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Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Book 1) by N.K. Jemisin

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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon): Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

My Review: One of the best things about the book is its main character Yiene.  She is a compelling character because of how complex she is. She is physically strong because she can defend herself with a knife and her fists, yet she is emotionally vulnerable because she recently lost her mother. Her Arameri and Darr heritage makes her identity torn between a ruling family and a “barbaric” family. As the story progresses, there are other dualities that are revealed that develop her character even more until she is self actualized.

Another great thing about this book are the secondary characters. Most of them don’t fit the neat categories of good or evil, so the reader is made to feel mixed emotions about them. The most compelling characters are the gods Itempas and Nahadoth and the godling Sieh. Their powers are awe-inspiring, their personalities are intriguing, and their situation is sympathetic.

Besides the main character Yiene and the secondary characters, the setting is very imaginative and amazing. According to the appendix in the back of the book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a term for the world since it was unified under Arameri rule. Sky is the palace of the Arameri and it houses one god, some godlings, and the Arameri. Darr is a tribal country with mostly female warriors and a harrowing rites of passage ritual.

In addition to the characters and the setting, the magic system and mythology  is very creative. Notable aspects are the  creation story of the gods and godlings, how the gods and godlings can be controlled, and the Seed of the Earth.

A final notable aspect of the book is how it deals with racism, classism, colonialism, and power struggles. These themes are weaved so well into the plot that readers will want to keep turning the page to find out what happens next. Furthermore, the way that these issues impact Yiene will make readers either relate to or sympathize with her.

Overall, this was a great beginning to The Inheritance Trilogy. I recommend it to any fantasy fiction lover.

 

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Written by Serena Zola

January 1, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Book Review: She Who Fights Monsters (Book 2 of The Black Parade) by Kyoko M.

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She Who Fights Monsters by Kyoko M.

Source: Kyoko M’s website

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon): Jordan Amador. 23. New Yorker. Waitress. Investigator for souls with unfinished business, also known as a Seer. Michael O’Brien. 25. New Yorker. Lead guitarist. Commander of Heaven’s Army. The dynamic supernatural duo is in the middle of trying to solve a deadly case. Someone is methodically hunting down and murdering Seers one by one.

After six months with no leads on the killer, Jordan and Michael are forced to work with their worst enemy—the archdemon Belial: a self-professed Prince of Hell who is dead set on stealing Jordan for himself. However, with the archdemon’s help, they pick up on the trail of the serial killer and plan to stop him no matter what the cost. When the shocking truth behind the murderer’s identity is revealed, Jordan begins asking herself if she is still fighting for the good guys or has she become one of the monsters she is desperately trying to stop?

My Review:  One of the best things about this book is the author’s writing style. The thought-provoking epigraphs, humorous pop culture references,  and detailed action scenes from the first book are still present in the second book. In addition, the author does a good job writing this book from two points-of-view, Jordan’s and Michael’s.

Besides the author’s writing style, the way Jordan and Michael’s relationship was portrayed in the book was very well done. You can see how much Jordan and Michael care for each other when they are together and apart. Things like knowing what makes the other tick and using the same “I just kicked your butt” catchphrase show how close Jordan and Michael have become.

In addition, the character development is good. Although new personal demons confront Jordan, she works through them while kicking demon butt. Michael has some anger issues that he learns to handle as he juggles his multiple roles.

Other characters that play an important role include Jordan’s mother and adoptive father, the archangel Gabriel, and the archdemon Belial. Jordan’s mother and adoptive father do a good job guiding Michael and Jordan from above. Gabriel is a strong fighting partner and a caring friend to Jordan. Belial is a complicated factor, but his involvement with Jordan and Michael makes him a striking character.

Finally, the book’s moral is something anyone can relate to. By the end of the book, the reader is shown that sometimes life and people aren’t always black and white. There is a grey area in almost everyone, whether it be yourself, a parent, or a lover.

Overall, this was a great sequel to The Black Parade. If you enjoyed The Black Parade, then definitely read this book.

Related Link:  Book Review of The Black Parade Book 1

 

 

 

Book Review: Once Upon A Time in Afrika by Balogun Ojetade

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Once Upon a Time in Afrika

Source: Blogspot

Background Info on Sword and Soul:  Soul and Sword is a genre that incorporates sword and sorcery with the mythology, folklore, and culture of Africa.

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon): Desperate to marry off his beautiful but “tomboyish” duaghter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of Oyo, consults the Oracle. The Oracle tells the Emperor Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who is the greatest warrior, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament inviting warrior from all over the continent. Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament a powerful evil is headed their way. Will the warriors band together against this evil?

My Review: One of the book’s strongest assets is its characters. There is an equal amount of strong female and male characters. For instance, Esusekke is skilled in hand-to-hand combat and using bow and arrow. Matching her combat skills is the male character Akin, who has the makings of a leader and a great warrior. Other examples include Akin’s mother Oyabakin  and Akin’s father Geboya, who are wise and skilled fighters in their own right.

Other interesting characters include various creatures in the realm, including witches and wizards, assassins, and half-warriors with either animal or monstrous qualities. These secondary characters brought Onile, the alternate world of Africa, to life. Depending on the character, they either made the story action-packed or humorous.

Besides the characters. the plot is fast-paced and filled with action, adventure, and a little romance. It will hook the reader and make the book hard to put down.

The only flaw in the book is the story’s world. The author did a great job incorporating Yoruba mythology into Onile. However, since the plot is so fast-paced and the story less than two hundred pages, the reader doesn’t have enough time to enjoy Onile. Different areas of the continent are introduced so quickly that the reader may feel disoriented at times.

Overall, this was a great sword and soul book. I recommend it for people getting into the genre for the first time. I also recommend it to black fantasy fiction lovers looking to see themselves in the pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Black Parade (Book 1) by Kyoko M.

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The Black Parade, Kyoko M.

Source: SheWhoWritesMonsters.com (Kyoko M’s website)

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon): Jordan Amador. 21. New Yorker. Waitress. Mild alcoholic. Murderer. Two years ago, Jordan accidentally shot and killed a Seer: a person who can see, hear, and talk to ghosts with unfinished business. Her crime came with a hefty price, too. She has two years to help a hundred souls cross over to the afterlife or her soul is bound for hell. Tough break.

As if that weren’t bad enough, two days before her deadline a handsome pain-in-the-ass poltergeist named Michael strolls into her life. His soul is the key to her salvation, but the cost just might be more than she can handle. Solving his death puts her right in the crosshairs of Belial: a vain, bloodthirsty archdemon who won’t rest until she’s his slave. Can she rescue Michael and save her own soul, or will they both be dragged down into the clutches of the eternal black parade?

My Review: One of the best things about the book is its main characters Jordan and Michael. Jordan is a Hispanic and black young woman who can handle herself physically but not emotionally. At first, she can only defend herself with martial arts and a gun, but is vulnerable because of a traumatic past. As the story moves forward, she becomes physically and emotionally stronger. Overall, she is someone anyone can relate to, but she is a really good protagonist for women of color.

Meanwhile, Michael is a helpful, friendly poltergeist for some chapters until he discovers a bigger identity. Once he does, he starts becoming closer to Jordan by being a source of emotional comfort as well as a mentor that teaches Jordan to develop new abilities. Even though he becomes protective over Jordan, he still treats her with respect and allows her to live her life and make her own choices.

Besides the main characters, the setting of the story was very creative. It is reminiscent of the television show Supernatural, because behind the real world lies a word of angels, demons, and ghosts. The author did a good job blending the supernatural world with the real world, especially when it came to how these worlds affected Jordan’s life.

Also, the plot of the story was very compelling. There are action scenes that are described so that the reader is holding their breath. Besides this, the romance develops at an appropriate pace. Also, emotionally heavy scenes make the reader sympathize with Jordan without overdoing the drama. Furthermore, the humor that occurs between Jordan and other characters will make the reader chuckle or smile.

In addition, the themes of love and hatred were woven into the story well. For instance, Jordan struggles to overcome her self-hatred and realize she is capable of being loved by someone. Another example is Jordan’s mother representing love, and Jordan’s Aunt Carmen representing hate. These themes give the story a good message.

Overall, this book was a fantastic read. I recommend this to urban fantasy fans, especially if you enjoy the television shows Supernatural and Castle.  Furthermore, I recommend this to people of color, especially females who are looking for a good representation of themselves in fantasy. Due to the strong violence, mild alcohol use, and strong sexual content, I also recommend this book for older teens and up.

 

 

Book Review: Kojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi

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Authoress Note: I’d like to thank Mr. Yatsuhashi for allowing me to review his book and for giving me an advanced reader’s copy.

Plot Summary: When eighteen-year-old Keiko Yamada’s father dies unexpectedly, he leaves behind a one way ticket to Japan, an unintelligible death poem about powerful Japanese spirits and their gigantic, beast-like Guardians, and the cryptic words: “Go to Japan in my place. Find the Gate. My camera will show you the way.” 

Alone and afraid, Keiko travels to Tokyo, determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish. There, beneath glittering neon signs, her father’s death poem comes to life. Ancient spirits spring from the shadows. Chaos envelops the city, and as Keiko flees its burning streets, her guide, the beautiful Yui Akiko, makes a stunning confession–that she, Yui, is one of a handful of spirits left behind to defend the world against the most powerful among them: a once noble spirit now insane. Keiko must decide if she will honor her father’s heritage and take her rightful place among the gods.

My Review: One of the most compelling things about this novel its plot. It is a fusion of the anime movie Spirited Away,  the monster movie Godzilla, and a hint of the novel The Phantom of the Opera. Also, it is mostly fast-paced, with plenty of action and adventure. There are times that it is disorienting, especially when characters are being introduced. However, the author slows it down at the right time so the reader can catch their breath.

Another intriguing aspect of the book are its characters. They are inspired by different aspects of Japan such as mythology, anime, and  history. The main character Keiko  is reminiscent of the character Chihiro from Spirited Away because she is unsure of herself when she is thrust into the world of spirits. Yet, Keiko is also wise, showing self-control and empathy during key moments. Furthermore, she is courageous.  However, an aspect of Keiko that is slightly disappointing is that she  is less of an offensive force when it comes to her special power.

As for the supporting characters, they were very well done. Yui is strong, brave, and driven. These qualities become very admirable during the climax of the book. When it comes to the spirits, they were memorable because they were more human than they appeared to be. They experience love, heartbreak, anguish, and grief in a way that is haunting. As the story unfolded, I was reminded of the Proxies from the anime series Ergo Proxy.

Finally, the themes of harmony and balance are poignant because they create a powerful moral using the characters and plot. When is it okay to have what you want, instead of what you need? Can you have harmony without suffering? To gain balance, what are you willing to sacrifice? These questions are answered within the novel and may stay with the reader long after they finish the book.

Overall, this was a riveting read. I recommend this book to any anime or fantasy-fiction fan.

Written by Serena Zola

May 20, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Book Review: Eona

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 Eona is no longer disguised as a boy and has now become a Dragoneye. However, she can’t control her power. To make matters worse, she and her comrades are on the run from the evil Emperor Sethon. The only way to stop his terrible reign is for Eona to find the true heir to the Imperial throne: Prince Kygo.

While Eona is one hundred pages thicker than Eon, the plot is still fast-paced. There are many things that keep the book engaging. In addition to the sword-fighting that was present in the previous book Eon, you get to see more magic. One of the most extraordinary feats is the harnessing of lightning in a glass form. However, there is a dark twist to Eona’s magic that makes it difficult for her to use it heroically.

Another element that makes the story interesting is the romance. Even though this is hinted at in the previous novel, it couldn’t be developed because Eona was pretending to be a boy. Now, she is free to be passionate internally and externally about her feelings. Yet, it isn’t all roses and violets. There is a dark twist to it that is connected to her magic.

The only thing that was unlikeable about this book was its ending, which felt a little rushed and abrupt. Despite this, Eona was a great conclusion to the Eon/Eona duet. If you liked Eon, then you’ll definitely like this book.

Book Review: Eon

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In the Empire of the Celestial Dragons, a twelve-year-old boy named Eon has been studying magic and sword-play in order to be chosen as a Dragoneye, an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. However, Eon is actually a sixteen year-old girl named Eona. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; the penalty is death. When Eona’s secret is danger of being revealed, she is plunged into a struggle for the Imperial throne.

One of the good things about this book is its refreshing setting. While most of today’s popular fantasy is inspired by Europe, Eon’s world is inspired by China and Japan. This makes the story authentic and gives readers something new to experience.

Another good thing about this book is its protagonist Eona. A reluctant heroine that is armed with magic and the way of the sword, she is reminiscent of the protagonists of fantasy author Tamora Pierce. Something that sets Eona apart from most heroines is that she is crippled in one leg. While this causes her to be looked down at by others, she displays a resilient and compassionate spirit despite the odds.

Fast paced and daring, Eon is a fantastic start to the Eon/Eona duology.

STAY TUNED FOR THE REVIEW OF EONA… COMING SOON.

Written by Serena Zola

May 10, 2012 at 8:02 PM

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