Mini-Reviews: Series Edition

Once again, after reading a host of books that I loved but didn’t have time to review, it’s time to throw them all together into a mini-review post!  Since this one contains books dominated by fantasy, this is the fantasy edition.  All reviews will be spoiler free, followed by three things I learned from that book in particular.  Even if you haven’t read the books, it’s safe to read.  Our three books today will be The Demon King, by Cinda Williams Chima; The Runaway King, by Jennifer A. Nielsen; and Found, by Sarah Prineas.

First, The Demon King.  The review for this book will serve as the review for the Seven Realms series, because I devoured them as if they were one book.  I have to say, I liked this a whole lot more than I expected to.  Sometime last year I read Chima’s Heir Chronicles.  I found those books pretty good, but somehow I didn’t expect these ones to be quite the same.  And really, they weren’t.  The world was amazing.  The characters were lively.  The writing, though it had a few oddities here and there, carried the story smoothly.  I enjoyed the first book so much that the next time I was at the library, I got the next three.

The only problem I had continuously through the series was with the romance.  I prefer romance as a subplot.  I don’t mind if it’s there, I don’t mind if it affects the motives or the emotion of the story, but I don’t want romance to be the main thing that interests me in the story.  It should be a subplot, not the plot.  Perhaps I’m saying this too strongly, because the series did have a plot separate from the romance, but it was sometimes difficult to see through all the kissing.

Things I learned:

  • Keep the romance in the background if possible.  Don’t treat it as the main attraction unless your genre demands it (paranormal romance, romance, whatever).
  • Speaking of structure, make sure things start happening to propel you toward the low point just as the events from the midpoint start dying down.  The midpoint should be big and important, but it will die down eventually.  When it does, start making things go wrong for the low point, because if you don’t you get a sagging second act.
  • Make sure you know how you’re going to introduce the history of your world.  This book used the old man in the wilderness technique to give backstory, but it worked.  Why?  Because the main character was in conflict with him.  The main character knew his world’s history one way, but the old man was telling his version of the truth– which one to believe?  It was a pretty good way to make things seem more difficult.

And now for The Runaway King.  I listened the first book in this trilogy a few months ago in audiobook format, and although I didn’t review it here, it was extremely good.  I enjoyed the characters, the plot, and all the conflicts coming from every side.  It had a stand-alone plot that still made it clear the story wasn’t done– akin to the ending of Iron Man.  I was eager to read this sequel.  It didn’t disappoint me.

It came up with another stand-alone plot, exploring new parts of this medieval world and uncovering forgotten histories.  The stakes grew ever higher as the story progressed, and at a few points I was sure the main character would have to be rescued.  But, against all odds, he managed to pull off what could probably be described as a heist.  It was a fun book.

Things I learned:

  • Stand-alones are awesome, especially serial stand-alones such as this.
  • Make sure your explanations make sense.  Although Nielsen is a master of vague explanations, the ending of this book was a little weird.  After much thought, I managed to figure out what they were talking about, but it was a little too vague for me.  Remember– don’t talk down to your readers, but don’t assume omniscience.
  • Know your plot twists.  By all means, make it difficult for the main character by giving them injuries, but don’t make it sickening.  There were a couple twists that just seemed far too painful.  At least it all worked out in the end, though.  So the point is, don’t make your stories too dark or too painful.

And lastly, Found.  This is the third book in the Magic Thief trilogy by Sarah Prineas, the first book of which I reviewed in the Dystopian Edition of Mini-Reviews.  I enjoyed the first book, and the second and third books did not disappoint.  I enjoyed the world, the characters, the magic.  I can’t help but compare this series to Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series, because I think they were meant to be compared.  I liked this trilogy better than Septimus Heap, mostly for the style.  The third-person omniscient in Septimus Heap kept me detached from the characters, but the style in the Magic Thief kept me involved with them.  In fact, I loved the style so much I unashamedly copied it for Arson.

Things I learned:

  • Introverts are great conversationalists inside their heads.  I should know this by now.
  • Confidence through the narrative wrecks suspense even worse than confidence through actions.  You can act confident and be scared stiff inside, but to be scared stiff on the outside and confident inside… it doesn’t work so well.  Be careful with that.
  • Don’t waste too much time between reading the book and thinking up the things you’ve learned from it, because it really doesn’t help matters.

That’s that.  I hope you enjoyed this edition of Mini-Reviews.  If you’ve read the books, I hope I’ve represented them well– if you haven’t, I hope you decide to go read them.  They’re all excellent.


39 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: Series Edition

  1. I don’t know if I want to read The Runaway King or not. I read the first one and I honestly thought it was too violent for my tastes. But the injuries point you brought up… I maybe should read this so I know how not to do it. I don’t often do my characters in, but I have been known to injure them and make them sick to the point that I probably should’ve had a few deaths. Not the Drake Elliot series, by the way. A series I used to write.

      1. It was a shock and it set the scene for the rest of the book. I’m warming up to violence a bit, but when I read that it was too much at the time.

  2. I’ve wanted to read The Demon King for a long time, and I keep seeing The False Prince at the library, so I think I’ll read them both.
    Both Lost and Found have been sitting on my shelf for months now, just begging to be read, and I’ve been ignoring them. Maybe I’ll finally get around to reading them, too.

    1. The Magic Thief trilogy seems to me like a diversion more than serious reading. Not that any fiction or fantasy is serious reading, but fantasies like The Demon King and The False Prince feel real. The Magic Thief seems lighthearted, like an animated movie. If you’re bored, go for it– it’ll do the trick. If you’re looking for a “serious” fantasy, I suggest something else.

  3. Great reviews, Liam! Although I did kind of convulse because almost all the Things You Learned are things that haunt my writing-related nightmares 😛

  4. Oh, I own The Demon King, but I haven’t read it yet. *Bumps it up a few places on the to-read list.* I hoped you’d write a review when I saw you were reading it on Goodreads.

    I am in awe of how fast you read. Since you recommended Mistborn, that series is all I’ve read.

    1. There’s a longer review of each book on GoodReads, if you want to read it.

      With the Seven Realms series, I read almost a book a day– some days I would stay up past midnight to finish the book. They were really good. But yes, I was reading a lot.

      1. Just read the Goodreads review. Sounds great. I’m going to do a big reading marathon once I finish my second draft (which, given the giant plot twist I thought up this afternoon, might take longer than expected,) and this’ll be on my list.

  5. Besides the above books, I was looking at your new little Goodreads widget and saw that you got your hands on Pendragon. Three stars, eh? I can’t say I blame you. That series and I just never clicked. Probably because I never did like the main character.

    What did you think of it?

    1. Oh, that was a while ago. I just went through rating them badly because I didn’t like them then and I didn’t like them in retrospect. So no, I didn’t like them.

      The main character was a jerk. The side characters had no life. The villain wasn’t evil and the worlds, though imaginative, were described badly. I detested the storytelling style, for though I don’t always dislike journals, this one was just formatted badly and just… in general, badly done. The only one I liked was the third one, the Never War. It had some interesting ideas about time threads. Other than that, I have nothing good to say.

      1. I have finally found someone who finally shares my opinion on my books! Huzzah! A lot of other people I talk to seem to really like the books, but quite honestly there wasn’t a lot to like about the books. The idea of having the characters just reading journals doesn’t create suspense. We already know that the MC is alive since the journals are there, so there’s nothing that keeps us on the edge of our seats.

        While we’re on the topic of books, have you read Reckless by Cornelia Funke? I just recently got my hands on the next book (in what I assume is going to be a trilogy), Fearless.

      2. I have read both Reckless and Fearless. They’re more YA-geared than her other books, even more than Inkheart, but they’re dark and lovely and amazing. I love them.

      3. Agreed! I really love that she has chapters from the POV of the villain in the story. It adds something kind of cool to the book. There’s not many authors that can do that and still keep us intrigued. It was almost like she was painting the villain in a different light so we saw them as the hero.

      4. That, in fact, is a good example of the concept I described in my recent post “This Character… I Like It!” Funke is very good at that. Interestingly enough, she does it perfectly while Eoin Colfer fails when he tries to do the same thing. There’s something there, but I can’t put a finger on it.

      5. Funke just has a certain writing style that allows her to be good at such things. Colfer on the other hand doesn’t quite have what it takes. I gave up on Artemis Fowl after book one, but that was in the case of me disliking the characters, particularly Artemis.

      6. As morbid as he is, he and I somewhat think alike. I accidentally wrote a depressing poem that nearly made my peer editor cry. Oops. I don’t think there’s a rule for how long it should be, but I don’t think I’m allowed less than 100 pages-ish. (That may be true, but you did try writing a haiku once.)

  6. If I may cut in, you could try Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight, translated by Tolkien. It’s in poetry form, it’s technically British literature, and my copy is 100 pages. It also has Pearl and Sir Orfeo in it, neither of which I have read, admittedly. But the Sir Gawaine part is 100 pages. Tolkien also wrote The Fall of Arthur, which is in poetry form. I haven’t read it yet, though, so I can’t tell you about anything else, but it is fairly new, so you might be able to find it.
    Another thought: will they let you read Shakespeare? That’s in iambic pentameter. Or there’s Beowulf, if you can find a modern translation.

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