REVIEW: The Pages of the Mind

The Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy

I wanted to like this book. I really did. It has a fantastic cover, a great title, and it implied it was going to be about a badass librarian. I was hooked on that concept. Unfortunately, this story didn’t deliver. It’s not really about Dafne, the aforementioned librarian, and if there’d been a focus on her earlier in the book (or if the book had started later when she became more important to the story), I would’ve cared about her more. This story also should’ve been told in third person. It simply would’ve worked better, and I don’t come across many stories where I feel that way being that I don’t prefer a POV. It’s author’s choice, but first POV did nothing to help this story or build Dafne’s character.

Ursula is the new queen, and this book picks up where the previous book in the series left off. The early parts of this book are chronicling Ursula and Harlan’s more interesting adventures, and Dafne literally sits on the sidelines. This is why this didn’t work well as a first person POV–Dafne tells someone else’s story. That’s massively boring. When the early part of the book doesn’t involve the main character at all, I’m concerned.

It took 20% of the book before it felt like Dafne was the main character. The story should’ve just started there or else the earlier parts of the book needed to make Dafne important. She’s a wall flower, and that’s not interesting, even for an introverted character. There’s a lot of characters talking about the plot and not a lot of plot. I felt like this story is about Ursula, which makes sense in the context of the series, but not for this book in particular.

The characters spend so much time talking about things. Less dialogue would’ve helped because there was too much of it. I know, there’s this thing about not putting info dumps and unnecessary description into the story, but less dialogue would’ve tightened this narrative. But shouldn’t characters be interacting? Yes, but when they prattle, all of the meaning in the dialogue is lost. The importance is gone, and all of the conversations felt meandering and useless. In the latter parts of the book, it becomes more descriptive and starts to rely on Dafne’s internal narrative more, and that’s the only reason this book became remotely bearable. This makes the early parts of this book baffling. It feels like an infinitely worse book and a completely different story!

King Nahoka KauPo and the descriptions of his people and traveling to the island relieved the amazing boredom of the earlier parts of this story. This happens a third of the way through, and if you can’t get to this part, I honestly can’t blame you. The first third of this book is DNF bad, but the volcano king’s island focuses the world building and presents Dafne with definitive challenges. The bad news is that the remainder of the story leaves Dafne languishing on an Nahoka’s island, which delivers the story back to some of the more monotonous elements of the earlier part of the novel.

The narrative voice of this novel (and the choice of 1st POV) grated on me the entire time. It was like sandpaper in my eyes. The positives of the book kept drowning in this problem, and no mistake, it was a huge problem for me. I already mentioned the drastic change in writing between the first part of the book and the latter part of the book, and I ‘d honestly skip the first 100 pages if I were to start reading this all over again.

Notes:

  • Maybe it’s because this is an ongoing series, but there’s a lot of ‘fantasy speak’ and fantasy name dropping. So much so that it pulls me out of the story, which is rare.
  • If Dafne keeps talking about other characters instead of doing something, I’m going to stop reading this freaking book.
  • We’re going to talk about sex a lot but not have any actual scenes with sex in it. *sigh*
  • The women in Ursula’s court (the Hawks) are SUPER SASSY. *sigh*
  • Shape-shifters having clothes when they shift back is dumb. This is my official opinion.
  • This also features the world’s most unimportant and boring dragon.

Rating: 2 stars

The major issues–this book not feeling like Dafne’s story–is fixed in the latter two-thirds of the book.  If I hadn’t tried to hack it through the first third, I probably would’ve enjoyed this book a bit more. This was a wildly inconsistent book.

REVIEW: Saint’s Blood

Saint’s Blood by Sebastien de Castell

(Note: Saint’s Blood is the third book in The Greatcoat’s series. This was the first time I’d heard of this series, and I’d highly recommend you start from the beginning at Traitor’s Blade because these books are worth it. The Greatcoat’s series has gotten a fair share of comparisons to The Three Musketeers. Tristia has a Spanish (Castilian if you want to be technical) feel to it, which sets it apart from the clear Dumas influences that inspired the series initially.)

There’s so much about this book to love. It’s a quality swashbuckler tale, and every time I thought I had this story figured out, it kept going and changing the rules. With less competent narration, this wouldn’t work, but Falcio’s blend of humor, stubbornness, and world-weariness ground this fast-paced story in a depth of human emotions. Falcio, the First Cantor of the Greatcoats, starts the story in a duel. The entire novel revolves around duels, which works well because the fight scenes are all well-paced and authentically fun. That’s another thing about this series that I loved: the humor between the characters (especially the three friends Brasti, Kest, and Falcio) fits with their personalities and helped me get into the story. I love humorous fantasy, but it’s so rare to find quality humor mixed in with gory action scenes and have it work.

The duel transitions to a palace attack, and the fearful attacker is the Saint, Birgid, who’s controlled by powerful magical mask. The main plot launches here, and the Greatcoats have to figure out who is killing the Saints of Tristia before said murderer can kill Ethalia, the newest Saint of Mercy and Falcio’s on-again-off-again-it’s-complicated lover. If you’re new to the series, there’s a lot of back story with the dead King, Falcio’s daughter Valiana, and Falcio’s dead wife Aline that consume the beginning chapters of the story. You can get into the series here, but it’s going to be a bit of a tough go for several chapters until they get to the church and try to save Saint Birgid.

The tension between the various factions drives this story. If you like the political elements of A Song of Ice and Fire, these political intrigue plots are for you. It can be a bit hard to keep track of them, but the general gist of who they support is well-defined. The church and what their end game is won’t be apparent until later in the novel, but the tension between Aline, the future girl queen, and the nobles is clear the entire time. Valiana, in particular, is an interesting character, and her duty to uphold the laws of the crumbling kingdom of Tristia and her personal struggle throughout the story is poignant.

This is one of those reviews where I feel that I can’t say a lot because there are so many plot twists in the story, and the layers of plot build organically upon each other. The God’s Needle cult is terrifying, and every time they appear, their importance is intensified. Their introduction is brilliant, too, and the way the cult and religion are used to try and control the kingdom felt realistic.

The world building blew me away. I kept wondering when the author would run out of plot twists or when something would fall flat, but none of the build up into the finale did. There kept being more, but the narrative is so solid that this doesn’t feel fast or clunky. Maybe, if I’m pressed, I’ll say I didn’t care about the resolution after all of the amazing layering of the plot leading into the final battle. The world building is powerful, and after we meet the real villain (WAY further into the novel than you’ll be expecting), it becomes difficult for the resolution and climax to live up to the phenomenal story that leads up to it. That’s not to say the ending is bad–it’s not–but this isn’t a book you read for the ending but for the thrilling, poignant, and occasionally humorous journey that takes you to it.

 

Notes:

  • I know a little about fencing, and the fight mechanics during this story always work. There’s no cheap moments during the fight scenes, and if you like a nice mix of realistic fighting with a little sprinkling of fantasy thrown in, this is the book for you. I can’t stress enough how great the actions sequences are.
  • Inconceivable—got to get that sweet, sweet Princess Bride shout out.
  • Bless fantasy that makes me laugh. I’m serious. There’s not enough of that out there, and it’s one of the main reasons I love heroic fantasy. Bring me joy, damn it, and then SMASH IT. Thanks. 🙂
  • “They’re never expecting the Spanish Inquisition.”
  • The diversity of weapons used by the Greatcoats is fantastic. It helps define their characters, but in heroic fantasy, that works well.
  • I’ve laughed more times in this novel than I do with most. That made the relationships between the character feel real.
  • Blood moths. Glad someone tapped into the natural horror that is moths.

Rating: 5 stars

This is a strong entry in an already strong series. If you like swashbuckling fantasy, this is the story for you. There’s a nice blend of humor, action, and world-building that’s underpinned by a unique narrative voice.

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REVIEW: King’s Warrior

King’s Warrior (Book 1 of Minstrel’s Song) by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

Writing one star reviews is a drag, but this isn’t even ‘so bad it’s good.’ It’s just a slog of a story. Any elements that might have potentially been interesting are lost in the mess. This should’ve been about a third of the length with a narrower scope. There’s simply too much description, and if you’re going to pack your story with that many words, you’ve got to earn them. Spoiler: this story doesn’t.

Kamarie is a princess, but she can go off riding without guards or assistants because she’s a badass. We’re also going to discuss a prince. There’s a lot of characters discussing other characters, which is never a good sign. It usually means that none of the characters have a life of their own, so everyone has to talk about each other in place of actual interests and character development. Kamarie’s emotions on Prince Elroy are confusing, too. He’s at war with her people, and she’s still mad that he’s not courting her?

Unfortunately, Kamarie isn’t a strong character. She has all of the trappings of one, but her emotional state is all over the place when she’s not having tedious conversations with the squire that accompanies her. Seriously, this story feels like none of the characters know anything, and I know introducing readers to an epic fantasy world can be confusing, but this isn’t the way to do it. This story needed to pick a freaking character because the end result is a mess between Kamarie (weirdly inconsistent, which makes her annoying), Yole (boring), and Brant, which is probably who the main character should’ve been, even if he is the more predictable of the three.

Yole is a bore, and we spend so much time with him. I skimmed that part because I didn’t care for him, and the first time we meet him, I thought Brant’s family was his family—a vanilla group of people to begin with. Brant’s family dies, and it would’ve been moving if Brant was the main character. In reality, the family gets fridged. The one good thing is that, what plot there is, doesn’t drag out the characters meeting up.

Not only are the characters weird and flat, but there’s nothing there to save the story from their boringness. The world building isn’t original enough to do it, or the parts that are better are buried beneath the same over-wrought pacing that plagues the characters. It doesn’t matter what the plot is at this point because who cares?

Notes:

  • Kill me with info dumpy prologues. It didn’t help set the world. Prologues are difficult, and even when they’re done well, I often find them a grind. The ones that work the best involve the main character in some way, and that connection has to be clear to the reader. Are there authors that break this? Yes, but it’s difficult to do and still have the story make sense.
  • Sending the princess across the land on her own mission. Check. I can’t believe that she’s the only one that could be spared. There’s so much weirdness about who Kamarie is that this doesn’t matter, either.
  • This book has a bit of Attack of The Fantasy Names syndrome.
  • Bloody hell, don’t tell me something is a mystery. When you have to say “Gee, isn’t that mysterious?” that means it’s not interesting enough to allow me, the reader, to ask that question to myself.
  • Quit telling me about the characters and make them believable.
  • Personal rant (and what convinced me this story wasn’t going to have a late book comeback): If you don’t know about cross country travel and you want to write it into your epic fantasy, run your story by someone who knows how outdoor travel works. This section made me want to scream but not with joy. Everyone uses maps or a compass, so Kamarie’s magic ‘know these woods skills’ wouldn’t freaking work. You get lost SO EASILY in the woods. Then, there’s this gem: “How did you learn about firewood?” I could find effing firewood in elementary school, yet she can’t tell upstream from downstream? Has she seen water? She rides horses! She’s had to have seen a freaking stream at some point. This character makes zero sense, and it’s clear she’s vastly under qualified for this mission. Sorry, I’m not suspending my disbelief that much.
  • So. Much. Asking. About. Things.

Ratings: 1 star

I skimmed my way to the end after a while because there’s too much in this story. There’s a lot of things wrong with it. Technically, the writing is fine, but there are inconsistent (or boring) characters, and while there is a plot, there’s nothing to lift this story out of poorly done tropes.

REVIEW: The Blood Sigil

The Blood Sigil by Kevin Hoffman

I enjoyed the fantasy sci-fi magic blend that’s The Fifth Vertex. This is a sophomore slump in the series. The three main characters, Urus, Cailix, and Goodwyn are still as well fleshed-out as they were in the first book, but there are pacing problems that hampered my interests in this follow up book. The world building is still solid, but some of the new characters don’t work, which is a problem for the plot.

The story starts when Urus is going to a council meeting to determine if he lives or dies. He’s sentenced to death, but he’s saved by another sigilord, Lu (or Luse). Lu wasn’t as fleshed out as the main three cast members, and she had LOVE INTEREST plastered on her from page one. Her relationships with the characters, even Urus, never felt fleshed out enough. She’s a huge character early in the book, which is what I think drags it down.

Cailix starts on an island with the shepherds. She’s bored and sneaking off to use blood magic. She develops a relationship with farm-boy Colin, and their relationship develops more naturally, and her coming to care about Colin worked well to grow her character. Cailix caring about her adopted family and being the most ruthless character is interesting. Anderis returns and gets stabbed with a pitchfork is excellent.

In general, this moves slower than the first book. Having all the characters split up so early on makes it feel fractured. Goodwyn is chasing hellhounds, but these scenes lack the interests of Urus and Cailix’s chapters. Goodwyn felt more relevant in The Fifth Vertex. His scenes feel so disconnected from the rest of the action, which is a shame, because I liked his character so well in the first book when he was more connected to the plot.

The story picks up momentum when Urus gets back to Kest. The first book relied on Kest, and the second book lacks that central thematic location and driving cultural force of the first story. As the characters come together and the plots connect, the story gets new life when Murin and Goodwyn are united. Autar is the best addition to the series, and his arrival automatically engaged me again, but it just takes too long to get there (about two-thirds of the way through).

Notes:

  • The blood magic is back, and it’s still the best. I don’t care for Anderis’s dues ex machina powers.
  • Cailix is the star character of this novel. She’s a well-rounded character this time around, and she has the greatest struggle with her blood magic and the corruption.
  • Lu is a bore. It’s unfortunate so much of the early story hangs on her character.
  • Like it when the space/fantasy elements show up again. Reminds me of Andre Norton a bit.

Rating: 3 stars

The series has some interesting world building elements in it, and those come into play towards the end of the book. However, the beginning of this book drug on and on for me, which hampered the solid characters in the series.

Book Review: Counterpoint

Counterpoint (Song of the Fallen, 1) by Rachel Haimowitz

Humans and elves are at war and have a mutual species hatred for each other. The humans think the elves (there’s no confirmation, however, that the elves did this) released the ferals–roided up wild animals–onto human lands. The ferals have one purpose: to kill all humans (Bender would be proud). The story begins with Ayden, an elf ranger, cheering on the ferals from a distance while they harass some humans. However, Ayden’s sister, Ella, goes to see a human friend, Ayden follows, and they both get captured. Upon capture, they’re brought to the prince, Freyrik, and he takes more than a little bit of a liking to Ayden, who becomes his slave.

In many ways, this book is very simple: it’s a BDSM romance between a king and his reluctant slave. In other ways, I found myself surprised with how much care is taken to build that relationship into something that wasn’t creepy. There’s a lot of back and forth between Ayden, and the slowing down of the main plot (the imminent attack of the feral surge) gives Ayden and Freyriks’ relationship time to grow into something more mutual and less coercive. Yes, there is a lot of erotica here, maybe more than some readers want, but there’s enough other plot that the story shows as much restraint as Freyrik in focusing on the more sexual aspects of the relationship. (That said, it’s an M/M adult romance; expect dicks.)

Taking the time to build into the main relationship allowed both Ayden and Freyrik to develop characters of their own. While they mostly interacted with each other, the best parts of the book were when they came into conflict with other characters. Unusual for high fantasy, there weren’t that many characters of note in this book. The three that stuck out, besides Ayden and Freyrik, were Ella, Kona, and Lord Lini, who didn’t seem to have much of a personality anyway. The ferals were the main antagonistic force, but the story kind of suffered for that because the personal stakes for Ayden and Freyrik’s relationship center around Ayden’s acceptance in the human court, where he’s forced to sit in chains at Freyrik’s feet. Yes, it’s really that heavy on the BDSM elements.

Kona’s character provided a much needed human antagonist; she forces herself on Ayden and is the only person who seems capable of throwing Freyrik off his mental game. Ayden and Freyrik’s characters worked best for me when they had to interact and confront other people, not just deal with their own internal relationship problems. The ferals provided a solid action set piece, but there should’ve been more court intrigue in this story. I suspect that that’s being saved for the next installment, but that personal antagonist threat was really lacking outside of the middle part of the book where Ayden and Freyrik are both challenged by Kona’s appearance.

At times, I found the story slow. This ultimately works to build the relationship between Ayden and Freyrik, but I couldn’t help feeling that Haimowitz was holding something back for the next book. The plot just needed a little more in it. This could’ve been achieved by fleshing out or giving more book time to some of the side characters, but it didn’t feel that Ayden or Freyrik had many meaningful relationships beyond each other, save Ayden with Ella. That’s something that ultimately ended up confusing me because the two characters are so passionate with each other, and interacting with other characters should’ve deepened who they were for me.

Random Thoughts:

  • The cover is super ridiculous. Kind of pretty, but very smutty. You know what you’re getting.
  • This is definitely a BDSM adult romance.
  • I didn’t like Kona as a person, but the story desperately needed her.
  • The world building didn’t feel overwhelming, but then, it kind of felt non-existent. I ultimately preferred this to info dumping.

Read If: You want high fantasy with more erotica in it. It’s basically an elf/human version of Loris/Renly fanfic.

Beware If: You want your high fantasy with more court intrigue and less penis.

Rating: 3 stars.

Book Review: The Hollow March

The Hollow March by Chris Galford

I picked up this book initially because the cover is seriously beautiful; it reminded me of the Alan Lee illustrations for The Lord of the Rings, which are the editions of that series I own. I was looking for a new epic fantasy that combined the high adventure elements of a travel quest with something new and different. The strength of The Fifth Vertex was in its characters, and it’s a book that does just this. This story, however, has all the setting of epic fantasy, but none of it feels grounded in the characters, and this kept destroying my reading experience.

As a reader, I better be able to tell what the main character(s) want, and the early, driving action in a story needs to bring that into lazer focus. This is, essentially, what the book is about: what the character wants or needs. The main problem in The Hollow March is that I kept struggling with what Rurik wanted. He wants to fight his father because of backstory, okay, but what else? This is also a story that could’ve benefited from only focusing on one character, too, because a single well-developed character can make a book, but a weak main character will only get their perspective diluted in a multi-POV story. Essa’s character rose above the rest, and maybe the story should’ve been about her, but trying to make the story about the band of sell-swords didn’t quite work, either. I didn’t hate any of the characters, but I just didn’t feel much of anything for them, which is much worse, honestly, than if I’d hated them. I’ve read books where I’ve spent the better part of the book loathing the main character, but I can hate them because there is something there to hate. It just doesn’t feel like there’s much behind Rurik & Co.

The other issues I had with this novel might’ve not occurred at all if I didn’t have such a lackluster experience with the characters. There’s a lot of telling about the backstory and the fantasy world, but in epic fantasy, the world building exposition tends to be heavier because it can be essential in helping the reader understand the story. There’s still a tad too much telling here for my liking; a bit more sticking to the action vs. explaining backstory could’ve done the first several chapters of this book a lot of favors. The story, in many ways, should’ve opened with Rurik or found a way to do so and make him interesting. I honestly think that’s often the way to know if an author has written the story about the wrong character–if they can’t find any interesting way to open said story with the main character. Are there exceptions to this? Yes, but they are highly exceptional, and those stories do have to work extra hard to convince me that the main character should be the protagonist. It takes a level of story-telling finesse that, not gonna lie, most authors (including moi) don’t have to successfully open a story without the main character any where in sight.

Backstory is never as interesting to the reader as it is to the writer. I love my character’s backstories and think they’re terribly important, but readers prefer the here-and-now, which can make it tough to get the necessary info into the story. Epic fantasy tends to just dump it in there, but even that’s not the specific problem I had here. It felt like the story was about the backstory and not about the current action; it’s just that the explanations about who did what never let up. The action got lost in all of that, and there simultaneously needed to be more action and less. It’s a confounding book, and a problem that I usually don’t find outside of fantasy books with literary aspirations, or at least, that’s where I’ve experienced this feeling before.

Random Thoughts:

  • I don’t like to rag on books or authors, but I thought I should post something that I bought with the intention to enjoy, but for reasons, couldn’t get into it.
  • The cover is really great, and I seriously wish the story itself could’ve been half as good.
  • This book is long, and while that doesn’t specifically turn me off, there has to be a lot there for me to be convinced the entire story is worth it. (I’ve never been able to finish a Neal Stephenson novel because I find I just don’t care enough to spend the time, but lots of people seem to love his stuff.)

Read if: You have a lot of patience with characters.

Beware if: You wanted epic fantasy with a little more action.

My Rating: 2 because I just couldn’t get into the story. There’s a lot of explanation with much story, IMO.

Review for The Fifth Vertex

Review of The Fifth Vertex by Kevin Hoffman

Goodreads Review

Urus is a young man living in the culture that values warriors above all else…and he’s about to be culled, turned into the biggest pariah in his society. If you want to know what the phrase ‘start where the action begins’ means, read the beginning of this book; Urus starts the novel ready to commit suicide because he considers himself worthless and a failure at the one goal he wanted his entire life (his uncle and best friend are elite warriors, so it does make sense from a personal angle that he’d want to join their ranks).

One of the initial things that drew me to this book is that Urus is deaf; this is used as a genuine character struggle for him in the story. I get annoyed at characters in fantasy that are given cheap struggles; writing organic struggles for a character is difficult, and Urus’s struggles feel very personal, very real. The other main character, Calix (she gets a second name that never ends up mattering) has a unique voice, but comes across as too generic of a spunky heroine (she’s orphaned, she’s a bit sassy, she’s a fighter). Goodwyn is the best-friend and skilled at a special style of fighting; he’s initially used as a foil of success to Urus’s failure, but the beauty of this story is that, like all worthwhile fantasy, it evolves beyond its initial premise. No character embodies is more than Goodwyn and his arc.

Urus, Calix, and Goodwyn each get their own personal backstory reveals, and what struck me was how surprising they were simply because the author didn’t foreshadow them too heavily. There’s so much going on in this novel that I did slip over the clues planted in the text, and the flashback scenes literally happen right before the moment when they’re important. The final part II reveal for Urus is something you might be able to guess because it comes late enough in the novel, but Goodwyn and Calix had two out-of-left-field reveals. Calix’s reveal isn’t particularly inventive (I did say I thought she was the regrettably weakest of the main POV characters), but Goodwyn’s deepens his character and is genuinely heartwarming.

This novel has loads of world building, but it manages the often difficult task of not feeling derivative. There’s a lot of repetition about Kestian culture I really could’ve done without; there’s a few ‘as you know, Bob…’ moments sprinkled throughout the novel as well, but you’re reading high fantasy. This is a genre that’s more about world building crack than any other, and if that’s your thing, this book is your jam. The Waldron, Kestian, and briene cultures are fully fleshed out, and there are characters who have different jobs and different goals, even within the same culture. Urus, after being made an out-sider to Kestian culture, goes from parroting its values, to questioning them, and finally rejects them. (Seriously, this is a well-done fantasy hero.) The last culture of island farmers introduced were a disappoint, though, because they felt like stock character Fantasy Peasants; they’re simple, they like to live humbly, they’re open to strangers…it was the least believable culture in the novel (and I’m including an extinct Atlantis style civilization in that category, too. Seriously, a culture you don’t even meet is more fleshed out than those peasants).

The fantasy elements are in-your-face; there’s no tip-toeing around the magic in this novel. There are sigilords who can draw sigils, a powerful and rare ability, but they’re all supposed to be dead. There are blood mages, which are the most exciting magic users in the story because they fully utilize their powers in all kinds of gory and surprising ways. The arbiters are the third, mysterious force in the novel, but the character that’s an arbiter is fairly easy to spot, and that reveal wasn’t surprising for me. There’s even some steampunk thrown in for fun because the briene are dwarf like engineers, and the Waldron people have their own special fighting style that’s enjoyable to imagine.

The end of the book did make me want to scream at the page, and if the ending had broken a certain way, I really wouldn’t have given this book 4 stars. Something happens that threatened to undo so much goodness that was present in the novel up until that point, but there’s a convenient loophole used that made everything work out in a satisfying way. This is a novel that grabs your attention and keeps the focus on the characters, even when it is bathing you in world building.

Random thoughts:

  • It’s initially a bit difficult to tell if Urus is deaf or not. I had to double check to make sure he was deaf at the *start* of the novel. Don’t let this throw you because he begins the novel deaf.
  • The blood mages use a lot of blood. Often, it’s Evil Dead level of gore, so just ignore how little of the human body is *actually* made up of blood. Just…pretend they puree the organs or something. I did love how disgusting their magic was, even if I didn’t find Calix herself incredibly interesting.
  • The world ‘quantum’ is used several times to explain the sigilord’s magic—I loathed every mention of it because the explanation doesn’t go any deeper than New Age word salad. The magic system could’ve easily stood on its own without using quantum as a prop.

Read if: You want something that harkens back to older fantasy, but one that doesn’t feel like a rehash of stale worlds. The world building is a delight, and it weaves in with who the characters are in a way that comes off as organic.

Beware if: Ye Olde English bothers you; the dialogue isn’t terrible, but it’s not the shining star of the novel (and the characters are developed well even with sub-par dialogue in some parts). None of the characters in this novel are there for character relief, either, and it’s a pretty heavy novel from beginning to end.

My rating: 4 for world building and a main character that was heroic while struggling and being genuinely flawed