Monday, December 31, 2018

Review: Mistress of Legend by Nicole Evelina

Mistress of Legend (Guinevere's Tale, Book #3)
by Nicole Evelina
Release Date: September 15th 2018
2018 Lawson Gartner Publishing
Kindle Edition; 407 Pages
ISBN: 978-0996763257
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Having escaped death at the stake, Guinevere longs to live a peaceful life in Brittany with Lancelot, but the threat of Arthur’s wrath quickly separates the lovers. Guinevere finds herself back in Camelot, but it is not the peaceful capital she once knew; the loyalty of the people is divided over Arthur’s role in her death sentence. When war draws Arthur away from Britain, Mordred is named acting king. With Morgan at his side and a Saxon in his bed, Mordred’s thirst for power becomes his undoing and the cause of Guinevere’s greatest heartache.

In the wake of the deadly battle that leaves the country in civil war, Guinevere’s power as the former queen is sought by everyone who seeks to ascend the throne. Heartbroken and refusing to take sides in the conflict, she flees north to her mother’s Votadini homeland, where she is at long last reunited with Lancelot. The quiet life she desires is just beginning when warring tribal factions once again thrust her into an unexpected position of power. Now charged with ending an invasion that could bring an end to the Votadini tribe and put the whole island in the hands of the Saxons, Guinevere must draw upon decades of experience to try to save the people she loves and is sworn to protect.

My Thoughts
Misress of Legend was a fitting finale for an amazing series.   Having grown up on tales of Arthur and Guinevere, I was always looking for something that I thought reflected the time period a bit better rather than the fantastical stories I grew up with as a kid.  This trilogy fit that bill nicely as neither Arthur or Guinevere were portrayed as mighty heroes, having many faults which caused huge problems in their personal relationships as well as with their subjects as High King and High Queen.  Lush and vividly told, the author has a way of transporting you to this time-period, making you realize how bloody and dangerous it actually was, and no one was safe from the political machinations surrounding everyone.  

I have always been a huge fan of Guinevere, and even as a child eschewed the portrait of her as docile and meek.  And having studied history as university, I just couldn't imagine someone sitting a throne for all these years during this time period not to have been somewhat mighty and dominant herself so I always imagined her as a type of warrior queen.  Nobody really knows exactly what she was like, but knowing how difficult things were during this time period, I always thought she would have to be quite fierce herself in order to survive.  Nicole Evelina's description of her was wonderful, and I loved her character and personality a lot, despite the flaws; they just made her seem more human.  In this novel, Guinevere was fighting for her life after Arthur's death, having been stripped of everything in the previous novel.  Despite her desire for peace and to live a long life with Lancelot, that didn't seem to be in the cards as the world around her erupted at the death of both Arthur and his heir, Mordred.  I loved how she took strength from those around her as she faced disappointment after disappointment, facing death on a few occasions, fighting bravely for everything she held dear, letting nothing stop her.  To me, she really came into her own in this book, growing into a mature and determined woman, facing adversity with a will of iron as she was once against thrust into a leadership role she did not want but was her destiny to have.  What I did have trouble with from time to time was her passivity when it came to claiming her land and her titles, which were hers by right of birth.  I just couldn't understand why she gave up so easily when confronted over things that were rightfully hers and didn't fight for them, sometimes allowing herself to be manipulated by others.  It just didn't seem to mesh with her personality and her strength and was a bit jarring from time to time.  

The author does an amazing job bring to life the people and places of this time period, giving us new twists on their stories, and making us think of the possibilities that could have happened after Arthur's death.  There is also a whole wealth of new characters (whom she has hinted might have their own stories to tell) and I definitely enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the time period and its brutal history.  These were certainly chaotic times and I thought the author did a great job bringing all of that chaos to light without overwhelming the story.  

What the author has really done though, is given us back Guinevere, a figure almost overlooked in history.  As a child reading these stories, I wanted to learn more about her and was often disappointed at the way she was treated and demeaned which didn't feel right to me.  These novels have shown us a strong and powerful woman who fought hard for everything she believed in and is someone in whom young girls can believe.  

Mistress of Legend is my favourite book of the trilogy although all of the books were great.  This one though, was about her and how she really came into her own.  Although popular fiction has Guinevere entering a convent after Arthur died, I never could quite believe it myself so I loved this retelling very much.  The author has really given Guinevere back her voice and the tale is not just a retelling but a very new slant on the possibilities of Guinevere and Arthur's life at Camelot as well as what came before and after.   
Sunday, December 9, 2018

Review: Shadow of the Exile by Mitchell Hogan

Shadow of the Exile (The Infernal Guardian, Book 1)
by Mitchell Hogan
Release Date: October 9th 2018
2018 47North
Kindle Edition; 491 Pages
ISBN: 978-1503903227
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Outcast and exiled, the demon Tarrik Nal-Valim has long been forgotten by the world of humans. At least, so he thinks.

But when he is summoned as a last resort by a desperate sorcerer, it seems as though his past has caught up with him. Because the sorcerer is Serenity “Ren” Branwen, the daughter of Tarrik’s former master—and friend. Though she seems cold, driven, and ruthless, Tarrik can tell that Ren has her back against the wall, and he is compelled by ferocious powers to obey her.

As their world sinks into a terrifying maelstrom of murder, intrigue, and insurrection, Tarrik is forced to serve Ren’s arcane designs; plans that, if they were to succeed, would resurrect unimaginable power, and could destroy Tarrik’s entire race.

My Thoughts

Shadow of the Exile was an action-packed and fun novel from an author who is quickly becoming one of my favourites on the fantasy scene.  A bit snarky with a little bit of the popular grimdark thrown in without being a grimdark novel, this one kept me up much later than I should have been up but it was so much fun to read.  And best of all, no love triangle in sight!!!

Tarrick is an exiled demon trying to find his way back into the demon world when he is suddenly summoned by a desperate sorcerer who just happens to be the daughter of his previous master.  Tarrick was definitely not happy to be summoned, and definitely not happy to learn that his previous master, with whom he actually developed a friendship, had written down some of the things he promised never to reveal, ever.  I loved Tarrick's character; he was so much fun to follow in this novel as he spent half the book saving Ren's life and half trying to figure out how to kill her so he could return to the demon world.  With a constantly evolving character (man, the character development for his character was sooo good), Tarrick had to figure out what was safe for him and what was going on in this war between sorcerers.  What he did discover made even his demon blood run cold.  This shift between him and Ren as enemies to him and Ren fighting together was so subtle and I enjoyed following their partnership throughout the book.  It would have devastated me if their relationship had turned into a love relationship as it just didn't fit the tone of the book, at least for now.  Maybe later.  

I wasn't overly sympathetic to Ren at the beginning, but having read some of this author's other work, I understood how he wrote and I was willing to be patient.  That patience definitely won as Ren's backstory was slowly revealed and while you really had to read between the lines, I am so glad it was done this way as her story was pretty horrific.  I definitely became a fan of hers towards the end.  It made their relationship so much more interesting throughout the book and I loved the give and take that happened.  Both Tarrick and Ren were so interesting as characters and I enjoyed them both.

The plot moved quickly from event to event but what I really enjoyed was the well-thought out magic system.  It wasn't in your face and a lot was explained as you read along but I enjoyed it and thought it was kind of neat.  I have always enjoyed the way this author wrote and this book was no different; he has a way of drawing you in and I definitely stayed up way too late finishing this book.  There were lots of witty and snarky moments and I enjoyed them as much as the fight and magic scenes.  

Shadow of the Exile was a pleasure to read and I am so happy to learn there will be a sequel, Dawn of the Exile, releasing March 19th 2019.  Tarrick and Ren had an interesting relationship and I enjoyed how we only hear Tarrick's thoughts about the events as the book was written from his point of view which made it even more interesting.   Full of interesting details with a fascinating magic system, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interesting in fantasy with magic and demons.