Featured reader reviews: Page 6

Listed below are the latest featured reader reviews on the site. Some are positive in praise, some are negative in criticism, but the one thing they all have in common is that they are well written and explain their reasoning. We can never have enough reader reviews as they add to the quality of the site, making it ever more useful for visitors.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

7 stars

I was peer pressured into reading this from my friends at the time. I must admit that I fell head over heels for the series AFTER the second book. I didn't care much for Celaena at first but she grew on me as soon as Maas allowed her to be vulnerable via playing the piano and eating a bag of sweets in under ten minutes. I had a few issues with Celaena in that she would drift around Mary Sue territory but never entered it completely and I'm glad that Maas was able to navigate away from poor character writing. Chaol fascinated me at first and he quickly became my favorite character for a time until he seemed to have a complete change later in the series. I love that he was snarky, challenged Celaena, and managed to hold the group together despite being a grouch. Dorian, ah yes. I love him very much as a character. Sweet, flirtatious, humorous, and remarkably clever later on. I adored his interactions with Celaena and he made me laugh out loud a few times. He was a gorgeous contrast to the world around him and he really stuck out to because of that. Maas's world building is something to behold. I felt like I was in Erilea and traveling from Endovier to Rifthold with our main trio. As amazing as the world building is though, there is a fault with the way that Maas writes. Don't get me wrong, she does well with characters, plot, story progression, and building tension but it started to drive me insane when she would use several of the same phrases such as "loosed a breath". That's really my only quarrel with this book though. I just finished the entire series and this may have been my second to least favorite of the series but I blew through the second half with ease. I would argue the series doesn't really start until the third installment but The Assassin's Blade (prequel novellas), Throne of Glass, and Crown of Midnight do their job with setting the stage, establishing characters, creating the world, and all around having us crave more adventure with Celaena leading the way.

Haley
United States

Animal Farm by George Orwell

10 stars

I studied Animal Far for my English class and it was an amazingly fascinating book to read, it does well to portray how difficult it must have been to live in the Russian Revolution and it makes me feel very lucky to live today.

Thalia
England

The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien

10 stars

The Silmarillion ... This is not just a fantastic book written by an intelligent professor— This is a magical tale that comes ALIVE! I wasn't just reading about all of it. I was IN it. I was there, filled with awe and wonder at the creation of Arda. I was there, wandering under the stars with the Eldar. And with the Eldar, I passed through darkness and gloom and into the brilliant light of Valinor. I was there with Elu Thingol when he fell into enchantment with Melian, and when Luthien was born, I was there. When the Trees fell, I wept with the Eldar, and I came with Finarfin to Alqualondë to witness the Kinslaying. I held desperately onto Galadriel as she led us through the Ice. I ... I was there in all of it. The Silmarillion doesn't make us escape from reality. It teaches us to face them, strongly. It gave me hope, even when I was in the dark. If you haven't already read it, go read it now! It will change your life forever.

Joyce
America

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

6 stars

The impression is really mixed. The book starts out pretty well, with a good bit of dark humor and a seemingly impossible quest laid out before the main characters. It really amused me, how they overcome everything thrown at them, being not so young and physically fit, Just like in Duma's "Twenty years after". The main characters are fleshed out pretty well, with their thoughts and emotions written out so that you believe them, they feel natural. What I expected from a good narrative for an impossible task is that their "quest" setup may gradually change, stray from the original direction or even turn around up to 180 degrees in reverse. E.g. maybe the baddies are not that bad, and the goodies have their own agenda, keeping the main characters in the dark, or the approach to the task has to be changed completely,,, Their adventures evolve somehow, staying believable, without sudden improbable events and miraculous "salvations at the last moment". However, roughly the second half or last third of the book becomes a snowball of disappointing events where you know that every now and then, when things go south for the heroes, something weird will happen and save the day or a person will make a strange decision, its motive not explained. The world setting ends up an incoherent patchwork that you don't really want to return to, i.e. I decided not to read a (kind of) sequel "Bloody Rose"...

Andrey
Russia

The Wickford Doom by Chris Priestley

8 stars

The Wickford Doom, which is by Chris Priestly, is a thriller about a boy and his mother who go on a trip to see the new house that they inherited, but there are unpleasant surprises in store. I loved how it was really gripping and tense and there was a perfect amount of characters for a thriller story because it wasn't too busy. There was creative language and powerful descriptions. However, as there was a lot of description sometimes it was a bit slow-paced and didn't flow. Another criticism that I have is that we didn't get to know enough about some of the characters, like the mother. I think this book should be for ages 9 and up because it can be creepy at times. On the other hand, children under 9 who enjoy a thriller will probably like it.

Ruby
United Kingdom

Dance of the Goblins by Jaq D Hawkins

10 stars

One of the unique things about this series is that you could start with either the first or second book, depending on whether you prefer exposition and world building or quick action, and still feel that you had read a full series. Dance of the Goblins is strong on world building and exposition. For LOTR fans, I recommend starting with this one because it will put you into a world you'll never want to leave. The goblins live underground, but after a planet flip that wipes out most of the human race, they take over old transport tunnels and live a little closer to the remaining human survivors. They still stay out of sight and live a shamanic and peaceful life, avoiding humans and the inevitable conflicts that happen anytime the two races meet. The humans have reverted to a feudal society and are ruled by a small group of magicians, led by Count Anton. The magicians know about the goblins and Anton is friends with a goblin who usually hates humans, but they share an interest in magic. Part of the goblin magic is that they express their spirituality in ecstatic dance, hence the title. When the common people find out about the goblins, Anton is caught between his uneasy friendship with them and his duty to keep his people from waging a suicidal war. Throughout the series, the writing is top notch and there are dragons! Mostly in the second and third books. The world building is truly astonishing to the point that I still hear drums beating when I write about the stories. Highly recommended to traditional Fantasy fans.

Mike
Scotland

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

8 stars

The Hobbit is a great book in the marvellous world of Tolkien's best-recieved trilogy, it tends, however, to be a slow read due to the language used. Professor Tolkien has a passion for languages, real or not, and this tends to be shown in his work. This is however a minor flaw, as well as an advantage: sometimes passages feel too stretched while others are a masterful wordplay.

Joppe
Belgium

Animal Farm by George Orwell

10 stars

I am not even finished the book however it is such a joy to read! Knowing the reason why Orwell wrote this book and relating it back to history was so symbolic! Even though some may say that it is difficult for kids under 15, I am under 15 and it is not difficult for me. If you really spent the time devouring every word, this book is such a joy to read. It portrays what happened then and translating it to a perspective we can all imagine as. Animal Farm is an excellent book and everyone must read it at least once in their life!

Heather
Canada

The Death of Grass by John Christopher

2 stars

I am a fan of dystopian fiction and I like John Christopher, but this book is awful. I received the impression that this group of unpleasant people would prey on each other to survive. I was especially appalled by the author’s almost complete lack of knowledge of plants or farming. So if the grass died, the earth is completely bare except for trees, heather and potatoes? What about clover (legume), alfalfa (legume), beans, peanuts, turnips, tomatoes, carrots, artichokes, vines, bushes, ferns, mushrooms, mosses, kelp, lichens etc. etc.? Ridiculous and asinine. The fungus is a good premise but the rest show ignorance. I also agree about the misogyny.

Lydia
USA

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

2 stars

I first heard of Pern around 2003 while at university, spending much of my free time roleplaying online on telnet-based MUSH games. Occasionally I'd be looking for a new game, and stumbled across a number of Pern MUSHes. Not having any idea what Pern was, I never joined any of them, but I did become aware that it was a long-running and evidently popular series featuring dragon riders. I assumed it was typical generic fantasy fare, somewhat akin to Dragonlance, but when I learned it was science fiction masquerading as fantasy, I removed it from my "to read" list, as I tend to be irritated by fantasy settings with sci-fi backstories. Recently, I decided to make an effort to read the older classics of fantasy and sci-fi, partly to gain a better understanding of the history of speculative fiction, and partly because books from before the 1990s tend to be rather shorter than today's bloated doorstoppers, making them less of a commitment. I am also attracted to the idea of long-running series with many relatively short novels set at different periods in the history of the same setting, something which used to be somewhat common in 20th century fantasy and sci-fi but seems to have since been replaced in modern times by sprawling mega-series telling a single story over thousands of pages. Having mellowed out somewhat in my disdain for certain tropes even as my disdain for word count has hardened, I was rather hoping to pick up Pern as something of a guilty pleasure, with many installments to look forward to. I had a suspicion that it would be trashy, but I have learned to love popcorn fiction - you can't live on popcorn alone, but it makes a pleasant snack now and then. I was not, however, quite prepared for how bad Dragonflight actually is. Oh, it started promisingly enough, with Lessa living as a slave in her own ancestral home, plotting her revenge on the invader who murdered her family. However, that plotline is summarily dealt with in the first few chapters, and the only antagonist in the whole book is killed off with it. What follows is unremittingly bland and tedious. The quality of the prose is mediocre, even by genre standards. Surely the cliche of a character seeing themselves in the mirror and reflecting on how beautiful they are was trite even in the 1960s? Then there is the awful poetry which prefaces every chapter, supposedly the teaching ballads of master harpers, which serves only to demonstrate that McCaffrey had no talent for verse whatsoever. The setting itself - usually among the most important aspects of a secondary world fantasy or planetary romance sci-fi - is scarcely developed, with minimal detail, description, or atmosphere. Scant development is also given to surely the most important element, the bond between dragons and riders, with Lessa's bonding with Ramoth treated in almost perfunctory fashion. Although, maybe that is a good thing, considering how silly some of the worldbuilding we're actually given is. Perhaps apostrophe-laden names were not such a horrendous cliche back in the 60s when this was written, but it's difficult not to roll eyes at it today. Apparently, you have to give up your vowels when you bond with a dragon (but you get them back if the dragon dies). Then we get to the biggest issue with Dragonflight, to a modern reader. The relationship between Lessa and vowel-deprived dragonman F'lar is an unpleasant reminder of a not-bygone-enough age, when domestic abuse was considered appropriate manly behaviour. I will not delve too much into the specifics, you can read the following oft-quoted pasaage and judge for yourself: "[F’lar] set his teeth, wishing, as he had a hundred times since Ramoth rose in her first mating flight, that Lessa had not been virgin, too. He had not thought to control his dragon-incited emotions, and Lessa’s first sexual experience had been violent… He had been a considerate and gentle bedmate ever since, but, unless Ramoth and Mnementh were involved, he might as well call it rape." Another rather uncomfortable moment occurs later, during the novel's climax, when Lessa, busily saving the world, is less concerned by the immediate danger she is in, than she is practically hysterical with fear of the domestic abuse she expects F'lar to visit upon her on her return, merely for disobeying him (F'lar tends to grab her and shake her any time he's annoyed with her). If only the plot could go some way toward redeeming this outdated chauvinist claptrap, but unfortunately, it's scarcely any less stupid. The great battle towards which the novel builds, for which the dragons are bred and for which the riders train their whole lives, amounts to little more than dragonnback gardening. McCaffrey somehow manages to make dragons boring by reducing them to glorified weed whackers, after whom the ground-dwelling peasants clean up by literally spraying weedkiller on whatever the dragons miss. I wish I was making this up. When I thought it could barely get any more ridiculous, the whole thing is resolved by time travel, the lazy author's best friend (although at least in this case, history is not actually changed, lending a sense of predestination to the whole affair). There is no suspense whatsoever at any point. The only interesting conflict in the whole book - between the weyr and the disgruntled dirt farmers who are obliged to supply it despite it having apparently long outlived its usefulness, is summarily resolved with minimal effort. I'm struggling to think of anything positive to say about this book. It's barely even a shadow of what I expected and I went in with low expectations. If I had to pick something, I'd say the notion of a periodic threat, appearing at intervals of centuries due to the close approach of another planet on an eliptic orbit is a nice sci-fi idea, but the execution here is terrible. I suppose, being a latecomer to this series, I don't find the dragon riding tropes as fresh as they perhaps were when it was first published. Even so, between the poor writing, bland worldbuilding, unlikable and lacklustre characters, I can't see anything to merit the evident popularity of this series, and suspect it is founded on little more than an uncritical audience's blind love of dragons. I give it 2/10, only because there are other books that are even worse and a lower score must be reserved for those.

Wedge
UK

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