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Throne of Glass!

01/01/2017 12:03

Hello!  After a long hiatus we are back (minus Nox who is busy at college)! 

    Today we are reviewing Sarah J Maas' book Throne of Glass.  Not sure why we waited so long to read this after hearing all the good buzz!  

    The star of the show is Celaena Sardothien who is an assassin forced into hard labor for her crimes.  Lucky for her the Prince, Dorian, gives her a chance to compete to be the new royal assassin against a group of thuggish and general ruffians who happen to be men!  If she wins she gains her freedom after four eyars in service to the crown (as an assassin).  There is some flirting wiht both her trainer, Captain Westfall, and the prince himself.  Trouble strikes when other competitors start dying!  

    I have to admit, I loved Celaena as a character.  She is tough but believable.  Love the series and look forward to reviewing the other books soon!

These images are NOT ours, I include them for review purposes all rights ot author/illustrator!

 

Far Forest Scrolls-A review of this long lost ancient text!

10/24/2013 12:03

 

farforestscrolls.com/home

        Summary:

The Far Forest Scrolls trilogy earns our NYT Fantasy Best Loved Award!

            Get ready for a riveting journey through mystical lands filled with Knights, dragons, sweeping battles, treachery, otherworldly creatures and magic.  This timeless and epic tale pulls you in and wrenches you though a roller coaster of emotions as friendship, courage, life and hope clash with betrayal, wrath, death and despair.  We are lucky this long lost tale was discovered in our lifetime!

 

We are grateful!

            All of us here at NYT Fantasy Books feel blessed to have stumbled upon Hunter Ross and his extraordinary discovery in the Far Forest region of England.  We were ecstatic and honored to be the first ones to review the tale contained within the Far Forest Scrolls.

Why you should read this trilogy:

            This timeless story is truly an epic tale!  We know the word “epic” is thrown around WAY too much.  However, the Far Forest Scrolls truly live up to the title.  The trilogy is action-packed with complex, yet relatable, characters flowing through magical lands filled with extraordinary creatures.

Not predictable:

The staff at NYT Fantasy Books usually complains that books are too predictable.  In most stories you clearly have “good” and “evil” separated into two distinct groups.  You usually know who is going to “win” and who will “lose.”  This trilogy will leave you questioning who is the hero and who is the antagonist.

With other stories it is usually obvious that most, if not all, of the “good guys” will survive until the end of the book.  No worries about any of that in the Far Forest Scrolls.  This ancient trilogy certainly bucks the trend of predictability.  Even major characters are not immune from death.  We loved this feature of the stories; it adds a volatile edge to the trilogy.  When there is a dangerous scene, you can’t be sure who will make it out alive.

What you (especially parents) need to know:

            Although some of the main characters are children, these books are appropriate for an older audience due to battle violence and complex themes.  This series is probably best for teens and up (parents would want to preview the violence contained within the books to see what they think about the trilogy for their child).  There is zero promiscuity, no tobacco use, a minuscule amount of adult drinking and no foul language.

Key Points:

            The mysterious author of this trilogy, A4, writes deliberately with lots of underlying messages and themes.  The pace of the trilogy is varied, with each book having a distinct and unique milieu.  Despite a large number of supporting characters flowing through the stories, you never feel lost with a stable cadre of main characters to anchor the narrative.

            My oldest son, Nox, became fascinated with the elaborate underlying themes of this trilogy.  There is an amazing amount of history and philosophy hidden within the writing and characters.  Also, the etymology is so vast it is mind blowing.  Once Nox started delving into the story he was amazed at what he found.  In fact, he started his own website (http://hiddenfarforestscrolls.blogspot.com/) with details of the so called, “story behind the story.”  We would like to thank Professor RC Novotny for not only translating these scrolls and organizing them into a trilogy, but for his help with Nox’s project.  His linguistic and worldly knowledge were invaluable.

            Depending on how much information you want, we divided the review for each of the books into three sections: Key Points, Highlights, and Detailed Review.

Review of: Book One: Dragon Battle

                        Key Points:

            *We meet the main characters and get an overview of the different citizens of Verngaurd.

            *We experience the Tournament of Flags.

            *There is a whisper introducing the idea of the prophecy and the Chosen One.

                        Highlights: Book One introduces us to the Knights and squires and allows us a glimpse of their lives while investing us in the characters and their distinct personalities.  Sprinkled generously throughout the first book are moments foreshadowing the death to come.  A fantastical medieval “olympics,” the Tournament of Flags, is rousing and entertaining.  The deep conflicts dividing the various nations of Verngaurd are revealed.

Detailed Review:

Book One: Dragon Battle

            The trilogy opens with the mysterious death of the parents of three young siblings.  The recently orphaned children will go on to become the main characters of the story: Bellae and her twin siblings: Gimelli and Jumeaux (you will have to wait until the very end of Book Three to discover what really happened to their parents and why)!

            The three children go on to become squires to a vanishing breed of warriors, the Knights.  As the story begins the Knights have lost an enormous amount of power and prestige at the hands of their enemies, the Dark Warriors, and their former allies, the Proliate.  The world seems on the edge of a steep, self-destructive, cliff.  Only an ancient prophecy seems to offer any hope for the future.

            Book one serves as an introduction to the diverse inhabitants of Verngaurd, with a special focus on the Knights, the squires, and their way of life.  We learn of Bellae’s unique gift, communicating with animals, and see how it has alienated her from many of the other squires.  Her best friend is fellow outcast, Lontas.  He is a squire who loves to read more than breathe.  The opposite personalities of Bellae’s twin siblings are also revealed.  Jumeaux, makes up for his physical weakness and insecurity by spreading out anger and sarcasm like dysfunctional peacock feathers.  Gimelli is kind and full of life, spreading her sunny disposition wherever she travels.

            Just when we start to get comfortable with their lives behind the strong walls of the Knight’s Castle Liberum, the three siblings head out with a small band of Knights and other squires to the Tournament of Flags.  Along the way the true horrors happening in the countryside are recognized.  However, the tournament itself is full of pageantry and awesome martial competitions.

            Throughout the book we learn of the evil forces stirring within the world of Verngaurd.  Someone, or something, is tearing apart the countries of Verngaurd from within by getting them to bicker and fight amongst themselves (again, you have to wait until the end to find out what is really going on).

            One of the main characters loses their life during the Tournament.  This tragedy seems to bring Verngaurd together.  However, catastrophe strikes, and Book One ends with a cliffhanger.

Review of: Book Two: Battle of Trepas

                        Key Points:

            *The first step in the ancient prophecy, and the identity of the Chosen One, are revealed.

            *Massive battles abound as Verngaurd falls into a self-destructive Civil War.

                        Highlights: Lots of battles fill the pages of Book Two as Verngaurd starts to implode.  The leaders let themselves get caught up in hatred and revenge, which blinds them to the manipulation shaping their actions.  That said, we really get to know the various countries of Verngaurd and you find yourself liking them all.  There is even more character development and we finally have our band of heroes (the League of Truth).  These young champions set out on their quest to save the world by finding the source of all magic, the Macht or Power Crystals.

Detailed Review:

Book Two: Battle of Trepas

            The book opens with the unveiling of what happened at the end of Book One-a massacre of innocents.  The Elves of Creber and Northern Dwarves claim the Dark Warriors and their leader, the evil White Wizard, framed them for the slaughter.  However, the other inhabitants of Verngaurd do not believe their story and we see old tensions flaring and the makings of a civil war heating up.

            Perhaps one of our favorite parts of the trilogy is being immersed in the world of the Elves of Creber and their beloved forest.  However, the calm is short lived.  The squires are separated from the Knights and scattered around Verngaurd while absolutely ferocious and blood splattering battles rage across the land.  On one side are the Allies; they are led by the Knights, Elves of Creber and Northern Dwarves with their dragons.  The devout Proliate lead the Confederacy.

            Outnumbered around two to one, Friar Pallium, leader of the Knights, resorts to deception in order to even out the odds for the Allies.  The result is a series of brutal clashes.  If you are a fan of blood and guts, you will really enjoy Book Two.  There are some innovative battle scenes, but the reader will be left questioning the value and cost of the Knight’s underhanded techniques.  I think the author plays both sides of the argument well (the argument of whether it was all right for the Knights to resort to deception or not).  Friar even gives a speech about his motivation and reasoning for using the strategies he did.

            While the battles are a focal point, there is plenty of excitement and humor on the squire front.  As a fan of philosophy, I enjoyed the scene when Bellae met up with the blue Kirvella dragons.  The squires walk in to find the blue dragons embroiled in a passionate discussion of Plato and some of his work. 

            We also get to learn more about the Proliate and discover they are not mindless brutes.  There is a hilarious scene with one of the squires and a princess from the northern country of Jaa!

            Another highlight is meeting the Fairies and Sprites from the magical world of Cappadocia.  We learn the identity of the Chosen One who will fulfill the prophecy and rid the world of evil.  The group of companions who will assist the Chosen One is clarified.  They are collectively known as the League of Truth and they finally discover their mission, to collect five pairs of magic Power Crystals, the Macht Crystals, and save the world.  The quest begins just as Book Two comes to a close.

Review of: Book Three: The Quest

                        Key Points:

            *The League of Truth’s quest to solve the riddles guarding the source of magic (the Macht or Power Crystals) dominates this book.

            *Battles continue up until the very end when we finally discover what the prophecy was talking about.

                        Highlights: Book Three is mainly about the quest for the five pairs of Power Crystals.  To acquire each set of crystals the League of Truth must solve riddles, overcome traps, and face strange guardians.  Verngaurd is on the verge of complete implosion as their civil war has shredded their armies, and hence their ability to fight off the evil White Wizard and his hordes of Dark Warriors.  All the frayed and unanswered threads that have been itching your brain throughout the trilogy are finally tied up as the shocking mysteries are revealed.

Detailed Review:

Book Three: The Quest

            Book Three has a quick pace with lots of fresh scenery as the League of Truth journeys on their quest to solve the prophecy.  The quest was my personal favorite of the three books.

            The Chosen One and the League of Truth find themselves in big trouble on their first adventure to uncover the source of magic, the Power Crystals.  They are disorientated and wandering in the brutally hot Desert of Calor with death hovering nearby.  Book Three is dominated by the superb quest for the Power Crystals (or Macht Crystals).  To acquire each pair of crystals they must solve a series of riddles, overcome obstacles, and face fascinating creatures known as the Guardians.

            The poems and rhymes protecting the Power Crystals are well written and riveting.  Each one has a specific theme and two opposing forces.  The “Seeing” Crystals have challenges involving perception and deception.  The others include: the Strength Crystals (power and weakness), the Time Crystals (life and death), Sacrifice Crystals (love and hate), and the Wisdom Crystals (knowledge and ignorance).

            The odyssey for the crystals is made that much more difficult as all of Verngaurd is embroiled in a massive and catastrophic series of battles.  I don’t want to give too much away, but major familiar places and characters will fall.  Our first glimpse of Ifrean and a deeper understanding of the motivation of the Dark Warriors is outlined.  I think one of the powerful elements of this trilogy is how the author makes a point to have the reader get to know the different countries, its people and culture, and the underlying motivation for their actions (i.e. you get a chance to “walk in their shoes” so to speak).  Once you find out more about each country and its back-story it becomes increasingly harder to apply generic labels like “good guys” or “bad guys.”

            The ending caught even this grizzled reader by surprise.  Those responsible for manipulating both Verngaurd and Ifrean are revealed and there are two powerful ending scenes.  The final “showdown” is full of bombshells and I honestly had no idea what they were going to do with the Power Crystals at the end.  To give details would be to spoil it.

            So take the plunge!  Enjoy the mystical ride through the Far Forest Scrolls.

We are proud to bestow the Far Forest Scrolls with a NYT Fantasy Best Loved Award!

All images used with direct permission from Hunter Ross and the Far Forest Scrolls website.  farforestscrolls.com/home

The Secret Zoo

11/02/2012 23:49

 

The “Adventure Scouts” live up to their title in this book by Bryan Chick.  Megan goes missing and her brother Noah, along with his friends, Ella and Richie, are forced to try and find her with only a mysterious clue left by a blue bird.

The scouts soon find portals in the nearby Clarksville City Zoo that lead into the dazzling Secret Zoo, a world filled with magical animals and constant, page turning, adventure.  They must team up with the animals and follow the clues towards Megan as they explore this detailed and vivid world.  The story flows beautifully through the City of Species with its synergistic extraordinary animals and humans, reality, and the Dark Lands inhabited by sasquatch.

This is the first book in the series and all of the kids loved it.  We stumbled across this book at a friends house and they offered to let us borrow it.  Within a few days they had devoured it and had me searching for the others in the series.  We are hooked.  I know this review is short, but we don't want any spoilers in this one.

Narnia!!! A review of this beloved series by C.S. Lewis

10/29/2012 10:58

 

As always, just the opinions of myself and my family-the Young-Thomas clan.  I am not a teacher or child psychologist.  I didn’t write any of these books and don’t claim to be an expert, just one dad/family giving advice to others for fun-don’t take this to be anything else!  Have fun and read!

AGE? This book series is probably best suited for the seven year old to eleven year old crowd, although you will have to watch that.  A sensitive seven year old might not handle the some of the gorier scenes and some ten and eleven year olds will be bored out of their minds.  Summary: best ages: 8-9 years old  Range: 7-11 years old (of course, many adults love to read these as well.  We are just suggesting an age to get them started with the series).

RATING? All three of my kids happened to love these books.  Some critic it as too heavy on the Christian themes, I think if you are Christian and want to explain the analogies it will likely make sense to your kids.  If you are not Christian I would say 99.9% of kids would not pick up on any of these themes on their own unless they already had a strong Christian upbringing (the exception is The Last Battle-see that review below).

The one obvious tie in is when Santa Claus shows up-although this has turned into a secular symbol, and could be overlooked if you wanted to.  So, I think this issue is not a determining factor (make it want you want, i.e. you can talk about it or just leave it as a fantasy story).

The overall series gets 4 1/2 out of 5 stars for its durability across generations and is a great launching pad into other fantasy books.  Please see summaries below for individual book ratings!

 

 

I fell in love with this series as a child, the Narnia series by Clive Staples Lewis (better known as C.S. Lewis or Jack Lewis to his friends) was a favorite in our house and I loved rereading them with each of my three children.  The first question you have to answer is what order do you want to read the books?  Should be simple right?  Unfortunately, not in the slightest.  You have three basic choices: chronological (i.e. this reading follows the time line of events in the world of Narnia); order of publication (i.e. read them as they were originally published); or you could read them in the order C.S. Lewis finished them.

You will hear as many opinions as people you ask.  Before I get in to the details, let me give you my two cents.  If your child is a huge fantasy fan, just pick one of the above and they will be happy.  My three loved reading them in chronological order.  If your child is not a fantasy fan, or you are not sure, read the first three books published: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (published 1950), Prince Caspian (1951), and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952).

Why?  Well, they are undoubtably the most famous and likely to hold your child’s attention.  If your kids love the stories, then the vast majority of children will not be confused by going back and reading the rest of the series.

Now, to the meat of the problem.  I find it most fitting to list them in one of three of ways:  The first is the chronological order of the story (i.e the timeline flows sequentially through them in this order).

  1. The Magician’s Nephew
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  3. The Horse and His Boy
  4. Prince Caspian
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Last Battle

The second way to look at the books on Narnia is order of original publication:

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  2. Prince Caspian
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  4. The Silver Chair
  5. The Horse and His Boy
  6. The Magician’s Nephew
  7. The Last Battle

The third way to think about reading this series is order they were completed (I must say, not the most practical way to go, but would be perhaps interesting to do as a re-read).  Dates in italics are when he finished them.

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe-03/1949
  2. Prince Caspian-12/1949
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader-02/1950
  4. The Horse and His Boy-07/1950
  5. The Silver Chair-03/1951
  6. The Last Battle-03/1953
  7. The Magician’s Nephew-02/1954

 

 

Summary of the Books:

1.  The Magician’s Nephew: this book starts us off with two children in 1900 (Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer).  What is fun, is that Digory is the Professor in the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!  It is said that this novel took Lewis the longest to write (some six years).  This book goes back and describes the origins of Narnia and answers the perplexing question of how a lamp post ended up in the middle of the Narnian forest!  The British school children meet the evil Queen Jadis and Aslan himself in this story that tells how it all began!  Rating: 4 1/2 stars

2.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: four Pevensie siblings are sent to the countryside to avoid the aerial bombings of WW II.  Peter, Susan, Edmund, and little Lucy end up at Professor Kirke’s estate and find the portal into Narnia (the wardrobe).  Edmund is seduced by the White Witch, but ultimately they forgive his actions and the four children help Aslan establish the “golden age” of Narnia and defeat the witch.  There are some intense moments when Aslan is made to suffer at the hands of the White Witch and her evil minions.  Rating: 5 stars

3.  The Horse and His Boy: I would say this was not only mine, but my children’s least favorite book of the series.  We thought the first half of the book tended to drag on, but it really picks up at the end.  Perhaps the disagreement in rating is because the focus is a boy, Shasta, who is basically a slave in the Kingdom of Calorman.  Perhaps it is the title.  I know we found it odd that it comes across that the horse is the owner of the boy.  Anyway, Shasta ends up with two talking horses (Bree and Hwin) and a young princess Aravis.  The group will meet many perils on their quest for freedom and to help avert Calorman from taking over Narnia.  Rating 3 1/2 stars (note two of my kids voted four and one a two.  I voted 3 1/2 so we settled on this).

4.  Prince Caspian: Once again the Pevensie’s are drawn back to Narnia.  This time it is in response to hunted Prince Caspian’s plea for help in the form of Susan’s old magical horn.  It is distressing for them to discover their kingdom has been swallowed by time and vegetation and Narnia is ruled by the villian, Miraz.  The children’s egos battle it out as they try to save Narnia once again!  Rating: 4 1/2 stars.

5.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: This time only Edmund and Lucy get to return to Narnia to help Prince Caspian on his journey across the sea to find the seven lost lords of Narnia.  They are joined by their always entertaining, and often annoying, cousin Eustace.  This is my oldest son’s favorite book.  I read it with him twice and he read it another two or three times!  There is peril, mystery, and high adventure!  Plus, who doesn’t like a story with a dragon?  Rating 5 stars plus the NYT best loved/seller award (NYT stands for the Neville Young-Thomas award-it has nothing to do with the paper-not that anyone would confuse us!)

6.The Silver Chair: The second most derisive book in the series according the my kids.  Two of them loved it, one just liked it.  I think, like The Horse and His Boy, it is sometimes hard to read a Narnian tale without the beloved Pevensie children!  Here we get to see Eustace with one of his school mates, Jill Pole enter Narnia.  Their quest is to find the long lost son of Prince Caspian (Prince Rilian).  I happen to love the character of Puddleglum (the Marsh-Wiggle) who helps them on their quest and the giants are wonderful and very colorful as well!  Rating 4 1/2 stars

7.The Last Battle: The character we met in The Silver Chair, Jill Pole, is back with Eustace as we see the end of Narnia.  The Calorman god Tash is pitted against Narnia’s Aslan and its last King Tirian.  This somewhat dark series finale has the odd couple of Shift (an ape) and a dim-witted Donkey Puzzle finding a lion skin and trying to pass Puzzle off as Aslan himself.  Anyway, this book has many passages that come across as racist towards non-Caucasians and ends somewhat suddenly when Aslan comes in to divide the good and the bad up.  Of all the books, this has the strongest religious overtones and along with the racist quality bring the rating down for our family.  Despite some nice reunions, this book has many dark themes.  Rating: 3 stars.

references: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Narnia, Magic our cat, Rin and Tin our dogs!

 

First blog

10/26/2012 04:34

Our new blog has been launched today. Stay focused on it and we will try to keep you informed. You can read new posts on this blog via the RSS feed.

http://farforestscrolls.com/