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"Vita Nostra" review

There’s a lot of symbolism and metaphor; some of it is literary, some of it philosophical, and some of it religious. The book starts out as a magical school plot, with some possibly-snarky societal critique of baroque application processes and studying requirements in modern universities. Then things start to get…extremely weird (they were already weird).

"A Hunter Among Wolves" review

From its frenetic pacing to its video-game-NPC dialogue to its uncomfortably erotic torture scene, A Hunter Among Wolves has a lot of issues. This probably should have been a DNF, but the one thing it does have going for it is that it’s short enough to not be too big a time investment so I figured I may as well finish it so I could write a full review and see if it got any better (it did not).

"Legendborn" review

Legendborn tries to do a few too many things at the same time, and as a result is a bit messy and inconsistent when it could have been great. Bree Matthews is a gifted high-school student who gets accepted to an “Early College” program at UNC Chapel Hill along with her best friend Alice. She’s excited to attend, but everything changes when her mom dies in a car accident the day after she receives her acceptance. When she arrives at UNC, she’s dealing with her grief, being a Black girl in a mostly white campus - and a secret society of demon hunters called the Legendborn.

"Empire Under a Dying Sun" review

Empire Under a Dying Sun is set in a Greek-inspired fantasy world experiencing a calamity straight out of science fiction (literally, if you’ve read for example Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary) - the sun is dying. With this backdrop, we have four POV characters: A young Empress struggling to find her confidence; her husband, who needs to learn to see the common people as real human beings; an old army general struggling with alcoholism; and his second-in-command, who needs to overcome her childhood trauma at the hands of the empire, and find something worth fighting for other than money. The novel explores these individual stories as well as the ethical dilemmas that arise from limited resources and the dying sun.

"Legends & Lattes" review

When the world is a bad place, sometimes what you want is a quiet, comforting, feel-good, slice-of-life novel that’s the literary equivalent of a kitten and a warm blanket and a fireplace and a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, depending which one you prefer. And that is precisely what Legends & Lattes is: a low-stakes novel about an orc barbarian-turned-barista where the magic is the friendships we make along the way.

"Cradle of Sea and Soil" review

Cradle of Sea and Soil is a coming-of-age story with a few twists set in a unique world that I wanted to love, but I only mostly liked. The story has two third-person POV characters: Colibr√≠ and her son Narune, both “Halfborn” with island coyote ears and tail who are scorned by the island’s “Trueborn” humans. Despite their status, both of them are proud fighters and do battle against the Stillness, the deadly opposite of the Flows of Creation; and the halja, unnatural, hollow beasts that spawn from the Stillness. At the start of the novel, Narune is beginning to enter adulthood, and he wants to shake off the stereotypes that come with being Halfborn. Unfortunately, these stereotypes are rooted in tragic reality, and his dreams may be harder to achieve than he realizes.

"The Thirteenth Hour" review

A dark gaslamp fantasy with a unique world and twelve original races, each with its own god, The Thirteenth Hour is worth reading just for its premise and setting. But its characters and plot more than do it justice too, as it follows co-protagonists Kayl and Quen through a reluctant partnership to solve a case that begins as a simple murder mystery and turns into something much, much bigger.

"Stariel Series" review

“The Lord of Stariel is dead. Long live the Lord of Stariel. Whoever that is,” proclaims the blurb, and The Lord of Stariel begins with a prologue literally titled “An Ominous Prologue.” What follows is a delightful quartet that is not at all as un-serious as one might expect from such a first impression, but still retains a relatively light-hearted atmosphere with an intimate scope. There’s magic, minor battle scenes, and other standard fantasy fare, but the focus is primarily on Hetta dealing with her family, potential lovers, and increasingly complex politics.

"The Crypt Lord's Call" review

The Crypt Lord’s Call was my introduction to the LitRPG genre, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Theo (also known as: Teddy, Not Teddy, Theodore, Crypt Lord) wakes up after seeing some mysterious letters in the sky and finds himself in the Afterlife, forced to participate in an RPG-like System. Step 1: Get some food and clothing. Step 2: Join a guild’s welcoming party. Step 3: Be invited to the guild. Step 4: Reject the guild’s invitation, instead allying himself with local mobs because the System seems damn unfair. Wait, that doesn’t sound right, does it? And things only get crazier from there.

"The Paladin Caper" review

The first half of The Paladin Caper combines the best parts of The Palace Job - the humor and character interactions - with the best parts of The Prophecy Con - the true high fantasy plot - as the ancients are beginning to return to the world. It introduces the perfect villain for the setting, incompetent yes-man Handel Westteich. And it even finds a way to make Kail’s “your mother” jokes funny. After completion of the first arc, the novel flounders for a bit, but the payout of the climax is excellent and well worth the wait.