Monday, April 20, 2015

Fairies: the Myths, Legends, and Lore by Skye Alexander

Fairies: the Myths, Legends and Lore by Skye Alexander explores stories surrounding these mythical beings both ancient and contemporary, and draws heavily on their abundance in literature as beings of delight and wickedness. I initially purchased this books in hopes of building up my reference collection. However, after the first few pages it became clear that this book relies less on academic or even historical sources and more on fancy. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, but buyers looking for a more serious text for research purposes may want to look elsewhere.

       The book itself is beautiful. The font is a nice, calming purple and the illustrations scattered throughout the work are very crisp and whimsical. There is definitely some information to be found in this book, but although there is a bibliography most of the sourcing is weak and barely present, and the vast majority of the sources are from fictional works published in the fantasy genre. There were many instances in which the author would lead with something like, “according to legends”, but fail to back the legend up. If anything, the book draws more on the authors own understanding of the things she has learned and believes and her subsequent interpretation of that understanding rather than providing a catalogue of recorded information. Even now I'm not entirely sure if this book should be treated as a work of fiction, non-fiction, or a reference work.

      Now, I don’t have anything against this per say. Aside from being pretty, the book is fairly well written and at the very least it can give aspiring writers inspiration and enthusiasts of mythology and folklore a light, entertaining read. There were a couple of interesting ideas and concepts, and some region specific terms that I hadn’t come across before. Just know that if you’re planning to purchase this book that it’s written more in the vein of Candlewick Press’s Ology series and less in the vein of a Norton anthology.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fallings Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes is a Young Adult fantasy series that splits it’s narrative between three kingdoms and several characters from each kingdom all while a massive war is brewing and old prophecies are coming to pass.

The book starts off with a kidnapping years ago marked by bloodshed, committed by two witches in search of a child prophesized by the stars to reclaim ancient magic artifacts long lost. The child is taken faraway to be raised under close supervision while her powers develop.
     The story then shifts to Princess Cleo of Auranos—a stubborn, hot-headed princess who often leads too much by impulse and not enough with her wits. While on a trip to the neighboring Paelsia, the drunk, haughty noble she is accompanying murders a wine seller’s son during a haggling dispute, and Cleo is left haunted by a crime she feels she could have prevented. In truth she hates the noble who committed the crime, but must tolerate him lest he reveal a dark secret that could ruin her reputation.
       Jonas is the brother of the murdered boy. He swears vengeance on the noble ruthlessly murdered him, as well as the princess he believes to have been cold and indifferent to the tragedy. Having grown up in a land filled with poverty, Jonas has always hated the rich. Now, however, he has a reason to kill them.
        Magnus and Lucia are the prince and princess of Limeros—a kingdom under the rule of a bloody King who polices his people using brutal and unforgiving means. Magnus and Lucia, however, both harbor secrets and these secrets drive a wedge between their once close relationship as their father drags them into a bloody war with Auranos.


I think that this book has a lot of promising ideas. I like the notion of charting three different perspectives from three different feuding kingdoms, and letting the readers see into the minds of each kingdom before they all come to a bloody head. Unfortunately, the execution of this novel was incredibly chaotic. The narrative hop-skips between different characters so swiftly that there’s no real time to develop any of them satisfactorily. In addition to how quickly perspectives change, what we do get for each character amounts to a lot of telling and not enough showing. We’ll be told that a character is upset without seeing them be upset, we’ll be told that a character is really strong and not irresponsible, even when the only evidence we’re shown is that character being irresponsible. When the characters in the story do stupid things—which happen quite frequently—I was left feeling frustrated because what they did often contradicted what the author told us about them. This leads me to another problems: false climaxes.

Now, I don’t mind a few of these in a story. I actually think they can be pretty clever when used occasionally because it’s smart of defy the reader’s expectations now and then. There is one point in the book where a romantic interest dies, and it was completely unexpected and not the cliché for this genre at all, which made for a really enjoyable turn of events. That having been said, it was obviously meant to be a sad moment when in reality I didn’t really care that this character had died because the romance they had participated in was really rushed from the get-go. Still, I was surprised. The problem is, when you use these false-climaxes too much it makes the reader feel like they’re on a ride that keeps stopping. It makes your blood rush in the beginning, but once it happens too many times you’re just left wanting to get off. And this story has an abundance of false-climaxes. Characters will have something go their way and then be interrupted, only have things go their way and be interrupted again. Readers will be led believing that a certain change is going to occur and it does—for two pages.

I think this book might have been aided greatly by a rearranging of the content. Instead of having the perspective shift every other chapter, each kingdom could have been given a quarter of the book so that readers could really understand the characters that lived there and the politics, religion, etc. The quarters could then end with each character entering the climax of the book, which the last quarter could be dedicated too.

Overall, I think this book had a lot of potential that was lost in some bad techniques and poor management. I really like the basic idea behind Falling Kingdoms, and I can see what the author was trying to do, but by the time I closed the book I felt almost relieved to be done with it.

Buy, Borrow, or Bypass: I'd bypass this one, or at the most borrow it. I initially paid $10.99 for this book, which was a little steep for such a short read to begin with, and given my overall impression of it I wouldn't recommend paying full price.