5 stars, fantasy

Transforation (Rai-Kirah #1)

Title: Transformation
Author: Carol Berg
Series: Rai-Kirah #1

Seyonne is a man waiting to die. He has been a slave for sixteen years, almost half his life, and has lost everything of meaning to him: his dignity, the people and homeland he loves, and the Warden’s power he used to defend an unsuspecting world from the ravages of demons. Seyonne has made peace with his fate. With strict self-discipline he forces himself to exist only in the present moment and to avoid the pain of hope or caring about anyone. But from the moment he is sold to the arrogant, careless Prince Aleksander, the heir to the Derzhi Empire, Seyonne’s uneasy peace begins to crumble. And when he discovers a demon lurking in the Derzhi court, he must find hope and strength in a most unlikely place…

Rating5star

No, my lord. It is your heart. Difficult as it may be to comprehend, there is a possibility you may have one.
Look at that blurb. And then at that cover. I know how this looks but this isn’t a highly problematic gay romance. It is a beautiful story but also one that’s probably not for everybody.
Slavery in fantasy-stories isn’t unusual but most books shy away from really touching the topic. It mostly happens far away to Other People. If it happens to our protagonists he either remained strong and resistant and honourable through the worst abuse or has the great luck to meet the one Nice Guy master who does not abuse the human being he owns for fun (even though everybody else in the story does).
Transformation doesn’t go that way. The first few chapters are not easy to read because some horrible things are done to Seyonne. (It’s not needlessly graphic but also doesn’t leave any doubts about how bad it is). And Aleksander does some of these horrible things. He’s a spoiled brat with a frightening amount of power who has never thought about the consequences of his actions.
He gets better.
And I’m buying his redemption arc. There is no long and meaningful conversation between him and Seyonne where he explains how sorry he is and how he realizes how horrible he’s been. There are only two or three short scenes where he says things that make it clear that his views have changed drastically. He also does a lot of things to make up for his behavior. (Yes, I know that threatening to kill people if Seyonne gets hurt is not a sensible or healthy thing to do but it is very delightful. And it’s not the only thing he does).
So yes, for me his ark worked but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people who see him at the beginning and don’t want to see anything more of him.
And since that book is about Aleksander, Seyonne and how they and their relationship changes over the course of it, you will only enjoy it if you buy the redemption. Sure, it’s a fantasy novel where the protagonists fight demons but that part is so closely linked to the characters that you will not enjoy it if you don’t like them.
So what I have just said in many words is that this is a very character-driven story and that I like the characters a lot. Is the book perfect? No, there are some pacing-issues towards the end. A lot happens on the last 100 pages. Actual action and revelations and you get barely time to comprehend all of it because there are already three more things happening simultaneously. At the very end, there is even something that I expected to be the sequel-hook but it gets resolved in 5 pages.
But…I don’t care. I still loved it because it shamelessly panders to preferences. A fantasy novel with a small cast of characters and focus on their relationship, mages, a world that isn’t just fantasy medieval Western Europe and even though it’s dark it never feels dark and gritty(TM) just for the sake of being dark and gritty.
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not a book

Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag

Found this one over at Maxxesbooktopia.

1. Best book series you’ve read so far in 2017?

I loved the Collegia Magica books by Carol Berg. It’s been a while since I was so enthralled in a world and loved the characters so much. Besides, I also really enjoyed KJ Charles Spectred Isle and will check out more of her.

2. Best sequel of 2017 so far?

If you ask for ‘Sequel that has been published in 2017’ I can’t answer because I haven’t read any. Though K.M. McKinley’s The City of Ice was published on December 27th, 2016 so I guess it almost counts and I enjoyed it and intend to read the next book so that qualifies. If you just ask for sequel I have read in 2017 then I have to point to the above question and say The Demon Prism, third Collegia Magica book.

3. New releases you haven’t read but want to?

That are already out? None to be honest. Unless you count approximately 1325 series I started reading and want to continue eventually.

4. Most anticipated release of the remainder of 2017?

That’s easy:

Ben Aaronovich – The Furthest Station because it’s another Peter Grant novel AND WHY DO I STILL HAVE TO WAIT SO LONG?

As well as Curtis Craddock – An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors because it sounds like The Three Musketeers In Space and I can never pass anything Musketeer-related.

5. Biggest disappointment?

Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom. I liked Six of Crows despite some of its faults and had hoped the sequel would improve but it didn’t.

6. Biggest surprise?

Stefan Lehnberg’s Durch Nacht und Wind. Goethe and Schiller solve a crime in a well written Holmes-style story. The dialogue is hilarious and it’s full of allusions to their works.

7. Favourite New Author (Debut or new to you)?

You might have noticed that I started binging on Carol Berg and have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

8. Newest fictional Crush?

I don’t really crush on fictional characters. I wouldn’t mind having a cup of tea and nice chat with any of the Collegia Magica characters (especially Anne or Portier) or Katriona from City of Ice.

9. Newest Favourite Character?

Over the course of Spectred Isle I grew very fond of Saul. And I’m not only saying this because I don’t want to mention Collegia Magica again. Though I loved Portier. And Illario.

10. Book that made you cry?

I didn’t cry but I sniffed a bit at the end of The Demon Prism.

11. Book that made you happy?

Shira Glassman’s Knit One Girl Two and Spectred Isle. Both were cute, funny and had lovely characters.

12. Favourite book to movie adaption?

I guess strictly speaking Lawrence of Arabia is an adaption? Because apart from that I only watched a really shitty French adaption of The King’s General and The Sign of the Musketeers which only had Musketeers in its title and very little to do with the book.

13. Favourite review you’ve written this year?

Spectred Isle was fun to write.

14. Most beautiful book you bought or received this year?

I assume we’re talking about the cover here since I already talked about best book? I found this very adorable:

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15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

None 😉 But I should reduce my tbr-pile (especially the physical books one),

 

5 stars, fantasy

The Demon Prism (Collegia Magica #3)

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Title: The Daemon Prism
Author
: Carol Berg
Series: Collegia Magica #3

Dante the necromancer is the most reviled man in Sabria, indicted by the king, the Temple, and the Camarilla Magica for crimes against the living and the dead. Blinded by his enemy’s cruel vengeance, Dante salves pain and bitterness by preparing his student, Anne de Vernase, to heal the tear in the Veil between life and death. 
When Anne abandons him to return to her family, Dante seeks refuge in a magical puzzle, a desperate soldier’s dream of an imprisoned enchantress and a faceted glass that can fulfill one’s uttermost desires. But the dream is a seductive trap that threatens to unleash the very cataclysm Dante fears. Haunted, desperate, the blind mage embarks on a journey into madness, ancient magic, and sacred mystery, only to confront the terrifying truth of his own destiny…

Rating5star

She raises grapes. I raise the dead.

If that quote doesn’t make you want to read the series I can’t help you…

The Spirit Lens and The Soul Mirror read like mysteries. Of course, there was magic and the mystery wasn’t simply ‘who killed him?’. It was ‘who is behind the conspiracy that aims to set off the magical equivalent of a nuclear bomb?’ but there were clues, red herrings, everything a good mystery has. The Demon Prism is more conventional epic fantasy. There is a problem, a bigger one than the magical nuclear bomb and our heroes have to stop it.

That doesn’t mean that it’s quite your typical ‘group on a journey to stop the big bad’ either. The characters are all at different places at the beginning of the book. Different things make them think something is wrong and set out on their journey. They meet others, loose them again and find somebody else. They don’t always know what has happened to those that aren’t with them which makes for some gut-wrenching reading. Character- and relationship-development had been a strength of the previous books and so there is no doubt about how much these people mean to one another. And them thinking the worst and grieving you just wanted to reach through the pages to give them a hug. (And a blanket. And cookies).

Though people who come to the epic fantasy for the big battles will be disappointed. Even though there are three powerful mages, a master swordsman and a really really powerful big bad there isn’t much battle action. You get to see much more of the fight with the big bad’s henchmen than of the actual boss battle. I didn’t mind because I knew the henchmen much better and wanted to see them getting their comeuppance. (On a side note: Berg is brilliant and writing characters you despise and then give them extremely satisfying ‘reality ensues’ endings).

Now for all my flailing (and crying), this book isn’t without fault. It drags a bit halfway through. Dante is imprisoned and the reader is stuck with him. Things become somewhat repetitive. But those bits also contained some of the most chilling scenes when we saw the effect it had on Dante. It still could have been condensed a bit more but I’m again complaining on a very high level.

So go and read all the Collegia Magica books. And then have feelings together with me.

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It’s funny because the grumpy necromancer learns that friendship is indeed magic.