The Enchanted Castle (Shioni of Sheba)

The Enchanted Castle (Shioni of Sheba)

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a non-reciprocal review.
(This review will contain spoilers).

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading this book. I’m not familiar with Ethiopia or the myths and lore from there.

I loved this story. It hit the ground running and kept going. There was never a chapter where I was wondering, “When will something happen?”

The characters are likable. I liked Shioni, Anni, Nomuula and General Getu. The characters all had their personalities and the side characters felt like people, too.

The plot was interesting and there was a lot of action. There were some parts where characters gave exposition, but by the time they did I cared enough about them to want to listen to them.

That’s not to say everything was perfect.
The narrative does some things I wouldn’t normally recommend, such as throwing around exclamation point, but it worked here. It might have been overused a bit, but I never felt annoyed by it.
The part where Zi wakes up felt a little abrupt as well.

But besides that I don’t have much criticism to give. Even the animals were charming. I loved this image of a horse imagining herself after running away from the enemy:
“Star was not too tired to send her a boasting picture of a pony with wings swooping over the peaks and valleys.”

I think it was a great adventure and fans of fantasy would love it. I give it a 10/10.

High Treason

High Treason

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest (non-reciprocal) review.

The summary of this novel includes the line “This passionate novel mixes the recent history of Venezuela with powerful fiction”, and after reading it I can say I definitely felt the passion. The authors of this book clearly knew their subject well, and if the ultimate point of this book is to spread the message of what has happened in Venezuela then I think it does a very good job of evoking compassion for the people there.

– I didn’t find many mistakes while reading this novel, and it’s apparently a translation. Had I not read that it was a translation I wouldn’t have known that, so it’s a very good translation.

– The authors seem to have a great grasp on the subject. There were many spots in the book that had footnotes to explain the details of what they were talking about.

– The characters varied in their personalities and beliefs. As the novel goes on it’s easy to understand their motivations and mindsets.

– The overall feel of the book, and the way it presents how an oppressive government effects its people, is done very well. I could see why some of the characters felt trapped in their situations, or why they felt so angry.

– Many times the book wandered off subject. The chapter might begin with one character doing something, then it would mention another character; and at the mention of the second character it would go on for paragraphs about something that happened in the past with that character. After that anecdote the story might snap back to the first subject and continue on, or it might wander off on a third subject.
This could get really confusing because I might start off reading about Rodrigo doing something at his friend’s house, and then suddenly be reading all about the friend’s maid. It seemed almost like it couldn’t mention a new name without including some sort of anecdote about them.
With all of the side narratives, even if they were interesting, it was easy to get lost on what the characters were originally doing.

This isn’t the type of book I would normally read but I don’t regret reading it. I think it provides a very interesting view of Venezuela, and anyone interested in the subject should definitely give it a read. I’d give it around a 9/10.

Gone for a Soldier

Gone for a Soldier

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

I love men in military uniforms. This book is filled with them, so it had all the makings of a book I would enjoy.

Starting off I think the thing that made it the hardest for me to get into was how many people there were. In the first chapters new characters were constantly popping up and it was hard to keep track of them all.

I liked Johanna and Lucy. The way Johanna was sneaky about playing an active role instead of a passive role was refreshing. I enjoyed Rose, as well, but she unfortunately didn’t get much of a role in the latter half of the book (understandably so since she wouldn’t have a place near a battlefield). I also liked Captain Colvill. I don’t know why, I just did.

The story was pretty good. I did enjoy the main character, and I found Johanna refreshing at times.

In the beginning I think some parts were too heavy-handed. It seemed like things that happened to pertain to Lucy’s predicament came up too often, even from people who had no idea who she was. I would have liked more subtle things, such as when one of the underage soldiers was called out and Lucy had been afraid it was her they were coming for.

I liked that characters that Lucy and the others weren’t fond of weren’t always portrayed in a negative light. Other times I thought the main characters had a slightly too modern mindset. In one particular scene they were seeing a play. The main character and the people with her felt offended by the play’s contents while everyone else in the theater was amused. It took me out of the scene to have a few characters that the story happened to be about and make them stick out so much. It’s not that I feel they shouldn’t be offended; it was more, “In the entire place why are they the only enlightened ones?” It would have felt less awkward to me if when Lucy looked around she had perhaps spotted a few other people who weren’t fond of the performance, either, even just one or two in the crowd.

As a main character I didn’t mind following Lucy and I appreciated that I couldn’t predict right away who her love interest would be. The majority of the time I had no problem with her, but every once in awhile she did something that irritated me. For example, towards the end they had no way to bring in more food, so they killed two of the horses for food. Lucy wouldn’t eat it knowing where it came from. When you have hundreds of people who are starving and constantly being shot and killed, I thought eating horse meat was an odd thing to get worked up over. It would be better to me if she thought of Soldier, which would give her a more personal reason to not eat it.
It was also at the end that her romance with Dr. Walsh bothered me the most. Sometimes it was perfectly fine and understandable – of course she would want to know if he was alive or not, and she’d be worried if she didn’t see him.
But there were other moments when she was bothered because she couldn’t be alone with him. My only thoughts were, “You’re being shot at. There’s dismembered limbs everywhere and dying men lying all over the place. You can hang out with him later. More pressing things should be on your mind.”
I’d have understood it better if she wanted to be with him for reasons other than romance. Like, if she was having trouble dealing with the mental strain and just wanted a moment to have some extra support.

To be perfectly honest, I rooted more for Johanna and Lucy to get together than Lucy and Jack. No matter how much the book insisted I just didn’t see the sparks between her and Jack. I think the insistence that they were so in love actually worked against convincing me. I’d have preferred it to be more subdued, or even changed a bit. Instead of wanting so badly to simply hold him, it could have been more relevant to her situation. She could have wanted to be with him somewhere safe and warm with an actual bed, rather than out in the cold, sleeping on the ground with gunfire all around.

As a whole the story was quite good. Characters were likeable. I enjoyed O’Meara’s introduction, drunkenly taunting the enemy, as well as some of the stories that went with O’Meara, even though he was more of a background character. As I mentioned before, I liked Johanna. She was stubborn and had a lot of ambition, and at the same time was trapped in a time where she was only allowed to do so much. Her eventual love interest played over fine with me.

I think this book could use an editor. I don’t say that because it’s a bad book; I actually say that because I think it’s a good book, and I think it could be a great book with some editing. It’s a very long book and I think a lot of it could be trimmed down or reworded to have a greater impact. There were also some grammar problems – most of which weren’t frequent enough to be distracting – as well as times that things got confusing.
One example I could think of was this:
“…it didn’t take long for the two young Minnesota soldiers to wind up in jail.”
My first thought was, “Wait, how did they go from wandering around town to being arrested?” It turned out, however, that they’d gone to visit their friend in jail.

Another time I can think of was when two paragraphs in a row that ended with “Especially saloons.”

An experienced editor could easily fix things like this, as well trim down some of the verbose parts, or root out bits of information that might not have been needed for the story. There were several times where it seemed the story announced someone was sick just to declare a few paragraphs later they were over their sickness now, and the illness didn’t change anything in the story. It could be that the author was going through factual information and put it in, but I don’t think every mention was necessary.

However, like I mentioned above, I do think this is a good story that has the makings of a great story. I’d love to see an editor get their hands on it.

I’d give it a 9/10. I’m impressed with the work the author put into this.

(Note: The author has updated the book since I reviewed it.)