vastly different from my own, I could still relate to what they were feeling and how they handled various situations. I remembered being fourteen years old (as Dindi is) and feeling like a misfit, wanting to be so much more. The author made that connection with me as a reader, and I really cared what happened to each of the characters. I would have loved to see where the story took them.

However, I will not read future books in this series, nor will I read this one again.

The world in which this story takes place is a dark one. That is understandable. After all, there has to be some sort of conflict, otherwise there would be no story. Unfortunately, the author was quite detailed in the forms of darkness found in this story. It describes several instances of rape, cannibalism, infanticide, torture, and battle (not just fighting, but descriptions of the blood and gore). Not to mention a brief scene that contained some nudity (mild, I suppose, compared to some other books, but still there), and some abrasive language. There were several times I almost stopped reading because of how sickened I felt inside. In my opinion, this book should not be classified as YA fantasy. I would not want the teenagers of my family reading this kind of content.

Now, I understand that these are (unfortunately) very real situations. I don't mean to act like things such as rape and murder do not happen. That being said, I want to read books that leave me feeling better for having read them. This book did not do that for me. The author has slated the series to be 12 books long, and she has said that it has a happy ending. Personally, I do not wish to trudge through figurative mud in order to arrive at a destination that could have been reached by other means.

I acknowledge that I have rather conservative standards, and I know that the things that bothered me may not bother others. Still, I felt it important to write a review so that those who share my conservative standards are aware of what this book entails.

On a purely technical note, I didn't care for how often the story jumped characters. It was more than halfway through the book before any of the separate stories came together. It gave it a slightly disjointed feel, which I didn't like. As I read I assumed that eventually all of the different people would be relevant to the main story (Dindi's), but it took a while for that to happen. There was also one instance where modern slang was thrown into the dialogue (which is a pet peeve of mine), but it only happened the once. 

These are relatively minor things, though. My main reason for the poor rating is the content. If you are not bothered by such things, then you may like this book. If you are more sensitive (as I am), then I would advise against reading it.

For more details on my rating system, click here.

Threshold Trivia: Kendan's Blood Weapon

My husband suggested doing a post about Kendan's Blood Weapon, since it may not be a commonly known weapon. I figured it might be fun for you faithful few readers to learn a bit of random knowledge that you probably won't ever use again. Haha!

First of all, let me talk a bit about Blood Weapons. In my stories within the Threshold Trilogy, those who have graduated Shimat training are given a weapon that has been infused with a few drops of their own blood. The belief behind this tradition is that the weapon was made with a part of you, and therefore it truly belongs to only you. Only the true owner can utilize the weapon to its fullest potential, supposedly. The Shimat are given a variety of weapons, according to their talents and preference. Adesina has a sword, and Kendan has a meteor hammer.

For those of you who like to know the practical details, I did a bit of research to see if adding blood to metal during the forging process would compromise the integrity of the finished product. I found that if it was only a small amount (i.e. a few drops) that it wouldn't make a difference.

The meteor hammer was originally a Chinese weapon and it called by a number of names. Of the options I found, I liked meteor hammer best (although, "dragon's fist" is pretty cool, too). The meteor hammer can be used as both a defensive and offensive weapon. Kendan's meteor hammer has a dagger on one end and a metal ball on the other, but most commonly you will only see the metal ball on one end and a handle on the other or a metal ball on both ends.

When using the meteor hammer, one will swing it around the body to build up speed and then strike at any angle. Here is an awesome video with a demonstration:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Book Review: "Blood of a Mermaid" by Katie O'Sullivan

Just a quick note: this was actually the book I was originally asked to review by the author. However, since I had not read the first book (this one is a sequel), I waited to read "Son of a Mermaid" first. That's why I'm doing two book reviews in a row by the same author.

Amazon link:

Amazon description:
Mermaid blood.
When Shea MacNamara fell into the ocean for the first time, he found he could breathe underwater. The son of a mermaid, the sea is in his blood. Literally. The best part of Shea’s new life? His girlfriend Kae, who also happens to be a beautiful mermaid.
But darkness lurks under the sea. When evil mermen kidnap Kae, the king reminds Shea that having royal blood means making tough choices.
An Arctic dungeon, a fiery plane crash, the legendary halls of Atlantis…and narwhals?
Having mermaid blood just got a lot more complicated.

My review:
3 out of 5 stars--I liked it, and would read it again.

This sequel picks up a couple of weeks after the first book ends. Shea is still adjusting to the knowledge that mermaids really exist, and that he's a part of that underwater world. The future is looking bright for him, though. The villain Demyan is on the run, making the contentions between merfolk clans easier to heal. His relationship with Kae continues to blossom, and he looks forward to attending University (the merfolk school) with her in the fall. However, Shea's role in the underwater world's political struggle continues to be a problem. Kae is kidnapped as leverage against Shea, and the teenage boy is launched into yet another adventure where he must try to balance his drylander upbringing with his new life as a merman.

As I have said in the review of "Son of a Mermaid," I am not normally a fan of paranormal fiction. But again, I quite enjoyed reading this book. This sequel is able to delve deeper into the world that the author has created, and I liked learning more about the different mermaid clans and the nuances of underwater life. I liked the overall story of "Blood of a Mermaid" better than the first book, mostly because the story has already been set up and the author can jump right into the meat of the story. The author's storytelling continues to be easily engaging and descriptive in a manner that includes all of the senses. Some of her descriptions made me smile because of how simple and funny and true they were. Sharing in Shea's personal struggles was like remembering some of my own at that age--trying to figure out who you are (and who you want to be), trying to understand relationships (both romantic and otherwise), coping with change, and so forth. The author finds ways to make the reader understand how the characters feel, even though the situations (like being a mermaid) are very different. I appreciate a writer that can do that. There is only one criticism that comes to mind as I think about the story, and it's a very small one. The author makes a point of stating that mermaids speak a bit more formally and do not understand some of the slang that Shea uses. Then a subsequent conversation between two merfolk is filled with several bits of modern slang--terms like "buddies" and "hanging out"and so forth. It's a small thing, and it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book, but it is something that seemed out of place in my mind. Setting such nit-picking aside, I would say that this is a fun book to read and I look forward to seeing where the rest of the story goes.

For more information on my rating system, click here.