The Alchemists of Loom (The Loom Saga, #1) – Elise Kova

Loom-The-Alchemists-of-Loom-Elise-Kova

Source: Goodreads

 

Ever since the fall of the resistance, Arianna has been working in the shadows to bring down the Dragons who ruined her world. In the city of Dortam, she is known as the White Wraith, a ghostly figure who even the dragons fear, an organ thief who sells to the highest bidder. Stumbling across a wounded dragon in a back alley is as close as she comes to having a good day. Cvareh is determined to help bring down the Dragon King and establish a new order. Stealing the King’s schematics and fleeing the sky world of Nova is just the first step on his journey to the Alchemists Guild. Now he just needs someone who understands this strange, grey, ground world of Loom to get him there.

 

I first heard about this book on Booktube, the corner of YouTube run by book bloggers, authors, and publishers where you can find anything and everything you want to know about books. Anyway, I first heard about The Alchemists of Loom from Sasha Alsberg of ABookUtopia, Regan of PeruseProject, and Lindsay Cummings. Their fantastic recommendations put this book pretty high up on my radar, and I was already planning to buy it when I passed a random Barnes & Noble here in Boston at the end of February and saw a poster of the cover in the window.When I went in to get a better look, it turned out that the author was there for a signing that was starting literally at that very second. Naturally, I purchased the book and then headed up to the area where the signing was.

When I went in to get a better look, it turned out that the author was there for a signing that was starting literally at that very second. Naturally, I purchased the book and then headed up to the area where the signing was. Let me tell you, Elise Kova is awesome. It was a small group, which was great because it was my first book-related event ever, and we all got to ask questions and chat freely. You can check out the post I wrote about it here.

Ever since the event, I’ve been dying to read The Alchemists of Loom, but I already had a bunch of other works scheduled for reviews and things so it wasn’t until I hit a reading slump this month that I finally gave in and picked it up, schedule be damned.

I really liked it. And not just because it was recommended by other reviewers whose opinions I trust, or because I met the author and she’s pretty awesome, but because the story was fresh, and new, and exciting! And even though I was thrown into this world I’d never been to before, with new words and things I didn’t understand for, like, 100 pages, it was totally immersive and relatable. Resistance. Revenge. Class Systems. Guilds. There is so much going on in this world that the only way to learn it is by complete immersion. As readers, we would get nowhere if Kova stopped to explain what things were every other paragraph. Instead, you learn about Loom at about the same pace that Cvareh (pronounced Sah-var-ay) does, which works perfectly with the timing of the plot and the development of the characters. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend this as anyone’s first dip into fantasy because I there is a lot going on and you will get overwhelmed if you don’t have some sort of background in reading the genre.

The only gripe I have is about a scene near the beginning in Arianna’s apartment in Dortam (pg 44 in the hardcover). I feel like an action is missing – like something got deleted accidentally. Right after an item is exchanged, one of the characters is suddenly across the room walking somewhere. Maybe I’m just confusing myself, but when the item exchange happened I pictured the first character standing in one place watching to see what the second character’s reaction would be, not giving them the item and then continuing to walk across the room. It just didn’t feel like a natural progression and I had to reread the scene like five times to figure out what happened.

The book overall was just totally engrossing. I devoured its 382 pages in 2-3 days. I enjoyed learning about the characters, the pacing was good, and the plot compelling. I definitely recommend reading this to anyone who enjoys their fantasy with a dose of steampunk (although this is more of the magically powered than steam powered variety). I can’t wait for the next two books in the series!

 

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

Elantris – Brandon Sanderson

elantris-brandon-sanderson

Source: Goodreads

The once shining city of Elantris, home to men worshiped as gods, has gone dark. With its light went the resources of Arelon. Ten years later after the holy city’s fall, Arelon’s prince disappears just as his bride arrives at port. Princess Sarene is left widowed and alone in the new capital city of Kae, which sits in the shadow of its predecessor. Also new to the kingdom is Hrathen, high priest of Shu-Dereth, tasked with converting the people of Arelon or condemning them to death. Will Hrathen fulfill his duties? Will Sarene make a home in a strange land? And what really happened to Prince Raoden?

Brandon Sanderson is probably most well known for his Mistborn series, but less known is this, his first published work. Elantris is stunning in its inventive worldbuilding, driven characters, and ever-twisting plot. While some parts are anticipated, the roads to those moments are filled with treachery, intrigue, and surprises around every turn, and even along the straightaways. Every twist caught me by surprise, even when I was positive of where the story was going. The characters are deep and complex in ways rarely seen, and all of this is contained in one book. This is not a series, though Sanderson has expressed interest in writing more of it and there is room for growth. This is, for the moment at least, a stand-alone fantasy novel. A unicorn of the literary world. Boy oh boy, does it live up to that standard.

Unsurprisingly, I came across this book via the internet. I was planning my book reviews for the year and I didn’t have space for another series, but I still wanted to fit in more fantasy, so I looked up stand-alone fantasy novels and pounced when I saw Elantris. I have a couple of The Stormlight Archives books in a digital format to read, but I always seem to get distracted by something else or I’m not ready to commit to a long series (as in big books, not many books, though it’s that also). My brother has read The Stormlight Archives as well as Mistborn and loved them, and my brother, mother and I are all Wheel of Time obsessed. I decided Elantris was my perfect gateway into Sanderson’s works, and immediately went to Barnes & Noble to hunt it down. Luckily for me, they had 10 copies. That’s pretty rare for a book at B&N, so I took it as another sign that I was making a wise decision.

The book started out slow for me, as I figured out how the world worked, but that’s pretty universal of good fantasy. The chapters in the second half were much shorter, and as the climax neared I began reading furiously, unable to read fast enough to keep up with my excitement, even as every new plot twist was revealed. Reading the last third of the book was rather like running down a trail as trees are falling to block your path and forcing you to leap over them, except every tree was a plot twist I had to digest before I could continue reading. It may be the most exhilarating book I have ever read. As I always say, it is extremely rare that I find a book I would like to read more than once. This is one that I just want to read over and over and over again. Definitely adding this to my list of all-time favorites.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Fallout (Lois Lane, #1) – Gwenda Bond

Lois-Lane-Fallout-Gwenda-Bond

Source: Goodreads

Before Superman came to Metropolis, the city had another unlikely hero: Lois Lane. The daughter of an army general, Lois has moved more times than she can count and she’s been kicked out of even more schools. When her father takes a permanent assignment in the city, Lois does her best to put down roots and avoid trouble, but it seems trouble isn’t done with her just yet. Before long Lois is on the case of some school bullies with freaky mind control talents, and she’s landed a brand new student reporter job to help her figure it out.

A series based on Lois Lane pre-Superman? Sign me up! As a child, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher was one of my favorite shows, though I probably watched it mostly in reruns since it originally aired from ’93-’97 when I was still a toddler. I always though Lois was SO cool. She was probably my first female hero, actually. I started writing my own newspapers soon after that so you can see what a major influence the show and the character had on me, haha! Anyway, ever since then I’ve been very interested in Superman and especially Lois, who is just a bad a** reporter who only really needs saving because she falls in love with Superman and then everyone puts her in danger to get his attention. But this series is before Superman really exists.

Lois is just a normal high school student, struggling with the inequalities of this world. The story in Fallout started a little slow, and with my brain stuck in the 90’s (or actually, high school would have been the late 70’s or 80’s for Hatchet’s Lois), I wasn’t prepared for virtual reality headsets and cellphones. Once I accustomed myself to the fact that everything was happening in the modern day, I got sucked right in. Lois is spectacular – spunky, brave, smart, good, and a heavy dose of reckless. And her foes are on a level equal with anything Lex Luthor ever threw at Superman.

The vibrant characters, the high-tech backdrop with a side of high school politics and a heavy dose of up-and-coming reporter combined with murky intentions and fierce foes has created an immersive and captivating world that I can’t wait to explore more of in the next two announced books in the series. Lois Lane is the kind of hero everyone needs in their lives right now: no powers, just morals and smarts. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves Superman and Lois, but especially to anyone interested in journalism or female heroes. Lois Lane is just one of those role models you’ll want to come back to again and again.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Double Down
Book #3 – Triple Threat

Peter Pan – J. M. Barrie

Peter-Pan-J-M-Barrie

Source: Goodreads

Peter Pan doesn’t want to grow up. He wants to fight pirates and indians (Native Americans), play with mermaids, and do cartwheels in the sky. The Lost Boys, however, need a mother, and Wendy Darling is just the girl for the job.

How it’s taken me nearly 25 years to read Peter Pan I’ll never quite know. Maybe I was scarred after reading Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid and worried I’d hate Peter and Wendy and Hook. After all, I grew up watching films like the Disney animated version of the classic, as well as Robin Williams’ Pan in Hook, and more recently Finding Neverland and NBC’s Peter Pan Live!  Not to mention the numerous other films, plays, and book series based on and around this original story. This book had a lot to live up to.

I decided to read it aloud to my cousin, who’s just turned one. Sure, he can’t understand any of it yet, but this is supposed to be a children’s book. Over the course of a week, reading a chapter or two a day, we sped through it. I have to say, it seems very short at around 200 pages, but as you read you realize what a wealth of information there is. This is one of those books that is written to build your imagination. It leaves bits out purposefully so the reader will fill them in themselves.

One huge thing I noticed was the narrator’s decision to call Neverland ‘The Neverland’, and explain that it’s different and yet somehow the same for everyone. I’ve always thought of Neverland as a specific place, like Treasure Island, or Narnia, that existed in our world or an alternate dimension. But that’s only partly true. When Tinkerbell is in distress, Peter calls out to all the boys and girls of the world and asks them to believe. But here’s the thing: They aren’t all in Neverland the way the Darlings and the Lost Boys are. The children who save Tinkerbell are at home, asleep in their beds, visiting the foggier version of Neverland in their dreams. If you watch the 2003 live action Peter Pan, you get an inkling that something like this is happening, but if you haven’t read the book it is easy to assume that Peter just has extra magical powers.

The next thing I noticed was how rude Peter and Tinkerbell are. She calls him a ‘silly ass’ at least five times, and Peter regulary forgets who people are or waits until just before they die to save them. Sure, it’s supposed to be part of his hero-complex, but it doesn’t seem like heroic behavior to me. By the end, I was glad that the Darlings made it home in one piece, as even that seemed at times too much to ask.

Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure why this is considered a children’s story unless it is meant as one of warning: don’t run away from home.

If there is a hero it is certainly Wendy, though even she lives with a kind of grief throughout the rest of her days. I always hated that Peter and Wendy didn’t end up together, but after reading the original story I’ve come to terms with the reality that they are what, 10? 12 years old? and in no position to be in love, but also that Peter is not a character one should be falling in love with. In fact, when it is Jane’s turn to fly, she doesn’t reason with Wendy that she’s in love with him. She reasons that he needs a mother. Because motherly love is the only kind a girl could have for the boy who never grows up. A mother’s love is universal, and everyone is deserving of it, no matter how unheroic, prideful, or childish they may be.

One thing I did enjoy in this particular edition was the glossary at the end of the book explaining J. M. Barrie’s completely inaccurate native Americans, as well as some other rather interesting tidbits. I thought it was very nice of them to explain why the characters were written as they are, especially since so much has changed in terms of standards of political correctness since the book’s original publication. I wish all reprintings of historical works included a historical explanation of the language and characters.

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars