Final Fantasy XV

Normally I do book reviews, but since I’ve been playing it and I have a good amount to say I think I’ll do a video game review here. I will be mentioning massive spoilers throughout.

First, my history with the series: As a kid I remember having FF4 as a kid. Played 5 and 6, and eventually 7 with a friend. After that I played 11 for about 7 years, and played 14. Of course, people who started playing 14 know it didn’t do very well at first. I gave it another try when they re-launched it, but it never clicked for me. The visuals were beautiful, and the gameplay might even be different now, but I never got into it like I wanted to.

I haven’t played most of the 3D Final Fantasies, though I’ve recently gotten 9.

So Final Fantasy 15 is the first single player FF I’ve tried in a while. For a brief overview before I get into details, I liked it. I recognize that it has many problems, but I enjoyed my experience.

And, I’ll state that I purposely went into the game without watching side material. I want the game to be able to stand on its own, and it should stand on its own. Especially if you have to pay to even see some of that side material. I’ve since watched Brotherhood but haven’t watched Kingsglaive.

When I started it took me a bit to get into it but I was open-minded. Of course, I didn’t know the characters yet. I’ve heard some people were annoyed by Prompto and such, but I wasn’t. I was giving them all a chance.

Perhaps an hour or so into it I was getting pretty attached to the characters and, for me, that’s really important. I forgive a lot more flaws if I enjoy the characters I’m hanging out with. It’s much harder the other way around – if you have a good story but characters I hate, I end up hating the story.

There’s a lot to say so I think I’ll divide it up by character.

Noctis: I think I liked him more than I expected. From previous trailers and based on his design, I thought he would be a lot more ’emo’. I didn’t actually find him emo at all. I felt he reacted pretty reasonably to a lot of things. When his father dies, for example, he gets angry and confused. I think that’s normal. However, I was worried he’d be a bitter character for the rest of the time after that and he really wasn’t. The dialogue of the characters is a mixture of good and bad. Sometimes they comment how nice a place is, sometimes they complain it’s dreary. Sometimes they ask if you’re attempting to kill them, sometimes they compliment you on a good job. It all feels pretty natural and Noct fits right in with it.
When he complains, it tends to be stuff I would probably also complain about. I can’t think of anything that was over the top or annoying that would make me dislike him. I was happy with him as the main character.

Prompto: Prompto is the peppy one, which is what annoyed some people. He does say one liners and panic more than the others, but considering he’s basically Noct’s schoolmate I think that makes sense for him.
I’ll get into it more later, but I think his body language is what really helped me with him at first. He joke around and such more, but when the characters were standing around his demeanor screamed that he was kind of shy. So I was fine with him.
Then Ignis went blind, and Prompto was doing everything to try and take care of him. In the next dungeon he’s helping Ignis up when he trips and it’s adorable. I really fell for his character there, and he just got better as it went on.

Ignis: Ignis was my favorite. I liked that he was pretty much the mom of the group. He has a certain refined ‘air’ about him, but he didn’t have a problem making jokes like the others, either. He could cook, he drove for me, he healed. He was the best. I loved him.
When he went blind he just shot up even more for me. He kept going anyway, and I liked him so much that I was willing to go slow in the next dungeon for him. He probably complained about his injury less than anyone else and kept pressing forward. When he tried to attack enemies and fell over I just wanted to tell him, “You keep trying buddy, you’re doing good.”
I at first wondered if they really would cure him because he said his vision would “come back in a matter of time”. But, that was just a lie – probably to make Noct feel better, but possibly because he was in denial. I’m glad he wasn’t just insta-cured. He stays blind.
I was worried that the characters would leave him behind somewhere because of it, but thankfully they didn’t. Injured or not, I still wanted him with me, and I didn’t want any ‘replacement’ characters taking his spot.
I was happy when he learned how to cook again and kept fighting in the future.

Gladio: Of the four, Gladio came off the weakest to me. People who have played probably already know exactly why. I’ve heard the explanations behind it, but it just didn’t work for me.
For people who haven’t played, there are a few points in the story where he flips out on Noctis. They seem like they’re out of nowhere. I’ve heard rumors that originally he was meant to have tension build up between Noctis and himself until it led to a duel to the death. I can kind of see that being the case, where they changed their minds but some of the old material is still there.
It’s not just that he yells at Noctis. He could have yelled at Noctis at the exact same times and it could have been done well. It just felt abrupt and disjointed to me. I was running from Titan doing my thing, and suddenly Gladio was yelling at me to get it together, and I wanted to yell back that he was the one who needed to calm down. Noctis wasn’t even complaining in a way that I thought was unusual or particularly whiny. He just didn’t like being in a pit of fire with a giant attempting to crush him, and he expressed some irritation. What he said wasn’t out of place with how the characters talked throughout the entire game.
The second time was also bizarre for me. His fiance has been murdered in front of him, Ignis has been injured, and they’re all on a train going to the next place. Noctis is quietly sitting on the train, and Gladio starts getting on him. For some reason he blames Noctis for Ignis getting injured – which I hope gets an explanation because it doesn’t make sense right now. At the time Ignis got injured, Noctis was busy fighting a god by himself. He didn’t have any interaction with them at that moment where he was the source of the injury. They were all in a crummy situation.
He also is upset that Noctis doesn’t care that Ignis got injured. However, upon waking up and seeing Ignis, Noctis had immediately asked him about it, concerned. Ignis had told him it would get better, but he was still obviously concerned about his friend. Nothing about Noctis’ reaction to me made it seem like he didn’t care. He could be upset that Lunafreya died and care about Ignis at the same time.
The biggest problem for me was that there wasn’t a counterweight. Gladio had these times where he freaked out, but there wasn’t anything on the opposite end that made me feel okay with him again and smoothed it over. I believe these needed some re-writing and some more development that felt rushed and jagged.
I don’t hate Gladio, but I definitely felt the least attached to him of the four.

Lunafreya: She was barely in this game. Like Gladio, I don’t hate her, but she really felt bland. I feel like they wanted to make a strong female character and forgot to give her much personality. The game has a bunch of characters who act very human, and she acts like she belongs in a different Final Fantasy as the goddess or something. Some people complain that it’s because her backstory was removed, but from the clips I saw those didn’t add any personality and were completely unnecessary. If anything, it would have just been even more the same bland story we’ve seen a million times.
Her greatest problem is that she’s basically infallible. She doesn’t seem to have interests, hobbies, flaws, or much of anything else besides fulfilling a job role. I would have liked to have seen more to her character and had some development with the guys. The closest thing we got to her acting human was sending a shared notebook back and forth between her and Noctis. I liked that. It was cute. She needed more of that, and less scenes showing us how amazing she is because she heals everyone and is super patient and kind and never not wonderful. She needed human interactions like the guys had. I wanted to see her play video games with the guys and do anything outside of her role that she did just because she wanted to.
I don’t hate her, but I also think she barely existed as a character in this game, and that’s a big part of the problem. With Aeris, she was with you. She fought with you, you went to events with her, she was part of your team and you spent time with her. Lunafreya is always at a distance and, unfortunately, suffers for that. Maybe that will be fixed with the upcoming patches.

Cindy: I was fine with her as a character, but what was up with those clothes? I kept thinking how sunburned she would be in some places and gross and sweaty in others. They did not look comfortable at all, and I can’t really think of anyone else who looked so out of place clothing-wise in the game.
Everything else I was fine with.

Aranea: I liked her. I was kind of excited when she showed up and I instantly realized we found our dragoon. I like that the in the game you spend time with her and find out that she has dissenting opinions and is weirded out by stuff the Empire is doing, even though she’s working for them. I also liked that I was out fighting daemons once and she just randomly showed up, on her own, to help out. That was pretty neat.

Ardyn: I loved Ardyn. The first time he shows up it’s a bit disjointed and I wondered if I missed something. But he kept me on my toes throughout the game. A lot of people compare him to Kefka, and I can see why. I actually think he’s better than Kefka. Don’t get me wrong, Kefka was very memorable and I like him, but he wasn’t all that complex. I think Ardyn had multiple goals and some conflicted with each other. I can see him both wanting to die and wanting revenge.
I just wish he had let me ride with him in his car. “Too much for me to handle” my behind. Let me in!

Also, Ignis and Gladio are horrible liars. Those are not men in they’re early twenties. They’re both in their thirties. Liars.

I mentioned it earlier, but the body language in this game for the main characters is amazing. The way they grab each other, the way they’ll stand, hang out at camp, or even run is unique to each of them. I could tell Prompto was shy before he ever had his talk with Noctis just because of the way he would stand around. When I was traveling through the mines and I saw Ignis trip and fall, and Prompto help him, I actually stopped to watch. It was so adorable and perfect.

Now, when characters are just talking for quests, it isn’t as great. You’ll have NPCs looking into oblivion as they ask you to kill off the neighboring pests. But for the main guys riding around and doing their thing with each other, I think it’s some of the best body language I’ve seen in a game.

Fighting: I enjoyed the fighting. It has its issues, like the camera getting stuck in bushes or something. Overall, it usually felt pretty smooth to me. Just today I was fighting birds, and I enjoyed that I could warp my character around through the air going after them.
Storywise, you don’t have to get very high level to beat the game. Bosses like Leviathan actually aren’t that hard, either, but I really enjoyed the fight. I’m happy enough to keep the challenging sections and the story sections separate – anyone who wants to enjoy the story but isn’t necessarily great at combat could still get through the game.

Graphics: I loved the visuals. One thing I adore about the game is that big things feel big. Anytime I saw a monster that towered over me, I went, “Whooooa…” There have been lots of neat times where I’ve just randomly run into a giant monster and it’s awesome.

Chapter 13: This chapter is probably infamous in the game. I actually liked it. It was just too long. I’m glad they’re updating it.

Now, the game has it’s problems where you can see the story obviously got rushed. I suspect the issues I had with Gladio are because they didn’t have time to fix things up more. The second have of the story suddenly gets very linear and less big-open-world. Kind of like Lunafreya, you don’t really get to see Noctis’ dad much, either.

Some people I think have mentioned lag, but I didn’t experience many problems with that. Leviathan had some issues and that was about it for me. I’ve been playing it on a PS4 slim. It has crashed about 2 or 3 times in the 70+ hours I’ve been playing it. I think the most annoying one was the first time. The first big boss you fight is called Deadeye, and they have a lot of (great) build-up getting to him. I finally got to his fight and it crashed, so I had to do all of the build-up over again (because you can’t save during it). I wish they just let you save anywhere because of things like that.

It seems this was awarded “Game of the Year”. I did enjoy it, and I’ve still been playing it well after beating it, but I’m not sure if it deserves that quite yet. When it gets its updates and is polished up maybe. I look forward to re-playing the story when it has the patches. And I hope they stop the flying car from exploding and giving me game overs.

The Eighth Day Brotherhood

The Eighth Day Brotherhood

I received a free copy of this book.

(Spoilers within)

As usual these days, it’s been a few days since I actually finished reading the book.

“The Eighth Day Brotherhood” is essentially about several characters and their connections to a series of murders by a cult. If you’re weak to any sort of gore, you may not want to continue.

The first murder is of a male model, who is brutally disfigured and then propped up in a public area with his eyes burnt out and wings attached to his body, in order to replicate Icarus. His lover, Remy, is distraught and determined to find the killer, but the 1800’s isn’t a place that’s very accepting or understanding place for gay lovers or occult bookstore owners.

The police are suspicious of him, but while that’s happening more bodies show up the next morning. Remy sneaks off to do his own investigation.

Meanwhile, we also follow Claude, a drunken, daydreaming artist who is captivated by one of the mental patients at an insane asylum. His father, a famous painter, passed away and he’s since been raised and trained by a friend of his father, Baltard. Baltard is another well-known painter, but his style of painting is out of fashion now. Still, they’re wealthy and famous, and he’s doing his best to train Claude to be a good painter.

I’m not sure how much I’ll have to say about this book because I didn’t take many notes. I didn’t have to make notes about mistakes or anything. As far as the downside, I think I can say mostly two things.

One: The book switches between points of view fairly often. The sections are separated, but it’s not a new chapter each time. I understood this after a bit, but because of how it started like this I became confused initially, and some of that confusion carried over throughout the book. We see the point of view of the culprit first. When we switch to Claude’s view, I thought he was the messenger because I thought it was going back and forth. I kept thinking that for quite a while.

Two: Sometimes the language is a bit flowery for me. I’m more of a short, concise person, honestly. I wouldn’t say it’s overbearing, though.

Other than that, I really didn’t have any issues. Well, I suppose maybe I had an issue with the bad guy. It can be very hard to write smug, insane bad guys without making it seem like they’re evil for the sake of being evil for the plot. He had some backstory to him, but I never felt like it was overly convincing why he and the others all partook in the murders. It was basically like a bunch of people taking a Ouija board way too seriously.

I enjoyed the plot and following different characters. The book definitely covers the unfair treatment of woman, with two lead female characters who have lost everything for one reason or another, and are basically kept like prizes for men. The insane asylum is essentially a prison for women who didn’t have anyone who would stand up for them, and they’re used and abused on a whim. Even the model who works in the wealthy home of Baltard is there because ‘he had to have her’. I don’t believe we ever even learn her real name, because he couldn’t pronounce it and just called her the name of the town she’s from.

I think, in one way, the ending was my favorite part, and I’ll spoil that here. After the The Eighth Day Brotherhood slaughters, mutilates, and displays the corpses of many models in their futile quest for immortality and finding another world, they’re readily forgotten quickly as soon as their caught. Considering their quest to make themselves so important and eternal, I think it was the most suitable punishment for them to bear – being gone and forgotten like a few grains of sand on the beach, easily replaced by the next scandal that comes up. I wish this was the sort of message that more criminals got.

If the concept is appealing to you and you don’t mind gruesome murders, I think it would be worth a look.

I give it a 9/10.



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

(Spoilers within)

There’s something I’ve been meaning to say about books for a while that I don’t think I’ve gotten to yet. Present tense immediately takes me out of a story. I’ve had many books that I’ve read where I had this problem. It’s jarring to me. I would read a part, put it down, and come back the next day not thinking about it and be rattled when I read the first few words and remembered, “Oh yeah, present tense”. I don’t think present tense has worked for me in any book, but it was an especially odd choice in this one when it’s supposed to take place a long time ago.

As I said, this isn’t so much just a “this book thing”. It’s bothered me a lot of times while reading different novels, but when I wrote the reviews for them I never got around to mentioning it because other things would come up that were more important. So, why am I mentioning it here? Well, because I actually really liked this book so I don’t have much more criticism for it. It was well-paced, kept me interested and I cared about the characters. I don’t have much interest in historical stories, but a good story is a good story (and it’s not the first novel based on historical events that I’ve liked, either, even though it’s not my personal interest).

Sebastien is a spy pretending to work at a printers’ shop while infiltrating revolutionary meetings. The problem is, while he’s interested in justice and avoiding bloodshed, he doesn’t know which side he agrees with more. He feels sympathy for the revolutionaries and their plight, though he still intends on doing his job.

While working, he pays prostitutes to give him details about the clients that meet and abuse them. One particularly prostitute, Zephine, gives him a detailed description about a man that not only horribly abuses her, but the other girls, too. He’s known only as ‘Teacher’. Sebastien takes the sketch to his superior, Allard, though his superior doesn’t seem interested in getting sidetracked from their main mission of preventing another war.

Nothing seems particularly abnormal – though Sebastien feels sympathy for the prostitutes, their plight is all too common, and even people who feel sorry for them often do little more than that. Even the prostitutes themselves sometimes defend the men who abuse them, knowing they can’t get much better anywhere else.

Then Zephine turns up dead, with a pamphlet similar to the one that Sebastien drew his sketch on stabbed into her chest with a message. Sebastien is determined to find her killer, but his life is plagued with its own problems. He lost his daughter, and the relationship between he and his wife is severely strained. They choose not to even live together anymore. On the other hand, Sebastien also has someone else who he is passionate about, though he wants to stay away because he still cares for his wife.

I liked the way relationships were handled in this. Sebastien’s wife, Marie, is not evil. Often times when there’s a relationship that isn’t working out, one partner will be painted like they’re the spawn of the devil. That isn’t the case here. They’re both flawed, and dealing with the death of their daughter was too much for them. They still care about each other, but at times they can’t stand to be around each other. Marie suspects there is someone else but, frankly, this is a time when there was little women could do about it.

Trying to solve a murder in a time before modern day forensics is not an easy task. Sebastien has little to go on but a sketch that is now missing. Even then, he has no proof the person in the sketch even was the killer. He recruits the help of an old, close friend, Gilbert, and they scour the city looking for clues, listening to gossip, talking to prostitutes, infiltrating meetings and tracking down men who had seen Zephine.

All the while, Sebastien isn’t even positive if he can trust his superior officer. He wants to, he believes him, but the sketch he created disappeared from Allard’s desk, and there aren’t many who would have known it was there. Allard, on the other hand, recognized the face in the sketch and is greatly concerned about who their suspect may be.

The story is well-written with just a few small errors I ran into. The characters are fleshed out, and I did want to know what happened to Zephine and why. There are a lot of people involved, and while I was generally able to keep track of where they were and what was going on, once in a while I would get a little lost. There’s a lot of developed characters, but many we don’t spend too much time with, too. I felt like I knew the prostitutes that Sebastien spoke to, but several of the revolutionaries were mostly names. I wouldn’t really say to change it, because I don’t need a fifty page backstory about every character he talks to, and it’s easier to go with the flow of the story and figure that I knew they were a revolutionary and I didn’t need much more info than that.

I remember in particular that Gilbert was looking for Benoit, and I was trying to remember how his name came up as a suspect and couldn’t. I’m positive it was in the book, but there are so many groups and people they speak to that it’s easy to forget details.

Someone who is sensitive may want to skip this book. There is a rape scene, and it’s very uncomfortable to read (as a rape scene should be). It also doesn’t brush around the fact that many of the people live wretched lives full of abuse, rape and starvation. Many people are missing teeth because they sold them, it isn’t uncommon to see bruises, and more and more people are falling from higher positions and trying to survive in the slums. Even small children are not only working, but offering to help find people prostitutes for money. The prostitutes themselves are barely surviving, with nothing to guarantee that they won’t be murdered or brutalized that day because they’re easily replaceable to their pimp. And yet he’s better than what they will find elsewhere.

If you can handle that sort of read, I would recommend it. It kept me interested throughout, and it’s one of the books that, after a couple of days, I sat down and finished off the rest of it instead of reading a chapter a day.

I give it a 10/10.

The Corrupted Kingdom

The Corrupted Kingdom

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

(Spoilers within)

This is a short story, only about 12,000 words, so this will probably be a fairly short review.

That said, I really liked this story. The Prologue didn’t catch me. It’s only two pages, but I thought there were too many questions in the narrative in it (“When the mind-shattering images manifest with claws and teeth and repressed emotions, what good is a blade or axe? If the power we possess could subdue it, would we not have slain it in our sleep, when all the world’s laws and possibilities were at our command” etc etc).

However, that was a short part, and I really liked the first chapter – or “Part 4”, as it’s labeled. I think the dialogue between the boy and the woman is done very well, with the boy being a skeptic and demanding logic, and the woman having seen horrors and insisting that there are things people don’t yet understand, but they exist regardless of our understanding them or not. Both of their opinions make sense for their characters.

Now, the story is sort of told backwards, with the first chapter being the end and the last chapter being the start. I glanced at some reviews beforehand and knew this was going to happen, and I wasn’t sure how well it would work. I think it worked for the most part, perhaps because it is a short enough story that you’re only piecing together a few chapters. If it was much longer it would probably get too confusing.

One thing it did do was that I got confused about which character was in one of the chapters. At first I thought it was ‘the leader’, but when I double checked I realized she was someone else. Because names are often avoided in a lot of it, and it’s so short that characters only have a small amount of time, it was an easy mix-up to make.

Even so, in their brief moments I did feel something for the characters. Cynthia, for example, only appears in one chapter and dies during it, so we have very little time with her. However, the way she acts in that brief time says a lot about her. I did feel bad that she died. Taj, on the other hand didn’t get quite as much so I didn’t feel as bad about that one.

I think where the story excels is in creating terrifying situations for the characters. There really is a feeling that they have little chance of escape. Sometimes I couldn’t quite picture what was happening. For example, the leader where’s a strange helmet that’s mentioned a lot, but I’m not sure exactly what it looked like. There was something about it having a ridiculously long neck and two faces. It left me having a little trouble imagining what she looked like.

I can understand why that would happen in a book like this. When you’re trying to describe something nightmarish, something that wouldn’t really make sense, it can be hard to express it in a way that would give everyone a clear image without going into a tedious amount of details, so I chalked it up to, “she has a weird helmet” and continued on. But for the most part, I think it did a good job of dropping the reader into an improbable world with characters we would barely know, and then creating an intense situation. It was able to take something as simple as “a woman is following me” and make it scary. Not every single one worked for me – I don’t find stalagmites that frightening – but I could get what it was going for and some others might find stalagmites forming into the shape of a mouth unnerving.

I think the author could expand a lot on this concept. Right now it looks like this is his first time publishing, and I really enjoyed it. I hope he does do some more. I like a good horror and I like fantasy/medieval settings, and this was a nice mixture of both for me. And, for people looking for it, for what short time they had, I felt it had a strong set of female characters, too.

It kept me fascinated throughout, so I’m going to give it a 10/10.

King Callie

King Callie: Callie’s Saga, Book One

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

(Spoilers within)

I’m writing this review before this book is available for sale, so it’s possible some things that I mention will be fixed or changed before its released.

The first thing I noticed about this book was the cover. I’m sure all of us are used to fantasy armor, and especially fantasy armor that looks ridiculous on women (bikini armor or other vulnerable areas being left uncovered, breasts shaped onto armor that would get them immediately killed if they were struck…). So the cover drew my attention when it had elaborate armor for her that did neither of those things and she was holding an axe.

I love medieval fantasy type settings and that made it look promising, so I opened it up.

When I read the summary of this book I thought that Valric, the brother, would die within the first couple chapters and the rest would be about Caliandra taking over the throne. It’s not. The majority of this book deals with inner politics, people trying to hide their own dark secrets while trying to discover each others, and groups working against each other. It’s not until the end that Caliandra actually finally gets the throne, and that’s after much effort.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone is presented with their own motives. The man who usurps the throne isn’t just painted as a bad guy, but as someone who actually cares about the kingdom, and he does worse and worse things as he tries to keep the throne. Valric probably got the least fleshed out.

The book starts off as Valric is asking the Seer how they can save the ailing king, because when the king dies their status will be lowered. Royth, the Seer, has a horrible vision of the future with Valic in charge, and then sees peace with Caliandra, and decides that Valric has to die before he becomes king. He sends Valric off on a dangerous fool’s errand to get him killed – but not without feeling guilt over it.

From there the book takes its time setting everything up. Valric goes with several men, including the captain of the guard, Kells, and ends up being killed by Kells’ hand. The king’s favorite Minister, Marrol, decides it’s safest for the kingdom if he takes over instead of letting a magical axe decide, and he has the axe hidden. Both men are opposing each other and both don’t want their secrets to get out.

Characters are well built and their positions are understandable. But, there were a few places where I felt like it didn’t hold together quite as well, or where I was waiting for someone to bring up something and they didn’t. For example, when Valric is leaving on his quest he passes by the room his father is in. He hasn’t looked at his father in months because he doesn’t want to see him sick. Caliandra intercepts him and demands that he say goodbye to their father while they leave. They argue about it. I was waiting for Caliandra to bring up that in the time they stood a few feet from his door and argued, he could have said goodbye to their father several times.

Just a little after that I thought there was a bigger slip. Valric is irritably leaving and he thinks this:

the longer Father stayed alive, the better Callie’s offers might be, and the more she was worth as a wife. It was simple. And for all her love of logic, she refused to see it.

Caliandra actually never showed any misunderstanding about this. She knew perfectly well why he was going, and she knows her status will be higher as long as the king is alive. Their argument was about him taking a minute to say bye to the king. It didn’t have anything to do with her not understanding their social positions and what the death of the king entailed, and she never said anything that implied she didn’t get it.

There’s another small lapse like this later. In another kingdom, Valric and Kells are forced to fight each other to the death because Valric attacked children. Kells kills Valric. The soldiers react oddly to this. At first they seem angry at Kells for killing him, and even ask him if he’ll slit their throats (they were forced to fight or else all of them would be killed). I thought maybe it was a bit of a leap of logic just because they’re trained to lay down their lives for the prince. But then not long after that, when Kells makes up a story about Valric having an honorable death to tell people when they get home, one says this:

“Why keep that a secret?” the bitter soldier asked. “Tell the kingdom. Let them know what a bastard he was. He deserves it.”

After they were just being angry and bitter about Valric’s death. It seemed like a sudden shift in being on Valric’s side and hating Kells to being on Kells’ side and hating Valric.

There are some things like how much women are worth as a wife, and Fenwyn, a gay minister, being said to have the soul of a woman. I wrote all of this off as beliefs that were part of the setting, but if you don’t like those sort of narratives the book may not be for you.

Then there was Hanne, who was maybe the only one less fleshed out than Valric. There’s Caliandra, and Caliandra’s younger sister, Eliya, and Hanne is Eliya’s friend. Hanne doesn’t like Caliandra, which we’re given no explanation for at first. Then, we do get a hint why. Eliya and Caliandra are suffering after the loss of their brother, and Hanne yells at Caliandra for expecting her to be nice to her when Caliandra gave her no kindness when Hanne’s brother died years ago, and criticizes her and her friends for spying on the guards after her brother’s death.

Keep in mind, Caliandra would have been twelve or something when this happened, so I did expect her to look back at it and realize she was a little pissant when Hanne’s brother died, but there’s no such self-reflection or even much of a thought spared about this revelation. Instead, without even thinking about what happened to Hanne, she says this:

But I’d still take their company to yours. Witch.

The way Caliandra treated Hanne after Hanne’s brother died is never brought up again after that brief mention.

Later on, some assassins sneak into the castle disguised as maids. They’re there to kill the Seer, Royth, and take Caliandra hostage. When she finds out who they want to kill, she wants to kill him, too, because she blames him for Valric’s death. She more willingly leads them to the dungeon. They kill some guards. Then, when they go down to kill Royth, they end up fighting against Kells as well. Caliandra is upset that something might happened to Kells and second guesses her decision to help the assassins just because she wanted revenge.

She did second guess herself, but I was expecting it a bit sooner. She had previously watched some innocent guards died, and she was more excited by the fighting. She didn’t really show concern that innocent guards were being slaughtered in front of her until they got to Kells.

I think the largest lapse for me was with Sophine. She hires mercenaries to find the stolen axe pieces and find information on the culprit. When she meets with Dyern, the mercenary, he delivers both things, and they’re both legitimate. What I really didn’t get in this scene is the way Sophine treats him. She has him hold up the axe so she can test that it’s the real thing- fair enough. But during this whole scene she’s not particularly nice to him, and his hand is even broken while holding the axe.

Why was she being so mean to him? She hired him and he delivered the goods, and didn’t try to scam her. They did exactly what she wanted in good time. Sophine has been queen for a long time and is still a duchess, and she seems generally smart, so I really didn’t understand why she would burn this bridge. What if she needs to hire him again in the future? Why would she want to make an enemy? She should want to have a simple business transaction, keep thing neutral, and if she needed him in the future he would know she was good for the money and she would know that he can do what he says.

Nonchalantly getting his hand broken and not caring in the least seemed out of place, because I couldn’t think of a reason why she would do that. Now, maybe it could be a complete accident that his hand was broken while testing the axe – that’s fine. But she should try to smooth things over. Offer him a healer, offer extra money, something to keep things even.

There was one other lapse. Eliya has fled the country with her fiance, Mas, and gone back to his kingdom. When they’re in front of his father, the father says this:

When you gave into cowardice, and fled Barra, and left your servants behind.

They argue, and the king is eventually impressed that Mas survived the conditions he did to get home. A bit after that Eliya is talking to him and says:

He thought you had run with your entire retinue, and enjoyed luxury on the run.

But he already said that Mas left his servants behind, so he should have known he didn’t have his whole entourage with him.

There’s one more little thing. It also talks about how handsome the young soldier, Darryn (Caliandra’s crush), is a bit too much. Certainly not the worst I’ve seen in a book, but it was coming up often enough that I made a note about it.

Now, for parts that I liked. The things I mentioned before this are, for the most part, minor things. There was a lot to like in this book.

When Eliya is fleeing with her fiance some of their servants stay behind to distract the guards and will die doing so. I liked her thoughts on this.

The sight chilled her. As a child, she’d heard men had lain down their lives for her family, but until that moment, never had she seen it occur in person.

I mentioned earlier that I thought it mentioned Darryn being handsome too much. That’s because I think it’s fine to say that Caliandra thinks she’s hot, and it could be said once in awhile, but once we’ve established that fact the character should be able to hold his own without having to remind people that he’s attractive. And he’s all right, I don’t think he needs the extra support. Maybe a little informal and cocky for his position when he’s talking to nobility, but he’s okay.

It’s on the side of the “experienced arrogant man and the virginal woman,” but Caliandra at least has plenty of other things to think about and doesn’t obsess over him all the time. I did like one of his lines, where she insists he goes into a tunnel first and he says:

At least one of us is getting a good view.

After her coronation, Caliandra has a serious discussion with Fenwyn’s husband, and I appreciated that he said this about her previous relationship.

“Not all love lasts,” Josske said. “I’d be willing to say you had it. But it can fade. But it will find you again, Your Majesty.”

Too often books go with a “one true love” route, so I appreciated that he didn’t brush off her former love as nothing or fake or something. This is probably one of my favorite lines in the story.

Overall, it’s a good book with plenty of motives on each side, well fleshed out characters, and a pretty good medieval fantasy story. If you’re looking for something in this genre I’d recommend it. It’s not perfect, there are a couple things that I think got overlooked, but they might be changed before it’s put up on Amazon.

I give it a 10/10.

From an Alien Perspective

From An Alien Perspective

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

(Spoilers within)

The first story revolves around Iadog, from a sort of insect-like race. He spent time on Earth and learned about the culture, but he goes back home to his own planet where they’re extremely strict. Not following their traditions can quickly get one killed. Then his old classmate, Finnley, suddenly shows up. The race that is terrified of change doesn’t welcome him, and they demand Iadog find out why he came.

At first, I don’t know if I misread something, but I was very confused about the android and thought that Finnley had been captured WITH an android. It made a lot more sense when I realized an android had gone in place of him.

The story was very enjoyable. I liked Iadog, and even got to liking Finnley. The world is set up well and it’s easy to see why Iadog would be afraid for his well-being when Finnley pops up. It’s oppressive to the extent that he’s even spied on, and then the one in charge of him will ask about things he did when he thought he was in private.

The story is supposed to be a question whether it’s okay to change another culture. While I enjoyed the story itself a lot, ‘culture’ itself is rather low on my list of what’s important. Finnley is upset at the end that they deceived them in order to force them to change, but at the same time the previous culture was full of deceit, too. And culture is is ever-changing. What’s to say the new culture is somehow less important than the old culture? Is the culture in America in 2015 the same as America was in 1950? Would we want it to be? I sure wouldn’t.

Culture is constantly growing and changing and trying to force it to stay the same isn’t any less intrusive than forcing it to change. Anyway, those are a few of my thoughts on the topic, but it does go to show that the story brings up some interesting questions. It’s enjoyable to watch how Iadog changes and his people change. But, even with my feelings on culture, I do feel bad for Iadog. It’s likely he’s not meant to be a leader, and clear that after he makes a wonderful start he’s not necessarily happy in the role. He does a lot of great things to help his people, but it’s clear it will take a toll on him, and I can understand why his friend, Finnley, would be upset by that. (On the other hand, Iadog probably would have just died otherwise).

The second story was essentially about a little ball from another dimension coming to destroy the people of our world. By chance, a farmer accidentally captures him. She then talks to the Sphere that is hellbent on her destruction for awhile and, as it turns out, the life cycle for it is only about a day. As time passes it quickly goes from a young warrior to a senile, old creature. This tale was pretty funny, with the old Sphere still insisting on how dangerous it was as it became weaker and weaker. It was also a bit sad, and understandable why she felt bad for the creature even though it spent the entire time essentially threatening her.

The third might have been the weakest. A farmer has hired a prostitute, or ‘helper’, who has lived with him for two years. Then he goes bankrupt and she gets repossessed. When he sees her again he decides that he’s in love with her, and goes as far as to murder the man who currently has a contract with her. It’s all right, and I like the way it ends. The ending makes sense after his insane actions, and I actually really liked her. She was in a tough spot and trying to survive, but she wasn’t falling in love with the people who paid for her. She probably didn’t even like them, and it makes sense for her not to.

There were some errors in this book, and in the copy I had the formatting was messed up.

Iadog looked both ways down the corridor to ensure that no one had heard the use an English word…

Carless behavior could result in…

…and Iadog had mad a sincere effort.

The stories are very enjoyable but they do need editing. I’m rating more on how much I liked it despite the errors. So I give it a 9/10. It’s a fun book, check it out if you like science fiction.

Nine Lives of Adam Blake

Nine Lives of Adam Blake

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

(Spoilers within)

The “Nine Lives of Adam Blake” was an interesting book. In the beginning, we start with a main character who isn’t necessarily that likeable. He’s not in a good place in his life and he’s obsessing too much over a woman, while getting drunk and not being particularly social.

Then, he dies. And that starts the point where he actually starts becoming more sympathetic. He goes back in time and is revived at age 12, remembering everything from a life where he died at age 30 and all of his regrets. The way he progresses from there makes a lot of sense. He’s confused about why he’s alive again. He has no idea how it happened or for what purpose. After awhile he makes choices differently, spends more time with his family, and avoids some of the decisions he regretted in his first life. On his thirtieth birthday he’s afraid that he’s destined to die – a fear anyone would probably have. But it comes and goes and he lives on.

In the end, though, that doesn’t work. He gets to the end of his life again, and though he lived much longer his second time around he realizes that he’s dying alone.

And he comes back again. His frustration at not understanding what he’s supposed to do is palpable. It’s easy to imagine that anyone would feel the way he does. He continues through life again, living and dying and trying to find solutions. Eventually, in one life he publishes a book that states everything that “is going to happen”, explains his situation, and asks if anyone has a solution. He becomes world famous for his predictions and ends up rich and famous. But here, he realizes that he might have a horrible choice to make. In a previous life, he had married Tamar and had a beloved son named David. Now, in this life, when he meets Tamar she has been in a relationship with someone else, and though the relationship didn’t work out she had a beloved daughter from it. The choices he makes in his next life may determine which child gets to exist, and it’s a difficult choice to have on his shoulders.

There’s more confusion because sometimes events happen that he doesn’t believe can be caused by his actions. In one life Tamar is never born, and he doesn’t understand why that would have changed.

The book works pretty well, because the protagonist’s actions make sense. After living several lives, it makes sense for him to write a book and ‘put it all out there’ in the hopes that he could find a solution. Finding out that he’s in one life without Tamar, he decides to commit suicide because “he’ll just come back again, anyway”. Wondering how he managed to change the world in a way that prevented her from being born plagues him. He goes through a lot trying to figure out his situation, and I was never left feeling, “Why doesn’t he try XYZ?”

The ending is bittersweet, but works. As it turns out, the theory is that he’s not being taken back in time so much as traveling through dimensions, essentially. What this means, though, is that in one of the worlds where he committed suicide, the world is continuing on without him and his sister and everyone will have to deal with his death, not understanding what happened. He also keeps reliving a fairly similar life, which I can imagine would get pretty old after awhile. He doesn’t get to see the distant future or past, and he’s constantly alone going through this. The book ends on a seemingly more hopeful note, where he’s come to terms with it and lives in the moment, but it’s hard to imagine a human living through eternity like this.

I’m not sure we got close to too many characters. Even characters like Tamar and Ruthie, I feel like I could only say a few lines about exactly who they are.

The book held my attention throughout and it gives people a lot to think about. It handles the subject well, and I didn’t feel like it overlooked obvious things for him to try. If the premise looks interesting to you, give it a read! I give it a 10/10.

Warrior Lore

Warrior Lore

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

(Spoilers within)

This is a short book with translations of Scandinavian folk ballads and some explanations of what they’re about and what is happening in them.

On one hand, it’s not the type of book for me because I’ve never been fond of things like poetry and such. On the other hand, it’s probably the perfect type of book for me to review because I translate and I can appreciate how difficult it is to try and keep a rhythm and rhyming scheme while keeping the same meaning. It’s hard. I can imagine the amount of effort it took to try and put it together in English and I’d say it came together pretty well.

Before each ballad, there are short explanations discussing what happens in the ballad, whether they’re based off real historical figures and who they were, and what happened to them in reality or in other ballads. I would say this is akin to studying Shakespeare, because it’s not necessarily obvious what’s going on in the ballad’s themselves without an explanation.

I think the one that amused me the most was when Thor crossdressed as the troll’s bride. I also liked that a guy ran home with an oak tree tied to his back. Old tales really didn’t make a lot of logical sense.

Others are pretty sad and telling of the times, like when a woman is kidnapped and forced into a brutal marriage and dies, only for one of he daughters to be kidnapped the same way later.

Like I said, it’s fairly short, and there’s not too much of note to say. The sources that he translated from are documented. If you’re interested in this subject it would be a good book to look into – I didn’t really see any problems with it. It was neatly put together and had a clean Table of Contents and all. It did everything it set out to do, so I give it a 10/10.

The Book of Deacon

The Book of Deacon

This review will contain spoilers.

I enjoyed this book a lot. Myranda, the main character, is a pretty decent to follow. At first she’s only trying to survive. The northern countries where she lives have been in a perpetual war with the southern country. She wanders from place to place just trying to keep her stomach full enough. After she finds a campsite where the man had died, she happens upon his sword and it leaves a mark on her. Her only thoughts for the sword are to sell it so that she could have her basic needs met, but soon she’s being hunted down by her own country.

She meets a malthrope named Leo, one of the first people she’s been able to talk to freely since she was a child because she’s seen as a sympathizer with the enemy. Malthropes are seen as wicked creatures, so Leo, too, is unwelcomed by the world.

There can be a bit much of Myranda stumbling onto things, but it wasn’t enough to bother me. There were also a few occasions where Myranda had an odd opinion that I didn’t understand.

For example, maybe halfway through the book, she ends up in a secret village kept hidden from the rest of the world. Until then she’d been trudging through constant snow, barely surviving from city to city, didn’t trust the people around her, and everyone pretty much looked the same because most people wore the exact same color of cloak. She was barely surviving and had no friends.

When she arrives in the village it’s a safe haven from the outside world and it has all kind of color to it. But when Deacon tells her how difficult it is to get back out and seems content with staying there, she starts complaining how sad that is. It didn’t make sense to me. She only just got to safety from a world she had no particular reason to be fond of. People were trying to kill her all the time. Why would her immediate thoughts about the village be about how awful it must be to live there your whole life?

It felt almost like she had those thoughts just for the sake of being contrary. I thought it would have seemed more natural if she thought it was the greatest place in the world for awhile, and then changed her mind after being there for awhile and finding that most of the people were only concerned with learning. There was a lot she could have been disillusioned by.

The romance between Myranda and Deacon is close to non-existent. I actually like this. She doesn’t even meet him until about halfway through the book, and when she does there’s no obsession over how the other looks or anything. They start talking a lot and spending a lot of time together as Deacon explains things in the village to her and supports her.

I think Deacon made a surprisingly good romantic interest because he’s so lacking in the ways of romance. His entire life he’s lived in a village that’s all about learning and less about friends. He’s awkward and obsessive about his books, but he’s cordial and supportive of Myranda the entire time. The fact that Myranda was going to him for help and to talk to made sense. Their friendship didn’t feel forced at all, and it was easy to see how both could be drawn to the other – Deacon because it might be his first time having an actual friend in a long time, and Myranda because she’s been so alone in a hostile world.

Deacon doesn’t even seem to be aware of his shift in interests, which makes sense. He’s lived in the village without much in the way of friends, but the people there aren’t particularly hostile towards him, so becoming friends with Myranda would be a more subtle change in his life than in Myranda’s.

They have some differences in views. Deacon firmly believes what he’s been taught in the village, and thinks fate will happen on its own so they can just sit and wait for things to fix themselves. Myranda, on the other hand, thinks she needs to play a more active role in fate.

Overall, I think it was worth a read and I’d recommend it to someone who enjoys a nice fantasy novel. It took a little bit to get into, but I’m rating it based on the fact that I was invested by the end and would continue reading. I’d give it about a 9/10

Book Review – Draykon

Draykon: Book 1 (The Draykon Series)

There will be spoilers in this review.

I wasn’t positive what to expect when I began Draykon. Right away there is a map of the fantasy world, and different areas of the world seem to have different versions of day and night. In some places, it’s always day. In others, it’s always night. And in yet others days and nights come and go like normal.

I liked many of the characters. Eva was good. She was strong, but not impervious to mistakes. I found her attitude towards Vale and marriage refreshing. In many books it’s “true love within five minutes” or “they hate each other but really it’s true love” and other cliches. In contrast, Eva and Vale were companions. She didn’t feel strongly about wanting to marry him, but she didn’t complain either. She became engaged because she felt it was the right thing to do for logical reasons, and she and Vale had a comradery. Perhaps it wasn’t romantic but it was nice to see a couple who were trying to decide what to do with their lives and not necessarily knowing. They treated each other well and had respect for each other.

The world created for the book is nice as well. It’s expansive and consistent. I actually think this is the type of book that would benefit greatly from artwork because I wasn’t always sure what everything looked like, and there was quite a bit of stuff. Things like pictures of Llandry’s home and of the small animals would have been great.

I’d say the downside for me was Llandry herself. It’s not that I particularly hated her – she was all right. I liked that she was a jeweler and had a passion for it.
It was more her anxiety that got to me. Everything she did or experienced she was anxious about. She was a nervous wreck 24/7. It’s possible to do this with a character and be fine, but it got in the way for me in this story because her experiences didn’t have the excitement of everyone else’. While Eva, Tren and the others were off battling wills with dangerous beasts, Llandry was barely able to handle a friendly stranger visiting her home. It made me want to spend more time with Eva and people who were actively doing something.
Also, in contrast with Eva and Vale’s relationship, Llandry brought some cliches to the table. For example, she obviously liked Devary, and when Devary met with a another woman he was amiable with she and Llandry had to be at odds. This sort of thing happens all the time in movies and stories. I much prefered Eva’s relationship.
Even when Eva and Tren became close, it was over a period of time and after going through a lot together, so I prefered both of her relationships to Llandry’s.

The story was good, though. It was colorful and highly imaginative, and it’s obvious a lot of thought went into it. It would be a great read for people who love fantasy.
I give it about a 9/10.