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Tempests and Slaughter

You know Numair Salmalín from the Wild Magic series… but who is he, really? How did the most powerful wizard in the world earn such a title?

Say hello to ten-year-old Aram Draper, a young student at the Imperial University of Carthak. Actually, he’s the youngest in his class. Bored all the time with the beginner magics, he’s moved up to more intermediate magic at a startlingly young age. His abilities have alienated him from the other children his age, and while he loves studying, he does get quite lonely. Two older classmates, Varice Kingsford and Orzorne Tasikhe, take him under their wing. Varice is skilled at kitchen magic, and people often overlook her sharp mind because of it. Orzorne, though a member of the royal family, is so far removed from the throne he is sometimes called “The Leftover Prince.” The three make a fast circle of friends, and it’s clear to everyone their bond is a special one. They will need to lean on each other in their years at school – and beyond.

I’m a huge Tamora Pierce fan, and was super excited for this book. To return to the world of Tortall after so long – I was pumped! But, once I actually got it in my hands… It feels almost blasphemous to say, but I didn’t enjoy Tempests and Slaughter as much as I’d hoped =(

It kind of felt like half a book in some ways. It had a lot of good stuff: well-written characters, a strong core friendship, growing pains, political intrigue, ethics of war and slavery, godly intervention… but not really enough of any of it. The pace is incredibly fast, not really allowing for significant time spent with any of these topics. Just when you think you’re getting to the heart of one theme, it switches tack and goes in a totally different direction. This happens multiple times throughout. I feel like I only got the surface of a book as opposed to the whole picture, which was disappointing. Not to mention there was very little as far as the mechanics of magic, which was strange enough given the setting, but you’d think there would have been much more as this is Numair’s origin story. There could be more in-depth explainations on magic in earlier books that I don’t remember, but it still would have been welcome here.

All that said, I was glued to the book the entire time. Pierce’s writing style is engaging and she really knows how to suck readers in. Middle-grade and young adult readers will enjoy it for the action and quick pace. I wouldn’t say it’s essential to be familiar with Pierce’s past work and characters to fully enjoy the story. I’ve revisited the Song of the Lioness quartet in recent years, but not Wild Magic (where Numair was first introduced), and I was still able to pick things up well enough. For older fans who are familiar with Pierce’s work, however, this may be a bit of a disappointment.

– Kathleen

Pierce, Tamora. Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles 1). 2018.

The Dark Tower Series

Many of you already know that my obsession with the Dark Tower series began when I read and reviewed the graphic novel adaptation, The Gunslinger Born, back in the summer. I’ve been steadily plugging away at the books ever since. Well, I just finished the 7th novel and I have a lot of feelings! 8D

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

So begins the tale of Roland Deschain of Gilead, last of the line of Eld (that would be King Arthur to the rest of us). He has been chasing the Dark Tower his whole life. He’s sacrificed much for the road… family, friends, even the love of his life. No matter. What does matter is the road to the Tower. He means to climb to the top and see what lies within.

Oh yeah, and the Crimson King and his lackey, the man in black, are screwing with the Beams that hold up the Tower. If the last of the Beams are destroyed and the Tower falls, it means the end of the universe. For there are other worlds than these.

Though Roland is a gunslinger – sort of like a knight of the Round Table, but with guns instead of swords – he cannot stop the Crimson King alone. He draws three people from our world to aid him on his quest. One is Eddie Dean, a heroin addict from the late ’80s. Next is Odetta Holmes, a schizophrenic black woman missing her legs from the knee down in a freak accident during the ’60s. The last, a child named Jake Chambers, whom Roland has met before, and they didn’t part so amicably…

This band of misfits, lost in time, come together to form a ka-tet. One from many, with Roland as their leader. Under Roland’s tutelage, they become gunslingers themselves, seeking out the Dark Tower, following the ever-turning wheel of ka, of destiny…

Will they climb to the top of the Dark Tower? Will they even find it? Will those they encounter on their quest help them, or do they mean to kill them before they reach it?

I was held completely in thrall from the first sentence of the first novel to the last word of the seventh. Say whatever you want about Stephen King, the man knows how to write. The story has so many layers and intricacies to it that you take the time to savor every detail. Now that I’m done, I want to go back and see what I missed… maybe after a short break =P

The characters go through tremendous growth through the course of the series, but none more than Roland. At the start, he’s a hardened warrior, single-mindedly pursuing his quest at full speed, blinkers on and blind to all else. As the series goes on, we see him soften, open himself up to love and friendship. It’s not without consequences, and what happens to him is cyclical. Ka, destiny, time, is a wheel, and that’s the message at the heart of this series.

What’s most fascinating about the series is that it’s not one genre. Throw a little bit of Western, fantasy, science fiction, horror, along with a good dash of tongue-in-cheek pop culture and a sprinkling of supernatural and romance in the blender, and you end up with this series. I’m a librarian, and I could recommend it to just about anyone:

  • Love fantasy? The characters are on an epic quest, and there are multiple books to boot. The tone is atmospheric, like you would find in many fantasy novels, and there are elements of magic.
  • You read science fiction? Technology is rampant (though rapidly deteriorating) in this world. For instance, there are robots, both of the benign and killer variety, along with discussions of the theory of time travel and the multiverse.
  • Western reader? Roland himself is very much like a hero cowboy, and much of the setting is reminiscent of the Old West. There are no shortage of shootouts or action scenes either!
  • Horror connoisseur? First of all, I must ask you why you haven’t read this series yet, written by the King of Horror, and containing references to many (if not all) his previous works. Then I’ll tell you that there are monsters of multiple varieties, and passages that truly make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
  • For those of you who hate horror, however, I’m right there with you! There wasn’t nearly enough in this series to turn me off to it. You can also predict many of these scenes coming so you can skim if you need to.

See how easy that was? I’d also tell anyone that this is easily one of the best book series I’ve ever read. The literary quality is unparalleled: it’s just written masterfully. The story, action, and characters will keep you entranced from start to finish. I laughed, I cried, I cheered at Roland and his ka-tet’s triumphs and I despaired with them in their losses. It was truly a wild ride and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I really don’t know what to do with my life now, though… I’m totally at a loss for what to read next!

– Kathleen

King, Stephen. The Dark Tower series.

T5W: 2018 Reading Resolutions

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

Hope y’all enjoyed the holidays and are starting the new year off the way you want to! New Years is a time to start fresh. Here are a few of my resolutions as they pertain to books and graphic novels!

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5. Read more!!!

No brainer, right? I devour plenty of graphic novels for this blog, and because of my work schedule, they’ve come to make up the bulk of my reading. Hopefully I’ll have room for some more novels this year!

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4. Spend less on books

Really I’m trying to spend less on everything, because I’m saving for my wedding. Believe it or not, books are the easiest things to cut from the budget because I work in libraries =P

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3. Try some nonfiction

Let me tell you guys something about myself. I am a very, shall we say, safe person. I like routine. I do most things the same way every time. I stick with things I know I like. Example: I’ll order the same thing every time at a restaurant we frequent, whereas my fiancé will try something different every time.

I’m the same with my reading. I am a fantasy and comic book reader, and that’s about it. I don’t often go outside those boundaries. But this year I want to try to push myself to try a nonfiction novel in a subject I like outside my usual realms!

2. Expand fiction horizons

Please see above =P I have tried other genres before (romance, Christian, historical fiction) to mixed results. The one genre I think I absolutely cannot stand is mystery! Hopefully I find one this year that sticks.

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1. Read more Marvel comics

Last, but not least, I should expand my horizons where it counts… read more Marvel comics! I’m a DC fan at my core but there are Marvel heroes I like. I’ll thank Nancy in advance for keeping me honest with this one 😉

Do any of you have bookish resolutions?

– Kathleen

Top 5 Wednesday: Bookish Things You’re a Grinch About

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

I had a really nice post scheduled for today, but I had to reschedule it when I saw this prompt. I laughed pretty hard. Grade A Grinch right here. I hate the holidays. I hate the stress of gift-giving, I hate that we spend a literal entire day baking every year, I hate that my mom has 17 boxes of decorations that ALL have to get put up EVERY YEAR, and most of all, I hate how materialistic it all is.

But I know no one wants to hear me be a Grinch about the holidays because I’m apparently a total killjoy, so y’all can hear me be a Grinch about book things instead!!! (It’s my gift to you. Enjoy)

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5. Boring starts

My reading time is severely limited. I have two part-time jobs, art commissions to keep up with, and now a wedding to plan. I don’t have time to waste on boring books! I used to stick ’em out, but I don’t have the patience anymore. My new rule is, if it doesn’t grab me within 3 chapters, I’m done!

4. Slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow moving

This goes hand in hand with the first one. I actually don’t mind slow-moving novels. It’s when graphic novels are slower paced that I start chomping at the bit. This is probably because I’m so used to reading superhero comics that, by nature, are fast-paced. Slow-moving graphic novels seems like an oxymoron to me!

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3. Formulaic plots

I hate guessing how the plot is going to go, then being right. Some plots you see over and over and over again. Shake it up, people!!!

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2. Poorly designed covers

Like… did you even try???

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1. Mainstream fiction

You know what I mean. Those authors who put out 3 books every year and whose names take up half the cover. I read one Danielle Steele novel and that was more than enough for me. Call me a hipster, but I hate reading what everyone else reads!!!

So there you have it! A gloriously Grinchy post =P What are you a Grinch about?

– Kathleen

I’m off!

To Europe! For a week! With my boyfriend!

Months and months of planning have finally led up to this day… soon I’ll be boarding a plane to fly overseas for the first time in my life. I’m both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous I’ve forgotten to pack something.

Even though I’ve triple checked my bags.

I thought it’d be fun to tell you guys which books I’m bringing for the 8 hour flights!

  • Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien – it just seems fitting. I’m about to embark on a great journey, just like Frodo is.
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin – A dense read like this is sure to keep me occupied for a while =P Plus, I’ve been feeling like it’s time for a reread.
  • The Naming by Alison Croggon – I feel like I need some comfort from my favorite book for it being my first time so far away from home.
  • Night Shift by Lilith Saintcrow – See last entry =P Plus, I need some of Jill’s ultimate badassery to bolster me.
  • Wizard and Glass by Stephen King – I just couldn’t stand the thought of waiting until I get back to continue the story!!!

Four out of the five are rereads. I feel like I need some familiarity and comfort as I take this big new step.

I am a homebody. Most of my life choices have been based on what is close to home, what is familiar. My university was 45 minutes from my house – far enough away for me to feel independent, but close enough to get back home whenever I needed. I still live with my mom now, a year and a half after I’ve been done with school – though this was more out of necessity than anything else, it’s still nice. When I do eventually move out, I’m not sure how far I’ll be willing to go.

I’m taking a huge step here. It’s terrifying, but I’m not going alone. My wonderful boyfriend will be with me, as well as all my friends who’ve embarked on their own journeys.

If they can do it, I can, too.

See you guys in a week ❤

Kathleen

Top 5 Wednesday: Book Covers You’d Live In

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

As some of you may know, I’m also an artist! I looooove me a well-done book cover. Here are some I love so much I’d just crawl in and stay there!

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5. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born by Stephen King

The backstory to the titular Gunslinger in Stephen King’s weird Western series. I’m not sure that I’d necessarily want to live in the world of the Gunslinger, but the art in this GN is so beautiful and dark and hypnotic, I’d want to go at least for a visit. A short one =P (Review of this one upcoming!)

 

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4. The Wrath and the Dawn by Reneé Ahdieh

A retelling of the “Thousand and One Nights” with a female heroine. The peek-a-boo nature of this cover is brilliant, and reflects the shadowed intentions of some of the characters. What I wouldn’t give to wander an Arabian palace with screens and decorations like this pattern!

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3. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

A YA Western adventure novel featuring heroines and heroes of color. I fell in love with the colors and silhouettes of this cover. It makes me want to roam free and be wild! But then settle down and watch the brilliant sunset ;D

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2. The Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz

A favorite guilty pleasure series of mine when I was a teenager, featuring vampires of New York’s richest set. I’ve always loved these covers, and each one depicts a different city featured in the novels as the main characters go on their adventures. The silhouetted skylines make me dream of wandering these cities on my own someday.

 

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1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay

The original covers will always have a place in my heart, but I think this cover perfectly captures the spirit and wonder of Harry’s world. Besides, if I were in this cover, I’d be on my way to Hogwarts! =P

Who wants to climb in here with me?

– Kathleen

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition

I’m a little late for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, but I hope it’s okay anyway =)

Harry has always been a little strange. He makes things happen without meaning to, like that time he talked to a snake at the zoo and made the glass vanish when his cousin Dudley pushed him out of the way to see it better. Harry got in big trouble for that one. His Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia don’t like anything or anyone out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, Harry is VERY out of the ordinary. This is only emphasized by the fact that Harry has been getting letters – lots of them – saying he’s been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Exactly what Hogwarts is, and what it means for Harry, is summed up by four words spoken by a giant in a shack on the sea: “Harry – yer a wizard.”

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The illustrated edition is absolutely beautiful. It’s huge, too! The better to fit all the gorgeous illustrations in 😉 Jim Kay’s work is perfect for the world of Harry Potter. They appear to be watercolor, and they’re whimsical, incredibly detailed, and have a strong sense of lighting. Some pages have full two-page spreads, and some pages have only a little scene. Some pages are just full text, but the whole book is printed against a background that looks like watercolor or parchment paper, with some paint splashes or tiny little illustrations of keys or frogs or owls. It’s probably going to serve a double purpose in lots of young families as both a collector’s item and a bedtime story staple. Children would love the illustrations just as much as adults would. The best part is, it’s unabridged, so you get the full story along with all the all the illustrations. In truth, it’s making me a little worried about the sizes Goblet of Fire on will be, which were really big to begin with!

Not that I’m complaining I’m gonna buy them all no matter what

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Just as Hagrid’s words changed Harry’s life, the words J.K. Rowling wrote about him and his adventures changed mine. I had been a big reader before Harry Potter, so I can’t rightly say it got me to read. However, it did get me to read more fantasy. I first read Lord of the Rings and most of Tamora Pierce’s work in middle school thanks to Harry Potter – and I haven’t stopped since!

Harry also got me to write – my very first piece of fanfiction was Harry Potter. I love to write, and even if I don’t have a lot of time anymore (and am probably very rusty), I still catch myself composing stories and stringing words together in my head from time to time. As well as each and every first edition hardcover HP book, my mother got me Eragon for Christmas as well one year. She told me that she got it for me because Christopher Paolini was also a young author. At the time Eragon was published, he was 19, and I around 13 or 14 and very serious about becoming an author. Both series were major inspirations to me when I was younger.

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The reason that Harry Potter both as a series and as a character mean so much to me is… well, I was different too when I was a kid. I was constantly walking around with my nose in a book or my head in the clouds. I’ve always kind of lived in a world of my own making, and I refused to conform to what my peers deemed normal. Unfortunately, I was bullied for it, and it’s left scars on me to this day.

Harry made me believe that being different, and standing out, might not be so bad. We all like to believe that we have some special power inside us. We might not literally be the Chosen One, like Harry or Frodo or Eragon, but we DO all have a special power. We all have the ability to change the world and the lives of the people around us. We’re all more powerful than we believe.

The real magic of Harry Potter, and arguably of the fantasy genre as a whole, is that it makes us believe in ourselves as much as it makes us believe in the world we’re immersing ourselves in.

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Thank you, J.K. Rowling. Thank you for sharing your world with all of us. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many. Thank you for bringing a little boy out from the cupboard under the stairs so we wouldn’t have to feel like we were alone in being different.

Kathleen

Rowling, J.K., and Jim Kay. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition. 2015.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Books That Would Make Good Video Games

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

I’m going back in time in the T5W bank, because today’s was sci-fi/fantasy related again and I just did one of those! Let’s mix it up a bit =P I’m slowly getting back into games after trying Horizon Zero Dawn~

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5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Thought of you, Nancy! =P Eleanor & Park is an incredibly cute but incredibly heartbreaking story about two misfit teenagers falling in love. It’s set in the ’80s, but I often forgot that while reading it because the story and themes are so timeless. I think it would make a great 8 bit platformer game. You could alternate playing as Eleanor and Park every other level, and find different comics and tapes referenced in the book to give to the other person. There could be a heart meter that goes up or down depending on how many or what you find and give. And maybe the game would reveal the three mysterious words on the postcard – and change every time depending on how you play and how full you get the meter!

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4. Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

The first book is amazing and even if the sequels aren’t on the same level, y’all should read it. This trilogy is about a girl with blue hair named Karou, an artist who’s raised by monsters. One of her guardians deals in animal teeth, and you find out later he builds other creatures from the teeth he collects and strings together like necklaces. Wouldn’t that be an awesome sidequest in a game??? Finding teeth and stringing them together to build creatures for an army, each animal with different stat attributes? Deal me in!

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3. Wonder Woman by George Perez

Okay, I admit I’ll take any incarnation of WW as a game, but the story and art of this run are iconic and stellar! I think it would lend itself well to a video game. There are also plenty of plot threads – main and side – that would translate well to a game. As it was written in the ’80s, I imagine it as another 8 bit sidescroller… complete with all the melodramatic cheesy dialogue goodness!

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2. Birds of Prey by Gail Simone

There are a lot of angles from which a Birds game could be played. You could play strictly as Oracle, where you choose the heroes you send into the field, and see them from a birds-eye view (pun not intended!), and manipulate them as if you were playing a tactical board game. In addition to moving your heroines around, there could also be puzzles to solve and codes to crack in order for the mission to succeed. You could also play as one of the heroes and go into the field, with Oracle as your AI guide, for a more action-oriented game. I feel no matter which incarnation you get, there should be a role-playing element, to highlight the bond between the Birds so evident in the comics!

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1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Okay I know we’ve had ports of movie tie-ins to just about every console and handheld from the PS1 and GameBoy on… we had Pottermore back when it was actually a game (and I’m still incredibly salty it’s not anymore)… but wHERE IS MY HARRY POTTER SIMULATOR??? WHEN CAN I MAKE MY OWN CHARACTER AND PLAY AS HER THROUGH HOGWARTS??? WHEN?!!?!? IT’S 2017 AND WE DON’T HAVE THIS YET AND IT’S A TRAVESTY TO HUMANKIND TBH

Honorable mention was a Batgirl game… one half-baked Arkham Knight DLC is never going to be enough… #saltyaboutit

What book to game incarnations would you want to see? =D

– Kathleen

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Science Fiction & Fantasy Books

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

“YAAAASSSSSSSS!!!!!” – Me when I saw this prompt. I mainly read fantasy outside of comics and GN’s so I was super excited to put this together and share my favorites with you guys!!! =D

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5. The Hollows series by Kim Harrison

Meet Rachel Morgan, a witch runner who attracts trouble more than honey attracts a pixy. Together with her roommates and business partners, vampire Ivy Tamwood and pixy Jenks, they solve crimes, butt heads with drug-dealing warlords, and occasionally save the world.

If this prompt had been a month ago, this series might have been higher on the list. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it! The series started off strong, but lost momentum around the middle for me. I just finished the last book and feel like I slogged through it just to get it over with. What made it make the list was the excellent characterization, humorous tone, and interesting world-building. It’s a good alternative to grittier and darker urban fantasies. I have fond memories of reading the first couple books with my friends in college ❤

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4. Trickster’s Choice/Queen by Tamora Pierce

I want to personally thank Tamora Pierce for single-handedly getting me into the fantasy genre. I read the Song of the Lioness series for the first time in middle school, fell in love, and immediately wanted more. I’m 99% sure I read her entire section in my middle school library… and my teachers let me go hang out in the library during homeroom and do it!

My mom got me these two books as a Christmas gift while I was in high school, and I fell back into the world of Tortall – every bit as magical as I remembered, but a bit more grown up and complex for the older reader I was. Aly is a compassionate, plucky, and resourceful heroine, determined to do good in the world but make a name for herself out of her famous mother’s shadow.

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3. Jill Kismet series by Lilith Saintcrow

This is the first urban fantasy series I read… and I absolutely love it. Honestly, nothing else I’ve read even comes close to the standards I’ve set by this series. It’s kind of interesting I like it so much, because it’s much more graphic and violent than what I normally read. But what keeps me coming back is the heart-pounding action, fascinating world (present day at time of publication but basically with demons and Hunters who kill them), and Jill herself. She’s cracked, but doesn’t let herself become broken. She has sharp edges and a bite to match her rather loud bark, but she ultimately cares about people and has a great capacity to love. I cry with her and cheer for her every time I re-read the series. Saintcrow is now one of my all-time favorite authors.

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2. East by Edith Pattou

This book was my first encounter with the fairy tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” I can still remember the first time I read it, being absolutely spellbound by this blend of history and fantasy. The POV alternates between Rose, the main character who is taken by the ice bear and who consequently has to travel “east of the sun and west of the moon” to save him, her brother, her father, and at times the ice bear. Rose is tenacious and incredibly intelligent, with a strong sense of justice: a wonderful heroine. If you like Beauty and the Beast but wish it had more adventure, you’ll love this.

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1. The Pellinor series by Alison Croggon

Honestly… this series is just my favorite of all time. It follows a girl named Maerad as she’s rescued from slavery and thrust into the (literally) magical world of the Bards, who weave their spells through song and lore and tending growing things. Maerad knows no one in this world, but they know her, for she has been the one foretold to cast down the Nameless One as he rises again to power.

The writing… is just. Beautiful. It’s lush and lyrical, you really feel like you’re in the world of Pellinor. There’s a very strong sense of place and atmosphere (very much like Lord of the Rings). The plot is revealed slowly, but artfully. Each and every character is well-rounded and feels like a dear friend. I promise you will not regret picking these up.

Honorable mentions include:

  • Lord of the Rings (of course, they’re classics)
  • Harry Potter (IT WAS JUST SO CLOSE GUYS ESPECIALLY WITH THE ILLUSTRATED EDITIONS)
  • Warbreaker and Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (most interesting magical systems out there, but Mistborn series as a whole just can’t hold my attention. Warbreaker is a standalone tho)
  • Anything Donna Jo Napoli has ever written
  • And my current read I am just way too excited about: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (… I may be excited about it partially because it’s not a Hollows novel…).

Any of mine make your list, too? =P

– Kathleen

Edit: Oh my gosh lol I had totally forgotten it was International Women’s Day! And I just happened to write a post of fantasy books all featuring fantastic female leads!!! That’s just too funny X,D Happy happy! ❤

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