Category Archives: mythology

Dark Descendant by Jenna Black

Dark Descendant is the first book in the Nikki Glass series. Here’s the summary from the back of the book:

Nikki Glass can track down any man. But when her latest client turns out to be a true descendant of Hades, Nikki now discovers she can’t die. . . .
Crazy as it sounds, Nikki’s manhunting skills are literally god-given. She’s a living, breathing descendant of Artemis who has stepped right into a trap set by the children of the gods. Nikki’s new “friends” include a descendant of Eros, who uses sex as a weapon; a descendant of Loki, whose tricks are no laughing matter; and a half-mad descendant of Kali who thinks she’s a spy.
But most powerful of all are the Olympians, a rival clan of immortals seeking to destroy all Descendants who refuse to bow down to them. In the eternal battle of good god/bad god, Nikki would make a divine weapon. But if they think she’ll surrender without a fight, the gods must be crazy. .

dark descendant coverI was pretty excited to read this book because I’m into mythology, and it sounded like it would be different than the vampire love-triangles I had been reading recently. On one hand, I was not disappointed. There certainly was no love triangle or vampires. On the other hand, the mythology wasn’t nearly as exciting as I had hoped it would be. In this world, a group called Liberi are immortal descendants of the gods who thanks to their ancestry have powers reminiscent of the gods from whom they descend. One group of Liberi, called the Olympians, are led by a power-hungry Liberi named Konstantin who wants to control everyone and thinks the only Liberi who deserve to live are those descended from the Greek gods. Anderson leads the other group of Liberi, a small faction that doesn’t agree with Konstantin’s way of thinking and tries to protect other Liberi from Konstantin. In the course of her work as a Private Investigator, Nikki Glass discovers she is a Liberi and her ancestor is the highly sought-after Artemis, goddess of the hunt. When Konstantin finds out about Nikki, he wants to use her to track and kill other Liberi. Nikki is forced to turn to Anderson for help, but his group of part-gods doesn’t like Nikki much, so Nikki has to avoid the bad guys, watch her back around Anderson’s good guys, all while learning to deal with her new life which has been totally turned upside down.

The Liberi and it’s various factions doesn’t read nearly as complicated as it did in the description I tried to write, because Nikki spends the entire novel talking about them and trying to figure out which is the lesser of two evils. In fact, Nikki spends a lot of time telling us things, like how she has a “bleeding heart,” how she’s jealous/not jealous of her perfect, older adopted sister, how every male around her is attractive. All of them. Even the ones that only make a token appearance to mention the god they descended from and then disappear totally, thus allowing the author to say “look! mythology!” I think that was the frustrating part of this book for me. It had several good ideas that were all mentioned but not developed. Characters would show up for two seconds, but we never learned anything about them and by the time they reappeared I had forgotten who they were. Maybe these characters and their backstories will be explored in more detail in later books. I hope so, because at the very least I want to know more about Blake, the half-sex-god.

Not bad for a first book in the series. Started slow, but by the end I was emotionally invested and didn’t want to put it down. I’m not dying for the next book, but I would like to read it eventually. 3 stars out of 5 and recommended for fans of urban fantasy and female heroines who don’t spend half the book sleeping with everyone. Happy reading!

-Branwen

 

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Bloodring by Faith Hunter

bloodring coverThe end of the world came, but the world carried on anyway. The seraphs came and brought with them plagues and destruction, and war between good and evil raged. Few humans survived, and those that did struggle to stay alive in this new ice age. One of those survivors is Thorn St. Croix, though even she is not quite human. Thorn is a neomage, a human-looking being who is able to tap and use the leftover creation energy to fuel her magic. She is one of the only neomages living outside an Enclave, and if she is caught she will be tortured and killed. She has been living in hiding for years, but when an unusual policeman shows up on her doorstep and accuses her of kidnapping her ex-husband, she must use her neomage abilities to find him, before The Darkness uses him to destroy the world.

This book was so very weird. And not the good kind of weird either, unfortunately. No matter how many times Thorn tried to explain it, I could never figure out how her magic–or any neomages magic–was supposed to work. The mix of magic and scripture/religion  didn’t make any sense. It was an interesting concept, but it didn’t work for me. Neither did the battle between good and evil. I have a hard time believing the seraphs were “good,” considering they spent a lot of their time killing humans and locking up mages, even though mages were as close to allies as they had. The demons were clearly evil, since they were black, ugly and out to kill everyone. But I was never able to understand their plan or how they were using magic, since only mages were supposed to be able to use creation magic, and it wouldn’t make sense if the evil demons could tap into creation energy left over from God. Ugh. I wanted it to make sense and it just didn’t.

I did like Thorn’s character, even though I couldn’t figure out exactly what she was. It’s easy to root for the underdog. Thorn wasn’t particularly smart though, always reacting instead of taking initiative. And her reaction weren’t always good one, like when she tried to get rid of her “mage-heat” (another strange thing I’ll get back to in a second) and instead made all the chickens in town horny. That was funny, but rather pointless. Thorn was always horny too, complaining about mage-heat and being so out of control she wanted to tear off her clothes and have sex with anything that moved no matter who was watching. She talked about this throughout the ENTIRE novel. I was so over hearing about her desperate need for sex. Gag.

I was very disappointed by this book. It had so much potential and it just fell flat. I won’t be continuing with this series. On to the next!

Happy reading,

-Branwen

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

lost gate coverDanny North is completely normal. Which in his family isn’t such a good thing. The rest of his family–parents, aunt, uncles, and cousins who all live at the North compound in Virginia–are mages. They are all that remains of the powerful North family of mages, families who have been locked out of their home planet of Westil since the Last Loki closed the Great Gate. They are still practicing their powers, and are on the lookout for a gatemage to be born into one of the remaining Families. A gatemage could reopen the Great Gate between Westil and Mittlegard, which would cause competition between the Families and could possible allow the drowthers–regular humans with no magical heritage or extraordinary powers–to become mages as well. When Danny discovers he is a gatemage, he must escape the family compound and learn how to use his powers while hiding from the Families; for if they find him, they will kill him immediately. Danny is the next Loki, and he needs to stay alive if he wants to make a Great Gate and reconnect the worlds of Westil and Mittlegard.

I recently read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (which I reviewed here!) and while I liked the science fiction aspect and could appreciate the writing, I didn’t particularly love it. I heard so many good things about Orson Scott Card (mostly from people who went “Gasp! What do you MEAN you didn’t like Ender’s Game?!?”)  that I wanted to give his writing another chance, so I picked a book that seemed completely different from the Ender universe. It certainly was different, but I still didn’t love the characters. There is something about the way Card writes teenage characters that I just don’t like, and I did not like Danny North. He was a trickster and a liar, so while he was well-written I just didn’t like the character. 

I did enjoy the Norse mythology. Typically stories like this use Greek mythology, since that tends to be the kind people are more familiar with, at least in my experience. That was refreshing. And now, for the SPOILER ALERT!!

Parts of the story take place in Westil itself, and center around a young gatemage named Wad who just spent centuries living in a sort of stasis inside a tree. I almost immediately figured out what Wad was the same person as the missing Loki, the last gatemage who stole the gates and disappeared. Wad, like what we learn to be typical behavior for a gatemage, is another trickster with his own agenda. Watching him grow up and figure out who he is and what happened to him was more interesting to me than Danny’s story. I sympathized with him and want to know what happens to him next. Even though I didn’t love Danny, I do like Wad/Loki enough to want to read the next novel and see what happens to him.

The world building in this novel was cool. I liked the magic  and different versions of mages. I didn’t quite understand the way some of the magic worked, but I didn’t let it bother me and just kept enjoying the “different-ness” (yes, I made up a word) of it. That was another reason I stuck with this book and am interested in reading the next one, even though I didn’t like Danny. This book redeemed Orson Scott Card for me. Still not my favorite author, and I don’t know if I will ever get back to the Ender universe, but I won’t be shocking people by saying I don’t like Orson Scott Card anymore.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Hunted by Kevin Hearne

Atticus, his wolfhound Oberon and world’s newest Druid Granuaile are back in Hunted, the sixth installment in the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.

hunted kevin hearne coverFor a two-thousand-year-old Druid, Atticus O’Sullivan is a pretty fast runner. Good thing, because he’s being chased by not one but two goddesses of the hunt—Artemis and Diana—for messing with one of their own. Dodging their slings and arrows, Atticus, Granuaile, and his wolfhound Oberon are making a mad dash across modern-day Europe to seek help from a friend of the Tuatha Dé Danann. His usual magical option of shifting planes is blocked, so instead of playing hide-and-seek, the game plan is . . . run like hell.

Crashing the pantheon marathon is the Norse god Loki. Killing Atticus is the only loose end he needs to tie up before unleashing Ragnarok—AKA the Apocalypse. Atticus and Granuaile have to outfox the Olympians and contain the god of mischief if they want to go on living—and still have a world to live in.

This book was everything I hoped it would be. It had intense action scenes, tons of mythology from all different cultures, and plenty of unexpected twists and turns. Atticus and Granuaile’s race across Europe is intense and well-written enough that even though it lasts for several chapters it doesn’t get boring. As they hurry towards Windsor Forest, where the Morrigan swears they will be protected, they encounter vampires, dark elves, and even human assassins who are all trying desperately to kill them. Along the way, Atticus and Granuaile try to determine who could be so desperate for their demise. Whoever it is has a ton of power and authority and doesn’t seem to mind that killing Atticus will result in Ragnarok. But before Atticus can figure out who the mystery person out to get him is, he has to stop the Olympians who are on his tail and make peace with those pantheons, so he can focus on stopping the end of the world.

There were many things I really liked about this novel. Parts of it were told from Granuaile’s perspective, which was great. I am always surprised by how serious Granuaile is when you’re inside her head. Listening to her and Oberon figure things out when they were briefly on their own was telling, and we learned a lot about Granuaile in that short time. The relationship between Granuaile and Atticus developed as well. I love that Atticus is continually surprised by how much he loves Granuaile. It’s very cute. I also love how Oberon is always picking on Atticus and Granuaile and telling them not to be too cute, or pretending to vomit. Reminds you that Atticus and Granuaile are still human despite their magic and how much time they spend with deities. Of course this book was full of humorous pop culture references, another one of my favorite parts of Hearne’s writing. Characters I love, mythology, an excellent story, and hilarious pop culture references that keep me laughing out loud makes this one of my favorite book series and Hearne one of my favorite authors.

I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t see more of Herne the Hunter in this book, especially since I identified him the moment the cover was released. What we did see of him was cool, and he was important in that Atticus kept talking about him. And of course the cover image was awesome! But I did wish Herne had a bigger role. Oh well, it didn’t take anything away from the story.

Many pieces of Atticus’s life are starting to come together in this novel, as he comes closer to knowing who is true allies are and who is after him. Of course we don’t learn too much, since there are many more books coming, but we learn enough to have some questions answered and  stay interested in what’s happening next. We also get to see almost all the characters we have met in the past. Atticus runs across Malina and her coven of Polish witches, the no-longer-friendly vampire Lief, the werewolf lawyer Hal, and even the thunder god Perun. I love that the fun “side characters” keep coming back, even if it’s only for a brief moment. This was an exciting story that sated my craving for Atticus and Oberon but still leaves me wanting more.

There were several goodies in the back of this book, the first being an author’s note telling us that if you visit www.kevinhearne.com and stop by the Goodies section, you can find a detailed color-coded Google map of Atticus, Oberon and Granuaile’s run through Europe with all the important stops marked. DO NOT look at the map until you read the book, or important plot points will be given away. But do check it out once you’ve read the book, because (like everything else Kevin Hearne does for his readers) it’s super cool. Also at the back of this book was the novella Two Ravens and One Crow, which falls between Tricked and Trapped and Hearne calls book 4.5. Events from the novella are referred to in both Trapped and Hunted, and it was great to finally read this part of Atticus’s story.

guilt ferretLastly, a note about guilt ferrets. Atticus talks about guilt ferrets all the time, which amuses me greatly and is a really good description for a guilty feeling. I used that expression in real life one time, I think around my mom, and was then stuck trying to explain what, exactly, a guilt ferret is. Which I failed at spectacularly, and was rewarded for my troubles by one of those wide-eyed-did-you-just-grow-a-head looks. Happily, Hearne did me the favor of defining guilt ferrets in his novella. Atticus is talking to the Morrigan, and the conversation goes thusly:

“What are guilt ferrets?” [said the Morrigan]

“They’re bastards. They cling to your neck and tickle and bite and generally make you miserable, which is a pretty good trick for a metaphor.” They were also impervious to logic–perhaps their most diabolical power.

So there ya go. When possible, avoid guilt ferrets.

There is no word yet on when the next Iron Druid novel will be released, or what it will be called or anything. So now we all get to wait in suspense to find out what happens to our favorite Druids and wolfhound next!

May Harmony find you,

-Branwen

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Rampant coverAstrid always thought that her mother’s stories detailing how she came from a long, famous line of unicorn hunters who defeated several evil, venomous, killer unicorns (who are now thankfully extinct) in their day were just that–stories. And then one night a small unicorn called a zhi finds her in the woods, attacks and almost kills her boyfriend. Hard to believe something is extinct when you watch it gore your boyfriend with it’s poison-dripping horn. Astrid’s mother is thrilled that she can finally embrace her destiny, and sends her off to the Cloisters in Rome, ancient home of the unicorn hunters, and where Astrid’s mother hopes she can be trained to fight this ancient evil. Astrid’s cousin Philippa and eventually a few other girls join her at the convent, and together the young girls try to understand who they are and what their new unicorn hunting jobs mean for them.

I desperately wanted to sit somewhere in public while reading this book in hopes someone would say “Gee, what is that book about?” And I could respond, “Killer unicorns!” Of course, if they reacted like my boyfriend who thought killer unicorns and teenaged virgins who hunted them was the stupidest thing he had ever heard, it would be less fun. But considering I typically read books about 150-pound people who turn into 270-pound werewolves, killer unicorns really wasn’t a stretch for me. I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would.

Killer unicorn

This is what I imagine Bucephalus looked like.

According to “unicorn history,” unicorns have been around and have been trouble ever since Alexander the Great, whose infamous mount Bucephalus was not just a spirited stallion, but actually a karkadann, the largest and most dangerous of all unicorns. It is only virginal young ladies who are direct descendants of Alexander the Great who have the special unicorn hunter abilities: a “sixth sense” for where unicorns are located, the ability to read their minds, enhanced speed and other senses and best of all, immunity to their poison. Why they have to be virgins is never explained to anyone-the girls or the reader. But I will say it was nice to read a Young Adult novel that for once said “It’s OK to not have sex constantly” rather than detailing magical, perfect, wonderful sex between 15-year-olds. * eye roll* (I suspect Peterfreund had some very strong opinions about teen sex, and it’s overuse in other YA lit. Not that I minded. I’m just speculating.) I loved the change in unicorn lore–not being portrayed as cute, friendly, rainbow-farting morons who just want to cuddle. Considering they are mythical creatures that don’t actually exist, I didn’t find anything wrong with them being portrayed as killers instead of docile cuties.

I liked Astrid a lot in this story, too. She was smart and snarky. I liked her from the moment she said, “I was far less interested in protecting my virtue than I was in not giving it up to a boy who couldn’t pass intermediate French.” I liked her scientific mind and that she didn’t just accept her “destiny,” wanting to change the way things had always been done. I found her reactions to her ridiculous circumstances to be realistic and relatively smart. I liked the character of her cousin Philippa, too. She was a nice balance to Astrid’s seriousness and she was much more outspoken about wanting things her way and not caring what anyone else thought.

I did wish we had more information about some of the supporting characters, like the young girls in the Convent. I kept getting them confused, and a few names popped up that I didn’t remember reading about until that moment. They seemed to disappear and reappear in the story at will, like Peterfreund wasn’t really sure what to do with them when they weren’t in conversation with the leading characters. I just found it a little strange. I also couldn’t figure out what the title had to do with the story. The cover was really cool though.

Overall a good story, a quick read (I read it in a little more than a day, granted I am on summer vacation and didn’t really do much else during that day) and it was a nice change from the high fantasy I had just finished the day before. If you like unicorns, go out and read Rampant.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

goddess test coverKate’s mother is dying, and her last request is to return to her childhood home of Eden, Michigan. So Kate drives from New York City to the backwoods of Michigan to fulfill her mother’s dying request, and try to figure out how she’s going to live without her. There, at a brand new high school, she quickly makes friends with James, an outcast, and Ava, the popular cheerleader type. She tries to keep a low profile and worry solely about her mother, but then she meets Henry. Henry claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld. After a prank-gone-wrong, Henry brings Ava back from the dead, and tells Kate he can keep her mother alive as well–all she has to do is live with him for six months, and pass seven tests while she is there. If she passes, she becomes Queen of the Underworld. If she fails, she dies, and so does the only other person she cares about.

First, let’s be clear. Despite “Hades” being a main character, this is NOT a book loaded with Greek mythology. There was actually very little mythology in it, for a book having “goddess” in the title, and a major Greek god as a main character. So if you’re looking for a book based on mythology, this is not the book for you. That being said, I still liked this story. I liked Kate’s character, and how she turned a tragic situation into something she could live with. She had to make some hard choices and be willing to make sacrifices beyond what your “average” senior in high school is expected to make. I felt her actions were believable and made sense. I thought the love story between Kate and Henry was cute and the kind that gave you a warm fuzzy feeling. I found myself rooting for them, even though I thought parts of the plot were cliched or silly. In this story, I thought they worked. Some parts of the story were predictable, but some were not. We were introduced to the character of James early in the story, but then he disappeared for awhile, and we are left with the feeling that he will be important in the next novel. I’m intrigued to see what happens next with him and Kate.

I didn’t like all the side characters in this book. I felt like Carter wanted them to be more important, but she never really developed them. Maybe she did in earlier drafts and their back stories were cut due to length, but I thought there were a LOT of side characters mentioned that we never really heard from again, and that was somewhat awkward. Also, the passage of time was a little confusing. A few days in September went by very slowly, then suddenly it was Christmas, and then even more suddenly it was March. The timeline in the second half of the book was especially confusing at times.

I’m interested to see where Carter goes with this series next. I thought this book would have been a nice stand alone novel, but she did leave enough questions to make me want to read more. Again, not a book to read for the mythology, but I like Kate and want to see what happens to her next.

Happy reading,

-Branwen