Category Archives: Book Review

Review: Guardians of the West (The Mallorean 1)

Guardians of the West (The Mallorean 1)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The Guardians of the West picks up almost immediately after the end of the Belgariad. It’s been a few months since Garion and Ce’Nedra’s wedding, and the young boy Errand find himself moving to the vale with his new adopted parents Durnik and Polgara the Sorceress. The group is accompanied by the vagabond sorcerer, Belgarath. After he and Polgara spent thousands of years working to see Torak and the Dark Prophecy defeated, they think they can rest. But hints and rumors begin to stir of a new force awakening in the east while the Angeraks struggle to come to grips with the death of their god.

Over the next five or so years, Garion and Ce’Nedra settle into their married. With a few bumps along they way, they grow to find a balance in their relationship. A balance that is disrupted when Ce’Nedra’s lack of pregnancy begins to worry the other monarchs of the world. Stability is needed for the world after the trauma it’s endured, and there are those who seek to take advantage of it.

Once again, Garion and his companions have to defend the West as new threats arise and hints that there is still more to come in the fight between the two halves of the original Purpose of the Universe. That though Torak was defeated, the Dark Prophecy still moves pieces on the board and a new threat boils beneath the surface.

Guardians of the West is a great follow up to Eddings outstanding Belgariad. He returns to his world and spends an entire book on the buildup to the new threat. He’s subtle, showing us our characters as they fit into their new roles in life, growing into full adulthood (like Garion and Ce’Nedra) while shifting many of Garion’s story role onto Errand’s shoulders. For fans of the Belgariad, it’s a great reunion with old friends.

The build up is handled well. It’s a mystery that has you, thinking you already know everything about the world, wondering what is going on. That moment of realization that there is more to “Boundless Mallorea” than that little slice we saw in Enchanters End Game. The misdirects and the plot twists are great. Guardians of the West is like the first few chapters of Pawn of Prophecy stretched into nearly a whole book.

And it works.

This is a great start to a new series with our old character. Eddings has to do little retconning to make it work, just tweaking the expectation that the final battle wasn’t as final as everyone (our characters included) believed. It follows on those dangling plot threads left over from the last series while setting the stage for the new adventure to come. If you enjoyed the Belgariad, then you have to read the Mallorean!

You can purchase Guardians of the West from Amazon!

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Review: An Echo of Things to Come

An Echo of Things to Come (The Licanius Trilogy)

by James Islington

Reviewed by JMD Reid

After the dramatic revelation of who Caedon truly is after the end of the last novel, he has to remember what he’s done. Can he face the crimes of his past while uncovering the dangerous gambit he’s set in motion to defeat El? Will the demons of his past, the friends and allies he’s betrayed, prove his undoing? Or will his knew friends still trust them when they learn the truth?

Davian has traveled south, separating from his brief reunion with Asha and his friend Wynn. With Augurs no longer condemned to death but needed to save the Boundary, Davian has hopes that he and the others coming into their power will be enough to hold back the darkness. However, evil lurks in the hearts of men. Greed and ambition swirl around him as petty officials seek to use the crisis to further their own ambitions.

Asha, transformed into a Shadow, needs to understand just what she is. Why do her and the others like her exist? The answer to these questions go back to one dark truth: why did she survive the massacre? She will have to brave dangers on her own quest to find the truth.

And last Wynn is beset by political enemies. He has risen to the post of Northwarden and heads the Administration tasked with controlling magic users like himself. He faces resent me, even from those who should love him. Can he enact meaningful change to prevent the Boundary from failing? Or will his enemies tear him down out of fearful prejudice?

An Echo of Things to Come picks off where the last book left off. The entire balance of power has shifted with Wynn becoming Northwarden and changing the Oaths. As the danger of the Boundary nears, Islington delves into the past. He peels back the history of the world and the philosophy behind it.

How can you save the day when everything has already happened. When the past, present, and future were determined by El long ago? How can you stop inevitability from destroying world and does your actions even have consequences? Are you truly responsible for the crimes you commit if it is done at the will of God?

Islington delves into these questions. His philosophical discussion is woven into the foundation of his world. As he peels back the layers, it compels you to keep reading, to understand how Caedon hopes to fight this and if the glimpses of the future can be averted? Can you find redemption for being a monster? Can you save the world fated to die?

Fans of epic fantasy need to read this series. I am eagerly awaiting Book Three! I am glad I picked this one up, and you will be, too!

(Just don’t read the plot synopsis for book three as it spoils a major, and gut-punching, moment in this book. Sigh…)

You can purchase An Echo of Things to Come from Amazon!

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Review: Enchanter’s End Game (The Belgariad 5)

Enchanter’s End Game (The Belgariad 5)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The final volume of the Belgariad has begun. The dark god Torak stirs in the east and Garion travels with the sorcerer Belgarath and the thief Silk to confront him. But standing between him and the god lies the lands of his followers, the Agerzaks.

In the south, Garion’s fiancee, acting in his name, leads the army she’s raised to distract the Agerzaks. She will keep the world’s attention on her to give her fiancee the chance to slip through and defeat the dark god once and for all.

Danger swells for everyone. War has come to the West while Garion and his small group has to dodge trackers, demons, and Grolim priests eager for new sacrifices for their altars. Two prophecies hurtle towards each other and their titanic conclusion.

Enchanters End Game brings all the story threads together. The book is epic, bouncing around most of the world, seeing the impact of the impending war. Last book was Garion’s coming into adulthood and responsibility, and now Ce’Nedra has her own lessons to learn. War isn’t a game. It’s deadly and serious, and those she cares for will suffer for the decisions she makes.

Garion’s arc is much… simpler. He has already reached the pinnacle of his character growth is nearly over. He’s made his choice in the last book, now he’s marching towards his fate, facing the fear and dread as he comes closer and closer. His final lesson is a profound one, though.

Compassion.

Eddings does a phenomenal job bringing this series to a close satisfactory. I particularly enjoy his epilogue and the efficiency of which he gives all the characters their codas without bogging the narrative down with scene after scene by using a dream as a framing device, allowing him to spend a few paragraphs sketching out the important details and flowing onto the next. The only complaint I have is how little Garion we get in this with half the novel devoted to the war. I also would have wished him to have a more active role in the decisions. Eddings had him grow up into a man, ruling Riva and making decisions only to have him surrender to Belgarath and Silk again. I can see why, but it would have been nice for him to be more in command as our hero.

There are a few loose threads which Eddings uses to take us into a second series. He must have been thinking about the Mallorean because there is enough seeds planted to make the second series mostly work without having to do any major retconning of the ending (this is billed as THE final battle, but there’s an extra round still to come).

All in all, the Belgariad was an amazing experience. It’s always a pleasure to revisit Eddings in his prime. Fans of Fantasy, especially boys, will enjoy this series.

You can purchase Enchanters End Game from Amazon!

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New Release: Castle of Wizardry (The Belgariad 4)

Castle of Wizardry (The Belgariad 4)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

In the ruins of Rak Cthol, Garion and his companions have accomplished their goal. They have recovered the Orb of Aldur. But Belgararth the Sorcerer lies in a stupor, exhausted by his magical duel with Ctuthik and the mountains keep shakes from the earthquakes. They are deep in enemy territory and will have to use their wits to escape.

It’s up to Garion to step forward and leave his company to safety. But can the young man handle the weight of leadership thrust upon him? Will his fledling sorecery powers be enough to see them safe through the lands of the Murgos? And what will happen when they make it back to the safety. What does it mean for their quest now that they have reclaimed the Orb of Aldur?

Garion’s true destiny still awaits him.

Castle of Wizardy brings a major narrative shift to the series. The goal, finding the Orb of Aldur, is accomplished at the end of book 3. Now this book deals with Garion maturing into adulthood and leaving behind childhood. From his first foray into command at the start of the book to the revelation of his true role (which any reader paying attention to will have figured it out long ago). Where as he had no choice at the start of the quest, like any child, now he has to make his decision.

How will he deal with the responsibility thrust upon him? What choice will he make with the burden placed upon him? Garion’s journey is nearly over, and this book is the most crucial one. The decisions he makes shape the man he is becoming.

Castle of Wizardry starts of tense. The chase by the Murgos is some of the tensest sections of the book. With Belgarath out of commission and Polgara forced to defend the Orb bearer, their company has never been at their weakest. Eddings transitions this into the lightness of the rest of the book to the surprising fun that is Ce’Nedra’s section at the end of the book as she, too, discovers the responsibilities of adulthood and makes her choice on how she’ll help Garion with his destiny.

This series continues to be one of my favorite fantasy series and it’s been a delight to dive back into it.

You can purchase Castle of Wizardy from Amazon!

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Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy 1)

The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy 1)

by James Islington

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Two decades after the social fabric has been overturn. Once, the Augurs and the other Gifted controlled the world. But now the survivors of the war are chained to their nation, bound by oaths sworn on their behalves. Hated and feared, there are those who plot to restore their power to what it once was.

And to the north, an ancient evil lurks beyond the boundary.

Davian is in a panic. The testing is coming up. He is one of the Gifted, but he can’t access his magic. If he can’t learn to control it, they will strip it from him and make him one of the Shadows, forever marked. Without even his magic, he will be loathed by all. However, there are those in power who know what he truly is.

And they wish to see his destiny met. He can rise to meet it or he can gamble on gaining his power in time.

The Shadow of What Was Lost is an intriguing fantasy book. The world building is deep and the story flows fast. The plot twists and turns, with new revelations peeling back every few chapters. Islington builds up his story through his three storylines, dropping hints here, clues there as he builds towards the ending of the first book in his fantasy series.

An engrossing book that keeps you reading, wandering what happens next. With foreshadowing hinting at character’s fates via prophetic visions and time travel, these tantalizing clues keep you wondering what will happen to the characters to lead to these fates.

The plot turns can be shocking, but the story holds together well. It doesn’t feel haphazard but planned. Islington is in control, important when dealing with his themes of time travel and prophetic visions. The characters are heroic and villainous, cryptic and intriguing. I’m intrigued to where this story goes and glad book 2 is coming out next.

You can purchase The Shadow of What Was Lost from Amazon!

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Review: Magician’s Gambit (The Belgariad 3)

Magician’s Gambit (The Belgariad 3)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

As ash falls on Nyssa, Garion grapples with his sorcerous powers. Wracked with guilt for what he did to the man who killed his parents, Garion needs to understand his new abilities. How he can live with the consequences.

As Garion deals with what type of man he will become, Ce’Nedra can’t help the burgeoning attraction swelling in her heart for the young man. She knows nothing can come of it, as a Tolnedran Princess, she’ll marry a man to enhance the empire and her family’s goals. How can she love a peasant? What future can they have?

As the company heads north into the haunted lands of Maragor, Garion and Ce’Nedra must both come to terms with adult responsibilities. All while dealing with mad gods, dangerous assassins, and bloodthirsty monsters.

The Magician’s Gambit continues the growth of Garion. Adult responsibilities, represented by sorcery, are thrust upon him. And now he has to figure out what to do with them. The decisions he makes will shape the sort of man he’ll become. Eddings weaves these themes into his story with skill, tying the coming of age plots into the fantasy quest adventure narrative he is weaving.

The characters continue to be delightful. As always, Eddings can straddle that line between the humors and the serious, between the dark and the bright. The Belgariad series is one that both young people can read and enjoy but has more mature themes for us older folks to enjoy.

This is a fantasy series for all ages to enjoy, but it will especially resonate with young boys!

You can purchase Magician’s Gambit from Amazon!

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Review: Queen of Prophecy (The Belgariad 2)

Queen of Prophecy (The Belgariad 2)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The quest to recover the Orb of Aldur continues. Garion, once a simple farm boy, finds himself thrust into the company of sorcerers, warriors, and conniving princes on a journey to save the world. As he struggles to find his place in the world, his true destiny begins rearing its head.

While traveling south through new lands, new members join Garion’s party. From the resolute Mandrollan to the flighty princess Ce’Nedra, the company continues following the thief into the dangerous lands of the serpent queen.

Those who know Garion’s destiny seek to seize him. He will have to grow into a man if he wishes to survive!

Queen of Sorcery picks up a few weeks after Pawn of Prophecy. Eddings skips us a farther south, not treading over familiar ground of Sendaria and setting us into a new country. His world building expands even more as he takes us into cultures new and varied from the solid lands Garion grew up in. Edding’s sardonic humor can tread into the macabre from time to time, but the series continues to be fun and adventurous.

Garion continues growing up, on the verge of true adulthood on this book. He’s in the last stages of that rebellious teenage phase as responsibilities of the world began to weigh on his shoulders. This series continues to be a fun romp and a great series for young boys to read as well as older fans. Eddings dialogue continues to be some of my favorite in Fantasy.

You can purchase Queen of Sorcery from Amazon!

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Review: Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad 1)

Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad 1)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

On a remote farm in the back end of nowhere, Garion grows up under the watch of his Aunt Pol. He has no idea of his true heritage or his true destiny. Nor does he know of the great adventure about to be thrust upon him when the traveling storyteller he’s nicknamed Mr. Wolf shows up with urgent news for his Aunt.

News that sees Garion setting off from the farm he grew up on and out into the world. Confused by events and realizing his Aunt Pol is more than a simple cook at a farm, Garion will have to grapple with a world of magic as he comes of age!

Pawn of Prophecy is a book I first read in the sixth grade. It was the perfect book to read. I was only a few years younger than Garion, just moved and had no friends, and was in need of escape. Garion’s quest resonated with me. Even now, twenty years later, the book retains all its charm.

Is the story of the farm boy with a secret destiny played out? It is now. But when David Eddings penned this story, he was creating something special. Drawing on the grand romances of the Middle Ages, he pens a Fantasy quest with skill few other authors lack. His world is rich, full of colorful characters that Eddings quickly endears you to. He straddles the line between the dark and the light-hearted.

Pawn of Prophecy is a wonderful escapist fantasy, particularly for a young boy. If you’re looking for a fantasy novel for a preteen or teenage boy, this is a book I’d recommend! Action, adventure, magic, danger, and a flight princess with a temper!

You can purchase Pawn of Prophecy from Amazon!

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Review: Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive 3)

Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive 3)

by Brandon Sanderson

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Oathbringer starts up right where Words of Radiance left off. The Everstorm ravages across Roshar. The Knights Radiance need to unite the nations of the world the face this new threat. But Dalinar, the new leader of the Knights Radiance, has a dark and troubled past. In his youth, fighting to help his brother conquer the nation of Alethkar, he committed many acts of wanton destruction.

How can the peoples of the world trust a man with such a bloodied past?

As Dalinar seeks to unite, Shalan has to deal with her fractured psyche. As she delves into her illusionary powers, and creates new identities with which to spy, who she truly is becomes harder and harder for her to recognize. But Shalan cannot afford to fall apart. Not when the world itself is at stake. And Kaladin will have to learn a valuable lesson of his own, that tries he might he cannot protect everyone.

Sanderson has delivered another epic door stopper to enthrall fans of epic fantasy. Oathbringer brings to life the characters of the world of Roshar telling us into the past of Dalinar. The characters are tested like never before as a struggle against the ultimate enemy of their world, a being of immense power and malevolent designs.

For fans of epic fantasy, Sanderson once again shows why he is one of the modern masters of the genre. Oathbringer is a book that gripped you from beginning to end, letting you live in the characters heads, and bring them to life. This is a must-read book for all fans of fantasy. I can’t wait for the next exciting volume of the series.

You can buy Snapshot from Amazon!

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Review: Snapshot

Snapshot

by Brandon Sanderson

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Davis and Chaz are two detectives assigned to a very unusual division: the Snapshot division. Thanks to some sort of flobltinum, a psychic being can accurately recreate any day in the past. Davis and Chaz’s jobs are simple: to enter the snapshot and confirm details of crimes that have already happened to ensure the bad guys are caught.

Only catch, they have to keep their actions from altering the recreation. Everything they do has consequences, creates divergences. If they do too much, they might never figure out what happened. And today, the stakes have never been higher.

They have a chance to catch a serial killer who’s doing all he can to evade the Snapshot program.

This short story is why I love Brandon Sanderson. He is always coming up with new and exciting stories to read. He’s not locked into one fantasy universe or even one genre. He’ll write in them all to share his imagination with us.

And Snapshot is no different. This time, he delves into the murder mystery with his own style. He’s put that Brandon Sanderson spin on this tale and makes it wonderful. This is a great one that will keep you reading through its various twist and turns.

For fans of speculative fiction, this novella is a must read!

You can buy Snapshot from Amazon!

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