Review: Remember For Me – Diana Tarant Schmidt

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

Fiction is a work of art.

It is a form of writing that can both conform to the norms of reality or alternatively stretch the boundaries as far as they can go. The only limitation is your imagination. Could it be possible to achieve both of these aims at the same time?  Absolutely.

Remember For Me

Goodreads

Clara Eros thought her life was ending with Alzheimer’s. She was mistaken.

A war between good and evil has raged for as long as humanity has existed, and the balance of power between its forces has always remained equal. But that longstanding balance has begun to shift, and the survival of mankind may be at risk. What is the source of this duality, and how do the proponents of light and darkness use humans to further their cause?

When Clara Eros awakens with no memory, her questions are fundamental: who is she; and why is she here? The answer she receives is predetermined and singular: she has been recruited to fight a battle against the reign of darkness. But is Clara just a pawn in a much larger game?

Once her transformation is complete, Clara finds herself, in body and mind, as a younger, stronger version of the person she can no longer remember, and now she must search for the common thread hidden within malevolence and turn the tide in a war where humanity is succumbing to chaos and brutality. Will she be strong enough to bring humanity back into the light?

When Diana kindly approached me with a request to read and review Remember For Me, I was immediately drawn in by each character’s experience of terminal illness – in particular, Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Dementia. As awful as they are, I’m glad that these issues are being talked about. We all think it will never happen to us, and maybe we are right. I know some that have fought their battle with cancer and won. I have also known others that lost, some of them children, and I want to take a minute to reflect on these people.

Alzheimers and Dementia are also conditions familiar to me. Sadly, a family member of mine suffered from the condition for a number of years before she passed away from this world. I never had to see her at her worst, but I can relate to a lot of what happens surrounding our MC, Clara.

The presence of suffering in the world is an important theme throughout the book, but equally important themes are balance, faith, hope and altruism.

Clara is living out her last days on Earth, unable to even recognise her family, never mind her surroundings. Elaina, her daughter, struggles to cope. Is it fair for her children to see their grandma and risk them remembering her as she is now, instead of the great woman she once was? As she slowly slips between the waking world and her alternative life, she is mentored by Elpis, and she begins to learn of the good she is able to do once she is free of her limited physical body.

In her new life, Clara is a supercomputer genius. She is a young and capable version of herself; she can research and memorise information relating to the activities of the Poneros, which Elpis needs in order to save countless human lives. Armed with her knowledge, her new companions go out into the field to prevent the next threat from taking place.

Tommy is an eight-year-old boy who has spent his childhood in and out of hospital. Fighting a losing battle against cancer, he gradually succumbs to the illness. When he “awakens” as a young man on a train platform a commotion breaks out. A woman has fallen onto the tracks. Tom instinctively rescues the woman just before the train screeches to a halt where she lay and becomes an anonymous hero. Leaving the station, he meets Andreas, a member of the Go’El. His new life begins.

Life is all about balance. Good and evil. In order to be ready, our main characters had to suffer immeasurably in their first life in order to achieve great things in the next. After their “rebirth”, Clara and Tom team up with Andreas, Elpis, Banko and others in the fight against the Poneros and their evil escalation of human terror… but will they succeed in stopping the most ambitious plans yet? What sacrifices will have to be made for the lives of thousands?

I felt I was able to relate to each of the characters in their own way. The struggles Clara and her family had to live through is an experience I have had myself. If you have never known anybody with such debilitating conditions, then take my word for it that Diana has written this in a very authentic way.

I thought it was clever using Greek names for the family in her part of the story. Whilst contextually it makes sense, I think it is an ingenious device in helping us relate directly to Clara. Allow me to explain. As an English reader, I read the word grandma in Greek and was told what it meant. Reading on, I was able to recognise the word, but it had no personal meaning. You know the word represents a familial figure, but in a detached way. I would expect this mirrors feelings that may be felt by a person experiencing such memory loss as Clara does.

I think the book blends shocking reality with an encouraging twist of fiction. Who wouldn’t like to believe that there is something better on the other side, after all? There is a respectful balance in honouring both the good and bad that goes on in the world. Faith has it’s part as well, and although I am not a believer in any God myself, it didn’t spoil my experience. Instead, it made me consider where my faith does fall, and after consideration… I decided it lay in humanity. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I have faith in the people that take risks and endanger themselves to save others. I have faith that people will strive to do what they think is best for others when they are empowered to make that decision. Lastly, whilst inevitably our varied opinions will lead to conflict, I have faith that the majority of us can respect our differences and strive to get along as best we can.

Don’t get me wrong…you can read into the messages within Remember For Me as much as you will. It can be read as purely a fictional piece or you can get a little philosophical, as I did. It is up to you entirely, but either way, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I am grateful for the opportunity to read a great work of fiction, so thank you!

Rebecca mono

The Black Prism – Brent Weeks

Finally, I get to bring you a review of The Black Prism by Brent Weeks!

Life has been conspiring against me lately, it seems. Firstly I didn’t get around to reading this in October as originally planned. I then made this the last book on my list for November, so it just feels like it has taken FOREVER and a day to get around to.

 

The Black Prism

The Black Prism – Goodreads

Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. Yet Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live.

When Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

As I am sure I have already mentioned when reviewing other fantasy books (particularly works by Brandon Sanderson), I love it when “magic” is integrated into a story in such a way that it has some kind of physical element. For example, in the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, the superhuman abilities such as being able to “fly” or have enhanced vision are obtained by ingesting and burning metals; they “fly” by pulling or pushing on other objects in their environment. Brent Weeks has used a similar idea of grounding his magic into reality by dependency on light. Personally, I think I like this aspect as it creates moments of weakness and if planned well, this conflict can really add to the plot.

Kip is devastated when his hometown ends up embroiled in war. To make an example to other rebel towns, the town is destroyed by the newly anointed King Garadul of Tyrea. Kip barely escapes with his life, but it is not just the burning of his home that turns his world upside down. Kip is a drafter, and when he makes a last stand against the King’s men he is saved by his father, the most powerful man in the world. Kip is dragged into his new life as the Prism’s… ahem… “nephew” and he begins to learn how to channel his abilities in a world rapidly descending into war once again.

I think the book had the right amount of action to keep things moving forward at an appropriate pace. If anything, the narrative around points in which battles are fought is drawn out longer than the rest of the book, but given that the conflict is a major part of the story, this is understandable. It is here that a lot of the magic is used so ample description of how it works is required. Given that each colour has it’s own properties/abilities, this does need explaining.

Kip is a young man… a teenager really. He is the son of a single mother with a drug addiction, physically unfit and has spent the majority of his life being taken advantage of. In theory, this should have made him a likeable character for me; he is far from perfect and frankly has low self-esteem… I’ve been there. There was just something missing with Kip for me. It isn’t that disliked him… I just didn’t like him either. I can’t say I felt attached to any of the characters in this book, if I’m honest, and I think this is where I feel somewhat let down.

The plot and concept of magic are interesting and whilst I can talk about what I like about these, as a whole, I can’t say I really enjoyed the book. It was readable but lacked the necessary spark. I may pick up the next book at some stage if I’m bored… but I won’t be gutted if I don’t finish the series either. It’s rare that I finish a book and find myself sat on the fence… which is where I find myself now.

I by far prefer the NightAngel series, which I read years ago now.

Apologies this is so short and sweet, but I am having a hard time writing about something in which I have very little feeling towards. I’m frustrated if anything that I didn’t love it having waited so long to read it… but never mind. We can’t like everything.

Have you read any books by Brent Weeks? Do you agree with any of the points I’ve made? Do you disagree?

Rebecca mono

 

Review – Zero Debt: Break the Debt Cycle and Reclaim Your Life – Neeraj Deginal

Hi everyone!

Today I wanted to share my review of the above book, as I think there are a lot of things that can be learned from it. Being of the age and category of both young and financially independent, I think this was the perfect time to read the book and take on the important messages throughout. That being said, I think everyone can benefit from reading this at any age.

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author, via The Book Club, in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

Zero Debt

Goodreads      The Book Club     Facebook     Twitter     Youtube     Website

The most important thing to highlight is that the author is recounting his experience and therefore it is not a guide to follow religiously. It will not necessarily solve your problems. What it will tell you, however, is that very often following a serious kick up the backside, an attitude change is required. With a lot of hard work, you CAN dig yourself out of the bottom of the trench.

Naturally, the book begins with our author in his childhood. I think it true that as children, we are taught very little about money. He argues a distinct lack of support in the education system in teaching finances or planning for the future, and I totally agree! There is no education about completing your tax form, for example, and one) it isn’t always straightforward; two) there can be serious consequences for doing this incorrectly. I genuinely think this is one of the fundamental areas in which “life skills” are not taught in school. I’m glad the author highlighted this.

Moving away from childhood, the author gets his first salary and spends it all. Having money is exciting, no? I’ll hold my hands up and admit I did this too. It was fun. Mum and Dad still got paid rent, but this is not something that can be done viably every month, as the author does. Instead, he continues to live beyond his means, perhaps succumbing to social pressures including marriage and ends up with several loans and stacks of debt.

I am fortunate that I was taught how to manage money, as my parents, in their own circumstances, scrimped through much as the author did. I think they could have had help, but they didn’t want it. They wanted to go their way whatever the cost. As they have travelled the long road, they would not hesitate to tell me if they thought I was being irresponsible. They wouldn’t let me fall into that trap.

Sometimes though, things happen beyond our control. I moved away from home and left my first job (after a few years experience) about six months into living alone, to earn more than a junior’s limited wage packet. Things were tight. Less than a year later, the Company my Company were subcontracted to provide admin for decided to sell our part of the business, so the admin was no longer required. Suddenly, the threat of redundancy was on my head and being responsible financially for my home, I was worried sick. My parents had the facility to help me if I needed it (though thankfully I didn’t), but not everyone has this available to them.

Neeraj correctly points out that it is for these unexpected circumstances we should prepare ourselves. It would take me a long time to get to the stage of being debt free and having two years wages in cash savings, but I put by at least a little bit every month. That’s both a start and one of the most important things, I feel. Other than having set up a pension, I have thus far made very few plans for the future. I am only in my twenties after all, and I don’t have the means to do this yet. Neeraj discusses investment choices he made when it came to forward planning, which is fine, but I am nowhere near a position to even consider yet.

A lot of the points made in the book are identifiable with, such as the reliance on credit, even if you are yet to experience them. It is written in a very conversational tone and as I said above, it is “advice” that should be taken with a pinch of salt. We all have our own differing circumstances, but there is plenty here to consider.

It must be difficult to recount some of the most stressful times in your life. Thank you to the author for doing so, in order that we may learn from his mistakes and not have to learn the hard way too. His aim of the book is not to profit from it, but to educate people. That is reflected in his book being copyright free.

Rebecca mono

 

Review: The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

Happy Friday!!

I am excited to be bringing a review of this book to you today, purely because I get to have a  rant about how AMAZEBALLS it is!

happy jerry

I was gutted that I didn’t get to finish this book within my deadline of the end of October, but then, I should have been smarter and checked the page count before I committed to reading it straight after IT by Stephen King.

I’m an idiot. That won’t be news to some people… I just hope I’m a loveable idiot…? No? Okay then, I’ll just get on with it.

The Way of Kings 2

Goodreads

According to mythology mankind used to live in The Tranquiline Halls. Heaven. But then the Voidbringers assaulted and captured heaven, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, the world of storms. And the Voidbringers followed . . . They came against man ten thousand times. To help them cope, the Almighty gave men powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons, known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, mankind finally won. Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world is at war with itself – and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne. On a world scoured down to the rock by terrifying hurricanes that blow through every few day a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn’t understand and doesn’t really want to fight. What happened deep in mankind’s past? Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?

What an amazing start to a series. Just wow. I love the covers of these books too!

I think the best part of the book is the characters, in particular, Kaladin, Dalinar and Shallan. Whereas Shallan’s background and motives are outlined almost at the beginning of the book, we learn very little of Kaladin at the start and gradually his backstory is filled in as you progress through the book. I think any avid reader can both relate to and be envious of Shallan as she spends the majority of the book tutoring under one of the most prestigious and intellectual women of Roshar. In that position, she has access to what sounds to be the BIGGEST library ever. I am the green-eyed monster. That being said, I also relate to Kaladin as he is so grounded and humble as a person; he is a doer. Get up and get on with it type, and wants to do the best he can for everyone. I like that in him.

Dalinar, brother of the assassinated King Gavilar is a Lord of one of the main Alethi houses, fighting on the front line in the war against the Parshendi. He has become plagued with visions when each of the Highstorms hit and gradually those around him begin to suspect he is mad. Unite them. Those are the haunting words of his visions, but what do they mean?

Whilst most chapters are written from the perspectives of Dalinar, Kaladin or Shallan, we are given periodic interludes that give us a wider perspective on what is going on in Roshar as a whole. It is through these sections that we can see how a wider plot is developing and I am sure will continue on into future books.

The storyline will definitely make this series, upon completion, epic. The ideas are introduced gradually so as not to overwhelm you, which to my mind is essential when introducing books of a different “world”, with different rules and ideas to our own. The opening chapter shows us catastrophic events, throwing us six years into the past and into the action which defines events happening in the “present” – the assassination of King Gavilar himself.

I also love the system of magic developed in the book. Much like the Mistborn series, magic is drawn from a “real” and finite element; in the Mistborn series it is metal and in this one, it is gemstones infused with Stormlight. I find the idea of magic not being limitless gives the concept more realism, somehow.

There is much plotting and scheming going on as many vie for power – but who will succeed? I have a long wait to find out. Historically Sanderson has been releasing one of these books every three years, and since book three has just been released now… yeah. A LOOOOOOOOONG wait.

I am excited, nonetheless! It’s taking everything I have not to just jump into Words of Radiance, being book two.

Divider mono

Have you read any books of The Stormlight Archive, or tried any other books by Brandon Sanderson? I would love to know what you make of them so far!

Rebecca mono

Book Review: Aaru – David Meredith

Imagine a world in which death becomes a thing of the past. Does that excite you, or scare you?

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

Aaru

Goodreads

Rose is dying. Her body is wasted and skeletal. She is too sick and weak to move. Every day is an agony and her only hope is that death will find her swiftly before the pain grows too great to bear.

She is sixteen years old.

Rose has made peace with her fate, but her younger sister, Koren, certainly has not. Though all hope appears lost Koren convinces Rose to make one final attempt at saving her life after a mysterious man in a white lab coat approaches their family about an unorthodox and experimental procedure. A copy of Rose’s radiant mind is uploaded to a massive super computer called Aaru – a virtual paradise where the great and the righteous might live forever in an arcadian world free from pain, illness, and death. Elysian Industries is set to begin offering the service to those who can afford it and hires Koren to be their spokes-model.

Within a matter of weeks, the sisters’ faces are nationally ubiquitous, but they soon discover that neither celebrity nor immortality is as utopian as they think. Not everyone is pleased with the idea of life everlasting for sale.
What unfolds is a whirlwind of controversy, sabotage, obsession, and danger. Rose and Koren must struggle to find meaning in their chaotic new lives and at the same time hold true to each other as Aaru challenges all they ever knew about life, love, and death and everything they thought they really believed.

Death is a powerful and sensitive subject, and it is one that ought to be treated with dignity and respect.

When David approached me about his book, I was excited to read something that challenged our current beliefs about death. With our ever-advancing technology, is a system like Aaru possible in the future?

Quite so, I think, but I am not sure it could ever come to fruition as a result of the moral and religious arguments. I say this as a person, having grown up as part of a society still fighting for reform of anti-abortion laws. Yes, it is still illegal to terminate a pregnancy here. That isn’t for discussion here, albeit topical discussion locally at the moment.

Naturally, we are all going to have our own opinions about these subjects and I am glad the book touched on them all. Told mostly from the perspective of Rose and Koren, the narrative explores how the lives of the two teenage girls are affected. Rose, having suffered for years with Leukaemia, is offered a second chance at life through Aaru once her body succumbs to the disease. As an early resident, she becomes a part of both highlighting and ironing out the flaws in the system whilst her sister Koren becomes an overnight celebrity, marketing it to the world.

Not only does the book bring about the discussion of the social attitudes towards such a “solution” to death, it also highlights a number of practical problems that could arise, including security and data manipulation. Who should decide who gets to “live” after death? Think of the number of people that live seemingly good lives, yet after they are gone, we begin to hear more sinister things about their past. Would these people be let into Aaru? The concept of the system is that initially, it would be a chargeable service, becoming free and widely available later on. In my opinion, are not the people that have the wealth to afford such a service usually in a position or power and influence? Nobody is truly virtuous so some complaint would be made to their admission into eternal life.

For altogether different reasons, the book does take a sinister turn, and the element of danger greatly added to the plot. I love the concept of the book, even though I don’t feel it is a feasible option in reality.

I struggled to relate to Koren a bit, I will admit here. A thirteen-year-old girl at the time of Rose’s death, she really struggled to come to terms with the loss of her sister. She is then thrown mercilessly into the limelight by advertising this new service available, experiencing a maelstrom of emotions. Perhaps being the rebellious teenager she is, she intentionally pushes people away (including the reader, a tad). I was glad to see Koren’s parents step up to the mark as well. I felt they were a little absent from the beginning, before and just after Rose’s death, which doesn’t have a ring of realism to me. Every family is different though, I suppose.

The book is well written and I love how bold a subject it covers. Be aware though, it has mature themes so is probably not for the faint-hearted! Otherwise, it is a definite recommend to read.

Review and GIVEAWAY : My Life as Steve Keller – Zach Baynes

My Life as Steve Keller - coffee.jpg

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

First of all, a massive thank you to Zach. I am grateful to have been given the chance to work with you.

If you haven’t taken a look already, I posted an author interview with him yesterday, in which he tells us about his inspirations for his debut book, My Life As Steve Keller.

Not only do I have a review for you today, but check out the end of my post for details on the GIVEAWAY of a copy of the book!

Divider mono

My Life as Steve Keller - solo

Goodreads        Amazon        Website

“My Life as Steve Keller” is one man’s journey through twelve cities, three decades, and four lovers, all while living with the realities of climate change and technology. The stories about food and history will make you want to travel and the charming dialogue will make you smile. The book depicts two of the most basic needs in life that neither technology nor the passing of time can erase: the need to be loved and the need to be protected.

Steve tells his story in three parts. In Part One, he tries to figure out what’s best for him, ending a long distance ending a long distance relationship and wondering if he should start another one. Over the course of 6 years, he travels to different cities – Hong Kong, Paris, Argentina, Tuscany and Dublin. He finds the answer to his questions through the help of his sister while on vacation in Tuscany.

From losing people he loves through missed opportunities, to being let go from his job due to increasing automation, Steve is forced into a self-analysis of his life and the choices he has made, while coming to terms with an addiction to Virtual Reality.

“My Life as Steve Keller” reads in places like a travel journal and is a fascinating and unusual coming-of-age book, which is set partly in the future and deals with the issues of romance, love, climate change, technology and loss through a traveler’s perspective.

This fictionalized memoir spans three decades of one man’s life, it is a look at what the world may look like as we hurtle towards near full automation and the way people’s lives change as a result of choices they make or fail to make, with recurring themes of family, friends and love throughout.

I firmly believe that as a reader, you can take away as much as you like from this book.

If you are looking for a casual read, exploring places all over the world and the fabulous food and drink on offer, then this is for you. Steve is fortunate to have spent a lot of his life travelling; he visits new cities, meets new people and gets to enjoy many diverse cultures and culinary delicacies along the way. Now I am not much of a traveller when all is said and done. In comparison to Steve, I am so unadventurous! Up until this point, I haven’t considered myself to be the travelling type. Since reading the book, I’m seriously considering visiting a few places that I hadn’t taken much interest in before. If I had to pick one place out of the whole book, it would have to be Amsterdam. The excitement of the busy markets, the tourism, and the ability to tour the city via canal appeals to me. It has nothing to do with the library with a bar in it… but that’s not to be turned down either, right?

Steve is a really likeable guy. As our main character, you really get under his skin and find that he is very much like you or me. He makes mistakes and takes pride in great achievements; he loves, is loved, and falls apart from time to time. He is a victim of circumstance and is on a journey to find himself as much as we are.

There is a more serious topic addressed by the book, should you wish to consider it. I would like to stress that it is not written in a way that makes it unapproachable, or heavy reading.

We see a lot of advancement in technology throughout the novel, and with constant development today, some of the future “tech” created is not that far off reality, in my humble yet uneducated opinion. We watch diesel cars become electric, then driverless, and robots take over jobs previously laboured by humans. We see the population of the Earth continuing to increase and all the while, the impact of production continues to take its toll on the planet. Climate change triggers drought; cattle numbers decline. Endangered animal species become extinct and the ice caps melt. Natural disasters become commonplace and life as we know it ceases to exist.

This all seems very dramatic when you summarise it like that in a couple of sentences. Let us not forget that the timeframe of the book spans three decades. When you put it like that, such significant changes happen gradually and it could be all too late before we realise it.

Here is why I am more than happy to defer to Zach’s idea of things. He draws on a lot of personal experience and takes interest in these subjects. As I have already admitted, I know very little about this subject. True, the book dabbles in a lot of “ifs”, “buts” and “maybe’s”, but they are worthy of consideration, I think. It COULD happen, after all.

Going back to Steve, I think this book resonates with me because I genuinely believe I could one day end up in Steve’s shoes. Whilst the book is undeniably fiction, could it become our potential reality? I hope not, but anything is possible.

Divider mono

Now – for the details of the giveaway!!

Zach has very kindly agreed to provide the winner of this giveaway, chosen by me, with a free copy of his book! All you have to do is:-

  • Check out and follow my Twitter account @fantasyst95
  • Retweet my review post!

It really is that simple!!

The competition is officially live and will run until 11:59pm on Sunday; please get your entries in and I’ll be randomly selecting and announcing the winner on Monday.

Happy tweeting!

Rebecca mono

Review: The War Queen – J. M. Robison

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to conduct an Author Interview with J.M Robison in relation to her first published book, The War Queen. Today I am thrilled to be publishing my review! Before we begin, if you are yet to take a look at the interview, I would recommend you do!

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

 

The War Queen

GoodReads – The War Queen

Altarn is the first woman to hold the position of State Head in Blindvar. When Lord Kaelin, State Head of Ruidenthall, propositions her to merger with their states, Altarn believes it’s his subtle way of taking her state for his own, making himself king. On the cusp of war, she rides in disguise to her last ally, Luthsinia, to ask for help.

During her journey, Altarn is ambushed but rescued by a man called Torren who offers her protection. Quickly they realize they share a mutual attraction. Upon their arrival to Luthsinia, Altarn receives news that an army has invaded Blindvar in her absence and blames Kaelin. Except it’s not Kaelin’s army, because she discovers Kaelin is in Luthsinia for the purpose of spying on her to take her land. And Torren is not who she thought he was.

Taking advantage of the unraveling situation, Kaelin kidnaps Altarn so he can take her state without her in the way and brings her to Ruidenthall. There’s a war ship on the horizon, led by a fallen angel craving mortal worship. Kaelin realizes he needs Altarn’s help to fight this army if he’s to save his state. She’s forced to agree, but how will she react when he’s wounded in battle? If she lets him die, can she fight the enemy on her own? Or if she saves his life, will he still try claiming her state, or try claiming her heart?

Having read a sample of the first chapter I knew that Altarn’s character and her position as State Head was going to be something that interested me a lot. I don’t think I need to go into the many debates about gender equality that are out there at the moment. I’m sure you see it all the time, be it on social media or the news etc. I knew this book was going to intrigue me because I wanted to see how the fictional society of this book adapted to the change of power being in the hands of a female in comparison with what we experience in reality. I was also keen to understand how Altarn coped with the difficulties, prejudice and the challenges to her credibility experienced.

 Altarn believes Kaelin, the Lord of Ruidenthall is set upon taking her land, however her council do not believe her when she brings this matter to their attention. Having had countless letters ignored and fearing the worst for her state, she sets out to neutral Luthsinia to gain the aid necessary to fend off the impending attack. As it happens, Altarn’s concern over Kaelin’s actions are the least of her concerns and ultimately, the two sides join forces to eradicate an unforeseen threat.

I found Altarn to be a remarkably developed character – in a lot of ways, I felt I could relate to her emotionally. In the first chapter we see Altarn arrive at her State Manor, clearly enraged and she quite humourously lashes out at a training target with the name of the man who told her “You have to ride the horse before you buy it. Because if you buy it first, you may find out later it limps”. Her behaviour is entirely relatable to us mere mortals (well, at least to me anyway), however, it is not the behaviour expected of a woman in her position – and especially not in public. This scene really introduces Altarn’s character and sets her development arc for the remainder of the book.

As Altarn travels to Luthsinia undercover to request aid, she ends up travelling with a young man who protects her on the road from a band of men who have less than polite intentions. Altarn perceives herself to be more than capable of defending herself, having served in the army and intends to face the threat single-handedly. As a result of this unknown man leaping to her defence, she feels irritated that she was perceived to have needed help. Despite her obvious resentment, Altarn sees the sense of safety in numbers and continues to travel with the young man, albeit distrustfully.  I cannot help but wonder if this scenario is something JM has drawn on her army experience for. Is Altarn’s circumstance (real or perceived – I’ll allow my lack of experience to keep me sitting on the fence) of feeling or being treated as the inferior sex something experienced in the army?

With the novel written in the first person narrative from the perspective of Altarn, we get to really understand the way she is thinking and feeling. I can speak now, as a woman, when I say that a lot of her emotional struggles are perfectly relatable. As she rebounds from Jessom and begins to “admire” her mysterious co-traveller, this isn’t a spontaneous reaction just for the purpose of plot developing. What I am trying to say is… it’s a perfectly natural reaction. Altarn is forced to mature and reign in these feelings as she comes to terms with the political turmoil she has to endure for the safety of her people, although this is a great struggle for her.

I’m glad now that I have gotten to this point. If there was any element of the book I wasn’t sure I was going to like, it was the relationship between Altarn and Lord Kaelin. As a rule, books with too much emphasis on relationship struggles are a turn off for me. Regardless of my feelings on the matter, allow me to be clear that the tumultuous relationship between these two powers is a quintessential element of both the plot and the development of each of these characters. I was pleasantly surprised that despite the reasonably high dependence the plot has on the relationship, I didn’t feel alienated from the characters involved – if anything it serves a reminder of just how human they are.

I also love how the book concluded. I am not going to spoil it for you, but what I will say is this… It could have been easy for the book to end in a very typical, fairytale manner. Allow me to say I am glad it didn’t. The characters are far more sophisticated than that and I am glad that shows.

I also enjoyed the developed and consistent historical background of the fantastical realm, which is introduced when relevant throughout the book. It is a danger for the reader to be the victim of “info-dumps” when the author has to explain a lot of history and context in fantasy worlds created, but I can honestly say I didn’t feel overwhelmed at any point.

In my opinion, The War Queen is an enjoyable read for all lovers of the fantasy genre. Whilst there are examples of common themes such as war (obviously), religion, (including angels and demons etc), to my mind it has been done in such a way as to set it apart from the common reiterations of the same ideas regularly seen in the genre.

Page breaker

I hope you have enjoyed reading my review! If you would like to learn any more about JM Robison or The War Queen, please follow any of the below links:-

Website    Facebook     Twitter     Amazon     Goodreads     Pinterest

Also a little reminder that there is a live Facebook event on Saturday in celebration of the book’s first birthday. If you would like to join in, here is the link – hopefully we will see you there.

Signature