Book Review: Illidan

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Even though I haven’t played World of Warcraft since 2013, I still like to keep up with the overall story of the game through the books. So when the Illidan book was released, I had to buy it. But, I was also kind of confused about the book, I mean, didn’t his story already get told through the Burning Crusade expansion? Was he not defeated there? Am I missing something from my lack of in game knowledge? The answer to those questions was a resounding yes.

For a decent chunk of it, this book felt like it should have been released during or shortly after the Burning Crusade expansion. It seemed to overall retell a lot of the story there. The whole, released for ten thousand years in prison, him going to the Outland, his taking over of the Black Temple. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything new. Eventually, things seemed to change direction and give me new bits of information, but at the same time, they felt disjointed and strange.

The story follows four main characters, Illidan (duh), Maiev, Akama and Vandel. Three of these were already known to me, from playing the game, but Vandel was new. I found that Maiev was a fairly flat character. She lived for a single purpose, which is somewhat understandable, but that blinded her to other things and made her character not very appealing. I had hoped she would grow throughout the book, but in the end, she was that same tunnel vision driven person. Akama was an interesting creature. I don’t really recall much about his from the game, but he certainly had a big role in the story. His real purpose was hidden until the right time within the book, unlike other characters, whose purpose for being was revealed right from the beginning. Illidan was…well he was Illidan. I don’t know what I can say about him. Vandel felt…unnecessary at times. It’s like they needed another character to be like Illidan, but not quite Illidan and he fulfilled that role. I didn’t really feel like he reached his full potential and that there is more to his story beyond this book – and that’s probably the case in the game.

The major thing I didn’t like about the book was the authors writing. At times, it felt like he was trying too hard to describe things uniquely. I’m all for giving a story a solid descriptive base, but he was overdoing it. None to mention, there was a lot of repetitive descriptions. For example, at one point it is said that they defeated “…the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction” of the Burning Legion. Well, isn’t the tiniest fraction about as tiny as you can get? Maybe I’m nitpicking here, but that just stuck out to me as being overly descriptive.

Also, having the book span six years probably didn’t help the flow. One chapter it’s four years before the end and then the next it’s a mere five months. You’re telling me nothing of significance happened in nearly four years? That seems off to me.

There were a couple of inconsistencies as well. At one point Illidan swipes his arms across a map, knocking the markers that were on it away, and yet a page and a half later, one of his minions looks at the map, observing those markers as if they were still where they once were.

For me, I thought the book was alright, but was clearly geared towards people who still played the game. I didn’t quite understand the full differences between the Illidan story of Burning Crusade and this Illidan story that leads into the Legion expansion. There were a lot of things that felt the same, and that’s probably why I kept thinking that this book was written ten years too late. And yet, those new portions of the story seemed to be in stark contrast to what I already knew. I feel like if I still played the game, and had a full knowledge of all of the current lore, that this book would have been more enjoyable. Overall, it was okay and I am glad that I read it. I just hope any future books written are a bit more non-player friendly.

Book Review: The Titan’s Curse

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Review contains minor spoilers – but come on, this book is 10 years old so it shouldn’t be that much of a spoiler.

Oh this book. I started it with excitement, and then part way through, hit a major reading slump. When I picked it up weeks later, I was eager to finish it and yet I didn’t want to. I couldn’t be certain if it was the after affects of the reading slump or the fact that I just hadn’t really loved the first hundred pages. Maybe this book had succumbed to the dreaded mid-series slump that I find in many series, when they start strong, slack in the middle and then either pick up again at the end or struggle to bring things to a close cleanly.

I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. There was something in this book that just didn’t seem to jive. I don’t know what it was. I will say, that I was glad to see that there was a greater presence of Gods and Goddesses in this book, something I was craving in the previous two novels. Having Artemis in this one was great, and I really liked the way she was portrayed. It made total sense in a way, even if at times it was a little weird.

I think the biggest disappointment for me, revolved around Zoe. I loved this character and yet, we lose her as quickly as she comes into the story. I understand why it happened, and it made sense in the end, but damnit, I was more Zoe and I know that won’t happen.

Even though this book didn’t feel as amazing as the previous ones, I am still looking forward to reading the rest of the series. If you haven’t read this series yet, now may be the time to do so.

Book Review: The Sea of Monsters

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The second book in the Percy Jackson series is just as good, if not better, than the first. I won’t go into a lot of detail, mainly because I find it hard to talk about books part way into a series without giving away something important to the plot. And yes, I understand that most people have probably already read these books, but for those that haven’t, I want to keep this spoiler free.

I really enjoyed this book. It picks up almost a year after the first book, yet there is no gap in the story. Right from page one I was hooked and could have easily read this entire book in one sitting, had life not gotten in the way of course. The characters have come a long way since they were first introduced to us, and even throughout this book, there is good character development. Of course they still have a ways to go, but hey it’s only the second book in the series, so more growth will come with time.

This story has a nice fast pace to it, with something always happening. There were some good twists in the plot that made it all come together wonderfully. I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about the book. I love how the new characters introduced throughout this book helped and hindered the heroes in various ways. Some of this characters had unexpected affects on Percy and the quest he found himself on.

Overall, this was a great book. I think Rick Riordan does a wonderful job of melding the present day with ancient Greek myth. I cannot wait to continue on with this series and see what Percy and his fellow half-bloods must endure and overcome next.

Book Review: In Shade And Shadow

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

In Shade And Shadow is the first book in the second series in the Noble Dead Saga. Having recently finished the first series, I was eager to continue on and see what the second series had in store.

This book has a huge hump at the start. Honestly, I really struggled through the first hundred pages of this book. I just couldn’t get into it. The pace was so slow it wasn’t even funny, there were so many new characters being introduced I couldn’t keep track of all of them, and most of all, I found the lack of Magiere and Leesil to really hamper things. Wynn had always been a, I hate to say it, somewhat pointless character in the first series, and with this series focusing on her, I worry it will drag through all three books.

I nearly gave up on this one. If it had have been any other book, or any other series, I would have tossed into into my did not finish pile and moved on. However, I really want to read this entire series, so I can be done with it, and to get the the third series which focuses back on Magiere and Leesil. So, I slogged through it, telling myself that it would get better. Hoping that I was right.

Luckily, it did pick up. After that one hundred page hump, things started to get more interesting. I still couldn’t keep half the characters straight in my head, but at least the pace was picking up and the plot seemed to actually be going somewhere. It still didn’t have the appeal of Dhampir, but at least I didn’t want to throw the book across the room anymore.

One thing that annoyed me was all the special terms for everything. I get that authors want to give their book something that makes them unique, so they aren’t using the same terminology as every other book, especially when it comes to the fantasy genre, but oh my goodness, I couldn’t keep up with all the special names for everything. Not only were they hard to read/pronounce, there were so many of them that, like so many of the characters names, I couldn’t keep track of what was what. I wasn’t sure if I was reading about the city guards or a branch of the sage guild or something else. Sometimes, it’s better to just call them guard than trying to get fancy – especially when everything else has a fancy name.

I’m still not sure how I will feel about this series. It didn’t have the strongest start, but perhaps it will continue to pick up as it continues. Wynn’s character certainly has a long way to go to break out of her boring character bubble and become someone who I care about. Overall, this book was just simply okay. I will keep reading the series and hope that it does get better.

Book Review: The Empty Throne

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

So, after reading another Xena novel, Prophecy of Darkness by Stella Howard, I was eager to read more. Luckily, I had bought a few others at the same time, and so I dove into this one.

To say I was disappointed was an understatement. These books were so vastly different it was disturbing. Yes, they were written by different authors, so I expected them to be a bit different in the writing style, but where as Howard’s book felt like a written version of an unaired episode, Emerson’s was like a really bad fan fiction.

There was a lot that bothered me about this book. All too often, Xena was referred to as “The warrior”. Okay, fine, she’s technically a warrior, but why use that label more as a name than anything else. Also, Argo, Xena’s trusty palomino mare, was never referred to by her name. In fact, I can’t even recall the author stating that she was a mare. Anytime the horse was mentioned it was much like Xena, only ever being called “the horse”. Only, I can’t recall a single time when the horses color was even mentioned. I realize that is a small detail, but one that any Xena fan would expect to see in the story. I was honestly surprised that Gabriel wasn’t called “the sidekick” throughout the book given how things were going.

Add into the fact that the story line seemed to go no where. I realize that there isn’t always a direct line to the end and that sometimes things have to happen outside of a heroes initial quest in order to full move things along, but ugh what a slog this book was. Even half way through I felt like Xena, or should I say ‘the warrior’, was no closer to getting anything done that at the beginning.

To continue my list of unpleasantries. Let’s talk about Xena’s weapons. She has a sword, sometimes a whip and this thing called a Chakram. Unfortunately, time and time again, the author spelled it Chakra. Close, but not quite. It’s little missteps like that that really dragged the book down. I don’t know is she half-assed her or just never watched an episode of the show, but nothing felt right about this book.

Really the only reason I gave it two stars is because, in the end it is a Xena novel, as bad as it was, and it was mercifully short. If your a Xena fan, you can read this one if you want, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I really hope her other books are better, because I own two more.

Book Review: The Lightning Thief

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

So way back when in 2010 (wow has it only been 7 years), I watched The Lightning Thief movie, and while I liked it, I told myself I needed to read the book because the books are almost always better than the movie. It took me a couple years to get the series and then a few more years passed before I finally got around to reading this book. Another reason why I waited so long to read the book, is that I wanted to details of the movie to fade from memory, so it was like walking into the book with a clean slate. I had only the most vague of memories of a few things that happened in the movie, so now was the perfect time to read it.

Right from the beginning I was pulled into the story. I like how the book started with a confession from Percy, which really helps to set everything up. It makes you intrigued about why he wouldn’t want to be a half-blood. From then on the story just keeps getting better.

The flow of this story is fantastic. There aren’t any noticeable slow points, sure there are moments where the action has died down but they don’t feel like a lull in the story, more like the calm before the storm. The mix of characters in this story is great as well. Obviously most of them are half-bloods, with a good dose of Greek monsters and Gods mixed in, along with a plentiful dash of mortals to finish it off. I have to say I really liked Annabeth’s character, which they were all great in their own way, but for some reason her character stood out to me the most.

One thing I thought was interesting is how the perspective of mortals changed when viewing half-blood and monsters. For example, a sword fight looks like a gun fight to mortal eyes. They never see what is truly going on, which os course can work both for and against the characters as they make their journey across America to get to their ultimate destination.

Really my only complaint, and it’s a small one, is that we didn’t get to see a lot of the Gods in this book. I get why, the focus isn’t on them, but on their kids. I just wish there had have been more. I’m hoping that as the series progresses that they will have a bigger role and influence in the books.

Overall, I found this to be a really good book and a great start to a series. I am really looking forward to continuing on with their series to see what else the characters must endure throughout their years at Camp Half-Blood and beyond. I also look forward to seeing my son read this book, and hope that he enjoys it as much as I did.

Book Review: War Crimes

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Back when I played World of Warcraft, I developed a very large dislike, perhaps even hatred, of Garrosh. So naturally, when I saw that a book was being released about his trial for all of the crimes he committed, I was immediately interested. The fact that it was written by Christie Golden was another bonus, because I have read and enjoyed several other books written by her in this series.

It took me a while to get into this book, and it never really fully gripped me. It was good, yes, but not great, not like I was hoping it would be. I think the fact that nearly the whole book was a long courtroom trial made it unappealing. Granted, I did think it was sort of interesting how they approached presenting the evidence, as normal word of mouth wasn’t good enough. Instead, they actually showed the events using the device from the Bronze Dragonflight. That part was pretty neat. I mean, how else can you guarantee you are getting an accurate account of events? Memories can fade or alter over time, and even emotions can affect them. So what better way to do it, then to actually pull up the event through time and show it as a mini movie for all to see.

Really outside of that, the book felt a bit flat. There was a decent amount of tension in this book, what else do you expect when Alliance and Horse are put in the same room for extended periods of time, but it just felt off. Sure, the Pandaren made it impossible to use any magic in the area, and the temple where the trial was held had a calming affect on everyone, but I felt like it needed something else. Something to make it more enjoyable to read, to really show the true nature of everyone present.

The few parts that weren’t directly tied to the trial were short and added very little to the story overall. And when the ending happened, I was a bit disappointed.

Overall, I liked the book, but I didn’t love it. It had some good moments, but it was a book that just read slow and took a bit too long to get to anything other than boring trial business. I am still glad that I read this book and look forward to continuing the series. Those who enjoy World of Warcraft will likely enjoy this novel, and the others in this series.