Friday, September 28, 2012

Books of Note: September Reads

Well, I certainly read some amazing books this month! and then some that were very, utterly, and horribly disappointing. But this isn't a rant post, this is a book review post, so I'll share some of the better books I read!

Warring kingdoms, bloody feuds, and a boy’s battle for survival. Step back into the Dark Ages with this riveting epic adventure.

In the wilds of Dark Age Britain, a bard abandons his son, Essa, in a village trapped between two feuding kingdoms. As the once-nomadic boy grows rooted in the life of the Wolf Folk, forging allegiances and young love, King Penda of Mercia threatens to attack, thrusting Essa into the violent and cunning world of the tribal rulers. Joined by unlikely friends, unsure of whom to trust — or even of who he is — Essa sets off on a dangerous journey, using his newfound intuitive gifts to guide them as a deadly battle brews. Will his desperate efforts to save his loved ones bring him closer to understanding why his father has never returned? Fast-paced and full of intrigue, this debut novel transports readers to a time of blood and steel, when peace was fleeting and won only at a cost.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I enjoyed this book a lot! I liked the setting, of course, I can't pass up much having to do with ancient Britain, I loved the characters, and the overall story was well crafted and believable. I did a faith buy on this book (because I couldn't get it from the library) under recommendation from a friend and I'm glad I did because I ended up liking it even more than I thought I would. The first couple chapters are a little slower but it's necessary to get to know Essa and the other characters and after that the book picks up into a really great, suspenseful story.

Characters:Essa, of course, is a great protagonist. You feel for his position and his abandonment by his father, Cai. Now Cai is a rather interesting character because you can dislike him for how he treats Essa, but you can also understand his reasons behind it and since he isn't completely terrible you can maybe forgive him a little bit. It also probably stands to reason that I loved Wulf and the brotherly relationship that forms between him and Essa because I just love that kind of thing, and Wulf also had a great sense of humor. I also liked the girl characters too. Lark, I knew I would like right off, and Anwen, I was afraid at first that she would be annoying, but she surprised me and turned out to be a really awesome character as well.

Writing Style: The style was good, it fit the time period well, and the author clearly did her research as she stated in the author's note. I also liked how it was third person from Essa's point of view. It was the kind of book that you couldn't really be in anyone else's head. It could have been first person, but I think it was fine the way it was.

Problems/What bothered me: The only thing that really bothered me was the fact that Essa could put himself into animals, or I'm not really sure how to describe it. Thankfully I was warned of the fact beforehand though, so it didn't surprise me as much as it would have otherwise, seeing as there is no indication of any fantasy like story line in the book's description. It was weird at first, but once I got used to it it didn't really bother me. It kind of fits into the whole ancient British thing too, with a Faery kind of undertone, so I was okay with it. The only reason I complain about it is because I couldn't really see why it was necessary. Yes, it was helpful at moments to Essa, but a woodsman or whatever could have managed the same sort of things, I imagine.

Conclusion: 5 stars. I found as I read the last half of this book that I really enjoyed it immensely. I think it was just a mixture of the characters and story, but I loved it. The ending surprised me a bit, but after a few minutes I decided I kind of liked it, even though it was abrupt. I'm excited to get to the sequel to see if it is just as good.

Recommended Audience: I'd safely say that fans of Rosemary Sutcliff would enjoy this book because it had the same sort of feel as hers do. Still not quite up there with Rosemary's but close. As for age, probably fourteen and up, not really for content purposes because there wasn't anything I caught to complain about otherwise it would not have gotten five stars, but because I think the story line would be better appreciated by an older audience.

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
It’s all a fake.
At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?
But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—
Are about him.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: This is not the kind of book I normally read, but it came highly recommended to me by a friend I trust so I thought I would give it a go, and, as I know I have said before, I seriously can't pass up books with brotherly relationships. They're so hard to find that I have to eat up the ones I can. I did really end up enjoying it though. There were parts that were a bit odd, and I am not really a fan of magic and especially not witches (in fact I think this is one of the only books I've read with actual witches in it that wasn't a fairy tale or some sort of re-telling) but I liked the originality of it. It was definitely something like I had never read before and after a while I kind of got used to the weirdness, though I'll admit that I kept expecting everything to be a farce since that was kind of how it was set up to be. I really liked the idea of the singing magic though. As a huge lover of music and a musician myself, I really appreciated that.

Characters: This was the highlight of the book for me. Though the storyline might not have totally been to my liking, the characters definitely were. Ryder and Falpian were amazing, and there were some really good supporting characters as well. I loved Ryder's sisters and I also liked his relationship with them and how he protected them. Falpain and his dog Bo were great too, and don't even get me started on the whole 'twins in spirit' thing between him and Ryder. Perfect!!!! That was just so well done and simply lovely. My hat is off to Lena Coakley for writing such an amazing brotherly relationship.

Writing Style: The writing really was good, the author says in her author's note that this was a work of several years and I think the tinkering paid off. It flowed well, and it was clear and understandable, which is good for a fantasy world. While I'm talking about that, I should mention how I loved the setting in this book, and the people. It was, again, really unique, and vivid. The author's descriptions were wonderful and I could picture everything perfectly, and even though she didn't do all that much to describe the characters, I could see them clearly in my head. That is just good writing. I also liked how she switched back and forth between Ryder and Falpian, that's always important when dealing with two different sides and sympathies.

Problems/ What Bothered Me: I truthfully didn't have any problems here, despite the fact that I could have done with a little less of the witchyness. I'll forgive it because I ended up enjoying the book a lot.

Conclusion: 4 Stars, I really liked it. I also LOVED the ending, and this book kept me guessing through the whole thing too which is great. I actually was worried for a moment it wasn't going to end the way I hoped it would, but it did ;) It was a very satisfying read. I also trust there's a sequel? I'm definitely looking forward to it!

Recommended Audience: There wasn't anything in this book content wise, and I'd say anyone probably thirteen and up would find it enjoyable. Fantasy fans and lovers of different books with new ideas would like it. And of course those like me who love brothers-in-arms stories. It's also a guy and girl read, though it may not look like it from the cover. Guys, seriously, you would like this book, just get a cover to put over the picture on the front if it bothers you!

Dane is 100% Viking. He's courageous. Tough. But he has a big problem.

He needs to choose a nickname. Dane the Dangerous? Dane the Despicable? He just can't decide. Even his best friends, Drott the Dim and Fulnir the Stinking, aren't any help. But when Dane witnesses his proud father shamed by the tyrant Thidrek the Terrifying, Dane's indignation earns him a moniker that sticks--Dane the Defiant.

So defiant is Dane that when Thidrek kidnaps Dane's beloved Astrid in hopes of trading her for Thor's Hammer, the ancient, magical weapon of mass destruction, Dane goes after him like a bat out of Valhalla. Navigating treacherous seas, a nasty smiting by the gods, and a rather lonely frost giant, Dane and his rowdy band of Norsemen will stop at nothing to end Thidrek's terrifying reign and take their place among the greatest Viking heroes of all time.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was one of those books that I just grabbed at the library with a kind of indifference like 'it looks like it could be good, I'll give it a go'. I wasn't really sure of it, but when I started reading it I really instantly fell in love with the story, characters and writing style. It was just really funny, but with a good mix of drama and adventure thrown in as well. The characters were great, and it was overall a very pleasant surprise! It's definitely not a historical fiction, but I really like how the authors mixed in a bit of modern day stuff which would make it a more fun read for the recommended audience (12-16, I'd say) and also the mixed in Norse legends and Viking Lore. I've always been a fan of Norse Mythology, so I really liked how that was worked into this book.

Characters: Dane is a great hero. He's flawed but he also knows how to do the right things, and I thought he was a well-crafted young protagonist. His friends are awesome too like Drott the Dim and Fulnir the Stinking, and don't forget Jarl with the gorgeous hair and an obsession with hair-care products :P I also really liked Astrid as the heroine. She was awesome because, though she was the damsel in distress, she was also more than capable of taking care of herself. And she also didn't have the Attitude at all. Sure she could throw axes better than all the men, but she never flaunted that fact.

And then there's the villain, Thidrick who liked to knit on his spare time, and also held matinée executions every saturday where children under ten could get in free. Seriously, is that not enough?

Writing Style: It was good, fast paced, and laced with humor outside of the dialogue. My favorite kind of style for this sort of book.

Problems/What bothered Me: Overall, I didn't really have any problems with this book. Since it was not presented as historical fiction, I won't say anything about the inaccuracies that were only there for the sake of humor. The only thing I had a problem with was that it seemed whenever someone got hurt they were well again, WAY too quickly. Like almost instantly, and that is a huge pet peeve of mine, but the book was enjoyable enough I'll let it slide this once.

Conclusion: 4 Stars, I really liked this book. It was a quick fun read and I look forward to reading the sequels. The authors seemed like really fun guys too, I enjoyed reading the interview in the back of the book.

Recommended Audience: I'd say this is more of a guy read, but girls who like guy reads will enjoy it too, because Astrid is a great heroine who girls would like to read about. (She's also the only girl character which makes this so much better) As I said before probably ages 12-16 would enjoy it the most. If you're looking for Viking historical fiction this is not it (Go read Judson Roberts' Strongbow Saga') but if you're looking for a fun quick read, this is a great book to pass the hours with. And I think fans of Ranger's Apprentice or John Flanagan's other books would like these a lot.

Also, I made another button! This one if for "On a Foreign Field". If you've read the book, copy it to your blog and link it either back to mine ( or to the purchase link:

Slainte, Hazel


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed "Witchlanders"! :) It was one of those surprising books even for me, and I read quite a few books with witches and weird elements (I admit, I did like the Gormie Men; they were kind of awesome elemental monsters). And I do hope the Author writes a second one - and I hope she puts as much time and care into it as she did this one, even if it means we have to wait several years for its publication.

  2. I did like the Gormie Men after I got used to the fact that they would be there. I'm still trying to think of what this book reminded me of, but I can't remember. I really do hope she writes a sequel though--even if we do have to wait a long time for it. She's got something good going =)