Review 5 star
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Chronomancer and the Time God: Death of a Paradise is the first book in a fantasy trilogy by James Meadows. In the world of Zarathea, Aleister, a brilliant young battle mage whose talents are matched by his arrogance, is from the kingdom of Mystas, which despises religion. But there are many who do still worship the gods. Because of a disturbing letter sent by a mysterious figure known as the Chronomancer, King Aldon of Lamoria summons three priests from Zarathea’s major religions to go on a quest with Aleister as their leader. Since he hates religion, Aleister is resentful about the quest and the priests do nothing but squabble. But their gods aren’t the only ones who exist—or who once existed. The map leads to the four pieces that contain the power of the ancient god Rael, the god of Time. And its first stop is the seemingly idyllic, constantly floating paradise city of Cockagaine. Aleister is going to be tested to the limits to get his team out of Cockaigne alive.
An unusually involving fantasy story, James Meadow's book takes many of the elements of a good epic adventure yarn and spins out a tale that’s intriguing, mystical, and notched with fun twists and turns. Aleister’s dislike of religion is matched by the philosophical complexity of the three faiths represented by his friends—freedom-loving (and thieving) Droma, idealistic Ardath, and stern but ultimately insecure Cameron. There’s nothing better than a book you want to read again and this world of warring kingdoms divided over profound philosophies since practically forever tells that kind of story. The heroes, pitted against immeasurably powerful gods and their crafty minions, argue deeply about things they care about, and beneath a quest and teamwork story stand the frail, adamant, divided, and lovable people who have taken sides in an epic struggle of ideas. I’ve read many fantasy books and I’d have to put Chronomancer and the Time God: Death of a Paradise near the top for its nuanced story and pertinent concepts.
Review 5 star
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Esme’s Gift is the second book in the Esme Trilogy by Elizabeth Foster. 15-year-old Esme now knows her mother, Ariane, is alive, locked in a sleep in the magical, water-imbued land of Aeolia. When her father refuses to believe anything she says, Esme plunges back into Aeolia to help her mother on her own. Ariane’s deep sleep is getting worse because her powers were tampered with by the sinister Nathan Mare. Esme’s special Gift lets her use water to see the past and there’s a lost recipe from a previous Keeper, Thomas Agapios, that could save her mother’s life. Along with loyal friends Daniel and Lillian, she goes on a quest to find ingredients for the missing medicine. But who is this new boy to whom she has an unexplainable aversion? And could an ill-natured old professor’s essay assignment put her on the trail of a forgotten evil enchanter?
Esme’s Gift explores a grittier, darker, and at times more beautiful Aeolia. Elizabeth Foster’s strong world-building cultivates a story that’s even more mysterious and layered than Esme’s first swim into Aeolia. While a thriller element is woven into the fantasy plot in a way that kept me on the edge of my seat at times, where the book really stands out is in the characters. Upping the action a bit from the first book, Esme, Daniel, and Lillian take on a lot of personal growth tasks suitable to their ages, from majestic dragons to terrifying oracles, medical secrets, Aeolia’s violent history—and the ghosts who tell it--and the sometimes accident-prone development of their own special Gifts. Esme’s Gift captures the angst, growing pains, and courage of adolescents, while threading in some gentle moments of true friendship and affection. It’s a YA fantasy story about crossing into another world and visualizes that world vividly.
Review 4 star
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Re: Camelot is an exciting story by E. C. Fisher. It sets the adventures of King Arthur around a teenage orphan named Arthur Godwin-Dragos. He is summoned to Planet Avalon by a beautiful woman named Merlin, who is the most powerful mage in Avalon City, a place that blends technology with fantasy magic. After Arthur pulls enchanted Excalibur from its stone on the Forgotten Isle, he heads off with a band of companions to find eleven sacred weapons that once belonged to knights of Camelot. The knights started their own countries, several of which are now at war. And when it turns out the growing darkness that caused Merlin to send Arthur on this quest comes from an ancient enchantress with the power of a dark dragon inside her—and a plan more devious than they imagined—Arthur and his friends have their work cut out for them.
I thought Re: Camelot was quite creative. The way technology was blended into the story while retaining the medieval feeling of an Arthur story always felt believable and E. C. Fisher’s many plot twists and turns kept the narrative fresh. The Knights of the Round Table were turned into countries (Gawain; Bedivere; Lancelot, and the rest) and their descendants, a well-coordinated cast of diverse, mostly young people took on the adventures of teamwork and courage against enchantment and darkness that makes any fantasy saga, including the legends of King Arthur, so enjoyable. The specific traits given each country not only created challenges to help the team grow as leaders and warriors, but also built great visual images for a complex world. The concept of Merlin being an official title granted to any great mage, in this case a woman, expanded this character into one of my favorites in the book, a perfect mentor and contrast to the developing talents of young Arthur and his band of friends.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.