Series Review: Mapweaver Chronicles

  • Autor: Kaitlin Bellamy
  • Genre: Epic YA Fantasy
  • Cover images link to each book’s page on Goodreads

I recently reviewed the first book in this series, Windswept (here), and rather than reviewing each of the other ones, I figured I’d share my thoughts on the series as a whole instead.

Short version: it’s awesome, read it.

Longer version:

I don’t consider myself a fan of Young Adult stories. I don’t have anything against YA, but I often find I have a hard time relating to the kind of issues young people face simply by virtue of being young. On the flip-side, I remember the stories I read as young man with great fondness.

There was a joy and a simplicity to them that I don’t often find in the kind of books I read today. They were about adventure and excitement and magic. Cool shit happened, and it was awesome.

I’ve missed that.

Enter the Mapweaver Chronicles. This series is all the things I missed from the stories I read back in the day, but without any of the awkward growing-up problems that I don’t miss.

There’s adventure and magic. Excitement, and a hint of romance. Gods, pirates, monsters, more magic, villainous villains, and dangerous treasure hunts. A pirate ship plucked from depths of the sea, patched up with magical ice, and crewed by the ghosts of the pirates who went down with it.

This is a story that doesn’t give a shit about paying bills or getting up early in order to get to the office in time. This is about the joy and excitement of getting lost in a good book and forgetting everything else for a while.

What I’ll whine about:

Two things.

First: I read all four books in a row, over just a few weeks, and it got a bit much for me. I think that to a big degree it’s because I’m just not used to this kind of story, and in my eager to consume it all, it became a little too much of a good thing.

This in turn was enhanced by how the fourth book took a turn for the darker, and things became a little more serious than the earlier ones.

Second: The fifth book isn’t out yet! Despite what I just wrote, if I’d had the fifth book on hand, I’d have picked it up and started reading right away. From what I’ve heard, it’s in the works, though, and should be out later this year.

What I’ll gush about:

I mentioned this above, and I mentioned it in my review of the first book, but there’s a warmth and kindness in these stories that I rarely find in much of what I normally read. In Thicca Valley, where the story begins, life is harsh and cruel, but rather than turning the villagers into hard cruel people, it shapes them into a caring and supportive community. I kinda needed that.

The sense of adventure. Yes, I know I mentioned it already.

The main character has a complete pair of fully functioning, supportive, and living parents. You don’t see that everyday.

Final words:

If the world brings you down, read this.

My Year In Books

For 2020, I set my reading goal at 60 books. I didn’t hit it, but I got to 50, which I’m still happy with. For this year, I once again set my goal to 60, and hopefully I’ll hit it this time.

So what did I read last year?

Mostly, it’s been fantasy of one variety or another, but I also read a bit of science fiction, and then not much else. Some books were good, and some books were not so good.

In this post, I’ll look back on the year and talk about the books I remember the fondest. These may not be the best ones, but they’re the ones I think back on now and then, and which brought me joy reading.

Land of Perpetual Night, by Miri C. Golden

56137988. sx318

This one started out as a classic fantasy novel. It had just the same vibe as the adventure I read as a teenager, and for a while it almost felt like stepping back in time.

Then, it got better.

Sure, the beginning was great, but the book took all my nostalgia and memories and ran with them. The story took a turn for the darker, and a bit more adult. Things got complicated in a way they didn’t get in the books I read back I the day, and I loved that.

It was the best of both worlds.

From what I’m hearing, the next book is not far off, and I’m eagerly looking forward to it.

Rumble in Woodhollow, by Jonathan Pembroke

52947999. sx318 sy475

This isn’t an exceptional book. It took me a while to get into, but once I did, I grew to really enjoy it. There was a warmth to the characters that doesn’t come through until you get to know them, and that takes a while.

On top of that, I’ve never read a story of fairy gangsters in a turf-war with hobgoblins before. It sounded a bit weird to me at first, but that too was something I grew into soon enough. In many ways, the city of Woodhollow reminded me a lot of Ankh-Morpork, from the Discworld books. It’s a melting pot of different cultures and peoples, and it gives the place a lot of color and character. Also, there are no humans.

Storm & Shield, by J.D. Evans

51459137. sy475

I did not expect to enjoy fantasy romance, but here I am. During a reading challenge this summer, I decided to try and push myself and read a little outside my comfort zone. One of the books I picked up was the first in this series, and I found to my surprise I really liked it.

This is the second book in the series, and picked that over the first (and third) due to the humor elements. The book deals with a lot of serious topics, and it’s by no means a comedy, but the characters at the center of the plot play off each other in a way that’s often hilarious, and even had me laughing out loud a few times.

Other books from last year that I want to mention, and that I want to encourage others to read:

Book Review: Windswept

Windswept

The Mapweaver Chronicles Scroll 1

by

Kaitlin Bellamy

Over the last year or so, I’ve gotten into the habit of downloading book samples of anything I come across as recommended that seems even mildly interesting. They sit in big pile on my kindle, and once I finish reading something, I browse the samples to see if something catches my interest, and if it does, I’ll read the sample. If the sample is to my liking, I get the book.

That’s how I came across Windswept.

I know someone recommended it, and it might have been the author, but I can’t recall, and it doesn’t really matter. I’d downloaded it, so there must have been something interesting about it, and now (two days ago) was the time to check it out.

I’m glad I did.

On the surface, this is a fairly standard fantasy adventure, and if I were to describe the plot, it’d probably sound a bit like “village boy has special powers and saves the day.” Yes, that’s a bit dismissive, but that’s because I want to highlight that even with a pretty standard plot, you can still tell an amazing and heartwarming story. You can still bring a world to life, even if it’s not the pinnacle of originality and invention.

This isn’t to say that the plot doesn’t have its twist, or that the world is dull, only that there are other (and better) reasons to read this book, but first…

What I’ll whine about:

In the second half of the book, there are a few chapters (one at a time, not all at once) dedicated to telling the backstory of one of the supporting characters. I’m sure there’s a reason for this, but by the time I got to these chapters, I was so eager to find out more about what happened to Fox that I skimmed through them as quickly as I could.

What I’ll gush about:

This is a winter warmer. I’m not sure there’s a better term to describe it.

Outside, the real world is cold and rainy and miserable in all kinds of ways, and this book is a little beacon of hope and warmth.

The village where most of the story takes place is located in a cold, harsh, and inhospitable part of the world, where everyday life is a constant struggle for survival. This could have lead to the story and its characters being mean and cruel, but it doesn’t. Instead, it creates a small community filled with warmth and kindness, where people care for, look after, and rely on each other.

Sure, there are exceptions, but they’re on the edge of the story, not smack in the middle.

As escapism goes, this is awesome. It’s a book to bundle up with and forget all the troubles and just go on an adventure. It doesn’t have to be so serious.

There’s that spark of magic, that hint of adventure beyond the mountains, and there’s a tiny seed of a romance that I can’t wait to see what it grows into.

Final Words

If the world rests heavy on your shoulders, read this.

Book Review: Dragon’s Reach

Dragon’s Reach

The Keeper Origins Book 1

by

J.A. Andrews

I started this book months ago, and I loved the introductory chapter, but when the story proper got under way, it just wasn’t what I was in the mood for. I put the book away and tried later, and once more it didn’t work. Then, a few days ago, over the holidays, I figured third time’s the charm, and went for it.

I normally wouldn’t have, but I’d heard enough good stuff about this book and its author’s other works that I wanted to try again. This time, it worked, and my only regret is that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind earlier. This book really deserves all the praise I’ve seen it given.

It’s a rock-solid piece of fantasy writing.

There’s magic and mystery, deceit and deception, and there are living characters with their own stories, all conspiring to create something both complex and believable.

What I’ll whine about:

There are a lot of loose ends, unanswered questions, and unfinished story arcs. Sure, I know this is the first book in a series of three, but even then, this feels like it’s just an introduction to a much larger story – one which I’m not quite sure I can see how it will pan out.

Will two more books be enough?

What I’ll gush about:

This is actually a little bit tricky. There’s so much that’s great that it’s hard to point to anything specific.

As mentioned above, though, it’s a really solid piece of fantasy. It goes beyond “I’m reading a book and it’s great” and into the land of “I’m having an experience together with people I care about.”

The other thing I want to mention is Sable’s powers. I’ve not come across similar in the past, and they way they grow throughout the story is fascinating to watch.

Final Words

Believe the hype.

If, like me, you don’t get caught up right away, give it some time and try again later.

Book Review: Siren & Scion

Siren & Scion

Mages of the Wheel, book 3

by

J. D. Evans

With this being the third book in the series, I figured I had a good idea of what to expect. There would be a man and a woman, and they’d fall for each other, suffer complications, and sort things out. There would be a bit of action, a bit of sex, some magic shenanigans, and the overarching plot of the series would move forward a little bit.

It’s what I got from the previous books, and it worked really well with them, so I was hoping for more of the same.

I’m happy to say I was not disappointed.

The book is more of the same, but it’s not just more of the same. What I realized while reading is that each book so far has been different in the way it approaches its characters and its reader.

The first book is set against a backdrop of political intrigue, and centered around high-stakes power plays. Tense, and serious.

The second book is more light-hearted, and I laughed out loud several times. There’s a focus on trust and duty, and while it’s often funny, there are a lot of very serious undertones in it.

The third book now, is different again. It’s about broken people struggling against themselves and their pasts. It’s about knowing yourself, and how what we want isn’t necessarily what we need.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the fourth book takes us.

What I’ll whine about:

The overarching plot of the series is really interesting, and I’d like to see a bit more of it. That said, that’s a complaint that arose after I finished the book, and not something I paid attention to while actually reading.

I’ll never be as awesome a lover as Cassian. I’ll just stay single.

What I’ll gush about:

The writing. It’s smooth, clear, and flows like running water. There’s no need to stop and reread anything, and there’s no confusion about who’s talking. There are no stumbling stones between me and the story, and I love that.

The magic. It manages to be both spectacular and subtle at the same time. It’s held back and kept in the background for a lot of the story, but when it’s finally released, it knocks the world over.

Final words

This series is turning out to be my big positive reading surprise for the year. I really didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did.