Review: Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

I love fantasy – it’s one of my favourite genres – but I’ve always stuck religiously to Epic Fantasy and mostly avoided Urban Fantasy. The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning has completely changed my mind about urban fantasy.  I think I can learn to love that subgenre as much as Epic Fantasy, if only there are many more like the Fever series out there.

The Fever series starts when Mac‘s sister is murdered in Dublin, Ireland after leaving an alarming and cryptic voice message to Mac. Overwhelmed with grief and vying for vengeance, Mac travels to Dublin seeking answers to uncover the truth behind her sister’s murder. However, she is soon introduced to the realm of the Fae – while normal humans are unable to discern Fae from humans, Mac is able to see through their glamour – and learns that her world is nothing like she’d been brought up to believe.

As book summaries go, this is still a pretty obscure one. It doesn’t even begin to expound what in the world this book is about. But this is a series you should definitely go in blind. I don’t want to reveal too much because one great appeal of the series was how Karen Marie Moning (KMM) cleverly revealed, little by little, the world she created and the secrets each character hid. KMM’s Fae world was carefully layered with detailed history, captivating characters and unimaginable creatures, secrets, lies and manipulation. Throughout the entire series, KMM kept me busy hypothesising and theorising about what each character was concealing, about who or what each character was, or about what was going to happen. Like Mac, I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone, like I was constantly being kept in the dark and urgently needed to find answers.

Especially towards the end of the series, a lot gets uncovered and we finally know the truth behind each character. These carefully hidden secrets were mind-blowing, shocking, and definitely added more complexity into the story. I loved how KMM masterfully did it piece by piece, layer by layer – at first misleading us into thinking one way, then another and another, tricking us into a wild-goose-chase before finally unveiling the crazy truth that somehow makes sense.

With each book, the world just kept becoming more and more complicated, and the situations Mac found herself in became increasingly dire. That paved the way for Mac’s amazing character development. The rather frivolous, sunshine (and sometimes annoyingly daft) girl she was in book one (a.k.a. Mac 1.0) turned, with each book and each adversity she overcame, into the tough bad-ass woman she was in book five (Mac 5.0!) who learnt to save herself. In every book, she changed, somehow both gradually yet also significantly. There were times, especially in the last two or so books, where I worried that she was in such a bad situation that she’d give in to darkness and do the wrong thing. It was almost like a ticking time bomb, and I was just waiting for the moment where she’d somehow unleash all evil into the world (yes, that’s how dark this series turned into). But eventually she learnt to have hope. She learnt who she was. She learnt that evil is not a state of being, it’s a choice. Her strength and growth encouraged me.

And what can I possibly say about Jericho Barrons (the man who first introduces Mac into the Fae world) without understating his awesomeness? Sure, he’s ruthless and sometimes rude, but I have no qualms about him because he owns up to it. While he has his own secrets he wants to keep, he doesn’t pretend to be anything he’s not. He’s upfront and self-possessed. I liked him, but I didn’t love him… not until what he did for Mac at the beginning of Dreamfever (Book 4). I can’t reveal what because it’s a major spoiler, but he officially became one of my all-time favourite male characters. And I don’t often have favourite male characters.

I loved the consistency of KMM’s writing. All the books in the series were enjoyable for me, and not only that, they actually got better. That is a rare feat for a long series. I just had one problem that slightly reduced my enjoyment of the books:

The narration is sometimes a little (just a little) long-winded. The books are written in such a way that we know Mac is recalling it after all the events have happened. The narrative is retrospective; there are foreboding sentences like “But I didn’t know it back then” or “If I had known, I wouldn’t have…”, which while meant to increase tension and make readers nervous and worried, only irritated me because they were used too often. It is also introspective; that’s how we know so much about Mac’s character development and her thought processes as she uncovers each mystery. But while I love introspection in books, here it was sometimes repetitive, laid out in long sentences when just a single short one would have been enough. I skimmed through them most of the time. Of course, this might just be a personal problem because I’m a pretty impatient person… I’ve seen a few other reviews on this series and haven’t seen one having a problem with the narrative.

Overall, while KMM’s writing style and narration are not, in my opinion, flawless, I think this series is a solid 4.5/5 and a highly recommended read. I’m thoroughly impressed by KMM’s consistency in delivering 5 great books which grabbed my attention throughout (I read them back to back in the span of 4 days!), and by her meticulous world-building and great characters. Also, have I mentioned she has the best cliffhangers?! It’s not even annoying because she knows how to pace her books well.


Breakdown of each book’s score:

  1. Darkfever – 4/5
  2. Bloodfever – 4.5/5
  3. Faefever – 5/5
  4. Dreamfever – 5/5
  5. Shadowfever – 5/5

Let’s talk FANTASY – Fantasy Maps

Fantasy maps are another element of high fantasy that I simply adore.

If you’re a geek like me, you’d probably spend several good seconds (or minutes) admiring the map at the start of many high fantasy novels. I just love the illustrations on these maps.

Here are just some of them:

Edil Amarandh map
Map of Edil-Amarandh, from Alison Croggon’s Books of Pellinor
Grisha map
Map of the Grisha world, from Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy)
Middle Earth
Map of Middle Earth, from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy

 

They are so pleasing to the eyes!! These maps spark so much wanderlust in me and I just want to jump into these worlds physically, if only I could.

Truth is, I don’t even refer to them while reading because I’m too into the story to bother, but I think these maps just add so much more character into the world and makes it even more real.

I love how Fantasy writers put in so much effort into details like these – where the mountains and hills are, the size of each place, the distance between each place – and when they make all these details matter by linking it to the background or history of their world. It’s another reason why I respect fantasy writers so much; they dedicate so many years to create an original fantasy world!

Do you have a favourite fantasy world map? Share it with us in the comments below!

Let’s talk FANTASY: my introductory into high fantasy

Hellooo! Today I want to tell you guys about my very first high fantasy read.

I was 11 or 12 (or maybe younger?) when I was first introduced to The Gift (or The Naming) by Alison Croggon.

Back then, I had an English tutor whom I often bonded with over books, and the tuition centre had a mini library which we would all visit at the end of every lesson. It was my tutor who recommended The Gift to me; without her I would probably never have endeavoured to read such a thick book back then. (Side note: this tutor was also the one who first introduced Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and James Patterson’s Maximum Ride to me… if not for her, I wouldn’t have discovered so many of my favourite books!)

Needless to say, I loved The Gift and every book in the Books of Pellinor series. But it wasn’t until 3 or 4 years later when something inexplicable compelled me to read the series again, and this time with better linguistic ability I found I appreciated the book even more. With her beautiful writing and detailed appendices, Croggon created a world so real, to the point where I actually believed that the events were true and that magic used to exist. (Sadly, that was short-lived because I did intensive research on Google and found out that it was foolish thinking on my part… haha.)

Nevertheless, I fell in love with the art of creating a fantasy world that clearly doesn’t exist, but feels so real that it could be plausible. The wit, ingenuity and planning needed to create such a world eluded me and I so admired the authors who were able to do so. And that’s how I came to love and appreciate high fantasy. Now, I have a long list of other reasons why I love high fantasy, but this was the very first reason that set everything in motion.

Although I’m aware there are many other high fantasy books with more original plotlines and more unique magic systems than Croggon’s books, the Books of Pellinor will always, always be my number one high fantasy series and will always retain its special place in my heart, much like a first love.

Let’s Talk FANTASY: Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas

I know, this series hasn’t ended, and the much-awaited finale is only going to come out in 2018. But I’ve just finished re-reading the first four books, plus read the latest installment, Empire of Storms, and I desperately need to let out what I’m feeling right now.

Throne_of_GlassFor those of you who have not encountered this YA high fantasy series, before I start spoiling everything… Throne of Glass is basically about a reputed 18-year old female assassin, Celaena Sardothien, who was slaved after being captured. She enters a competition to become the King’s Champion (basically the King’s royal assassin) in an attempt to get out of slavery… well, that’s how the story begins, but it turns out to become something much, much larger.

Now PLEASE STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T READ UNTIL EMPIRE OF STORMS  (or at least Queen of Shadows) OR YOU’LL BE IN FOR MAJOR SPOILERS.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk FANTASY: Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas”

T5W: Top SFF Books on My TBR!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme originally created by Lainey, and now hosted by Sam. You can read more about it on the Goodreads page. This week’s topic is on my top 5 Science Fiction and Fantasy books I want to read!


There are almost too many books to list, but I’ll do my best to keep it to five. You may notice that none of these are Science Fiction… they’re all just Fantasy.

  1. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  2. His Majesty’s Dragon/Temeraire by Naomi Novik
  3. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  4. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  5. Fudoki by Kij Johnson

It’s crazy how I’ve read none of these books because they have been on my TBR for too damn long. Any of you have this problem of wanting to save a good book for a time when you can fully immerse in it… and end up not reading it for a long time because you’re just too busy?

I’ve just completed my contract for a temporary stint last week, and this week I have three interviews in 5 days… so hopefully after my last interview on Friday I’ll finally get to start on Six of Crows!

I’m crazy excited to start a new fantasy novel 🙂

Review: The Fellowship of The Ring by JRR Tolkien

LOTR1

For a long time the Lord of The Rings trilogy has been dubbed one of the best Fantasy novels.. ever. It’s been said the Tolkien set the stage for Fantasy novels, and he’s titled the “Father of Modern Fantasy”. Well, I don’t know about any of that – most, if not all, of the fantasy I read have been written after the Lord of the Rings, so I know nothing about what fantasy was like before Tolkien.

What I do know is that… Tolkien’s writing really isn’t that “modern”. (I mean, it was written in the 1940s! Of course it isn’t). I struggled a little with his language and writing style; most of his sentences just aren’t structured the way I’m used to, since I don’t usually read classics. But you kind of have to get over that if you want to finish the book, which I did, though quite slowly. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that LOTR is a much loved book, and being a Fantasy lover it’s almost socially unacceptable that I’ve never read LOTR (yet).

That said, I’m still not sure whether I really enjoyed The Fellowship of the Ring, or if I’m just deluding myself into thinking I liked it because almost everyone else likes it.  Here are some issues I had with the book:

Firstly, there is a mountain of info-loading, in about almost the entire book. There are names of people: Isildur; Earendil; Luthien; (insert Fantasy-ish name) son of (insert another name), heir of (something/somewhere)……. and names of places: Gondor, Anduin, Gil-galad, this river, that mountain… and the entire “forgotten” histories of all these places…

((I had to retrieve those names from random pages in the book))

No, seriously, who are all these people and what are all these places?! I could not keep track of any of those names and half the time I was stressing out about trying to remember what all the names were referring to, the other half I was struggling to stay awake through paragraphs of background and history.

I get that all these are a huge part of world-building (which Tolkien is definitely good at), but really it’s a whole lot of spamming as well and I think the story would have been good even without all that. Or perhaps at least make the names a little more memorable and a little less complicated?

My next problem is with the characters. Tolkien doesn’t place much focus on character building and development, and basically if you swop two characters’ dialogues halfway through the story I would not have thought that the characters were not being themselves. I wasn’t attached to the characters, and as a result neither was I very attached to the story.

My third gripe is the writing, but I’ve already mentioned that, and this might just be a matter of personal preference.

 

Of course, there are things I loved in this much-acclaimed book too.

For one, Middle Earth is described really well, though I think having watched snippets of the movie before did help as well. But Lothlorien in particular was such an amazing experience to read, what with the golden leaves and elves and all. What’s great about Tolkien’s world-building is that it isn’t just a lot of random places, but each place has its own unique culture and people. I thoroughly enjoyed that because at least the places that the Frodo & friends travelled to were distinct from one another.

And the poems and songs are beautiful. I think they were my favourite parts of the book, and they really added to the cultural vibrancy of Middle Earth, because there’s a song/poem about almost everything and everywhere. Here’s one of the shorter (and more random) ones, if you’re interested:

I sit beside the fire and think

of all that I have seen,

of meadow-flowers and butterflies

in summers that have been;

 

Of yellow leaves and gossamer

in autumns that there were,

with morning mist and silver sun

and wind upon my hair.

 

I sit beside the fire and think

of how the world will be

when winter comes without a spring

that I shall ever see.

 

For still there are so many things

that I have never seen:

in every wood in every spring

there is a different green.

 

I sit beside the fire and think

of people long ago,

and people who will see a world

that I shall never know.

 

But all the while I sit and think

of times there were before,

I listen for returning feet

and voices at the door.

I also quite liked how the book ended, it made me look forward to the next book, which I’ll definitely be reading sometime in future. I’m hoping that things pick up speed in the next book though!

Overall, I’d give the Fellowship of the Ring 3.5 stars out of 5.

 

Intermission I

I haven’t posted much lately because I’m busy with work and university & scholarship applications (I just got my A level results back 2 weeks ago!).. but here’s a poem I really like from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

The Riddle of Strider

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.

I love this poem so much! It’s what pushed me to read Lord of the Rings, actually. I currently have 50 pages left of The Fellowship of the Ring which I’m pretty sure I’ll finish tonight after work. So do anticipate a review on it soon 🙂