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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The 6th Extinction by James Rollins (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order The 6th Extinction HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Judas Strain
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Last Oracle
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Doomsday Key
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Devil Colony
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Subterranean
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Blood Gospel

AUTHOR INFORMATION: James Rollins is a pseudonym for James Czajkowski and is the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of twenty-nine novels including the SIGMA Force, the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull novelization, and the Jake Ransom YA books. He also writes fantasy—The Banned and the Banished, The Godslayer Chronicles—under the pen name James Clemens. Besides writing, Jim holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine and is an avid spelunker and certified scuba enthusiast.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A remote military research station sends out a frantic distress call, ending with a chilling final command: Kill us all! Personnel from the neighboring base rush in to discover everyone already dead-and not just the scientists, but every living thing for fifty square miles is annihilated: every animal, plant, and insect, even bacteria. The land is entirely sterile-and the blight is spreading.

To halt the inevitable, Commander Gray Pierce and SIGMA must unravel a threat that rises out of the distant past, to a time when Antarctica was green and all life on Earth balanced upon the blade of a knife. Following clues from an ancient map rescued from the lost Library of Alexandria, SIGMA will discover the truth about an ancient continent, about a new form of death buried under miles of ice.

From millennia-old secrets out of the frozen past to mysteries buried deep in the darkest jungles of today, SIGMA will face its greatest challenge to date: stopping the coming extinction of mankind.

But is it already too late?

FORMAT/INFO: The 6th Extinction is 427 pages long divided over four titled parts, which include thirty-four numbered chapters, a prologue and an epilogue. Also includes Acknowledgments, a map, Notes from the Historical/Scientific Record, and an Author’s Note to Readers: Truth or Fiction. Narration is in the third person via various characters, namely Grayson Pierce, Painter Crowe, Lisa Cummings, Jason Carter, Dr. Kendall Hess, Jenna Beck, Cutter Elwes and a few minor POVs. The 6th Extinction is the eleventh book in the SIGMA series and is a standalone story.

August 12, 2014 marked the North American Hardcover publication of The 6th Extinction via William Morrow. The UK edition (see below) will be published on August 28, 2014 via Orion.

ANALYSIS: The 6th Extinction marks a decade of James Rollins’ amazing combination of scientific fact and adventure thrillers. It’s the tenth entry in the SIGMA series officially but technically is the eleventh book to feature and focus on SIGMA. The series has been going from strength to strength and a couple of books ago (Bloodline), the author managed to complete an arc that had begun with Map Of Bones.

With this book, the author manages to combine a variety of scientific threads involving bioterrorism, XNAs and a bunch of other things that you need to read about. The story begins when a distress call sent from a northern California military research station is heard and then all sentient life around the area is seen to be exterminated. Things soon take some rather dramatic twists as the SIGMA team is forced to visit Antarctica due to certain clues interspersed within the damage. Pierce, Kowalski and Jason Carter (SIGMA’s newest recruit) make up the team sent to South Pole while Lisa Cummings works with her brother try to resolve the crisis in California. Mixed in are the remaining SIGMA crew consisting of Painter Crowe, Kat Howard, and Monk Kokkalis .

The book follows James Rollins' characteristic pattern of action mixed with dollops of scientific intrigue in new locales. This time around, with this being the tenth anniversary of the SIGMA series debut, we are treated to an extra-wild adventure that involves not only the location of one of James’ previous standalone thrillers but also a couple of characters from it. I loved this aspect of the storyline and once again the author manages to combine some rather strange but utterly true factoids amidst the action sequences. With the different locales explored in the story such as Antarctica and the Amazonian rainforests, the author manages to showcase different facets of the landscape. Even though he has previously explored these locales but he again manages to put a new spin on them.

One of the characters that takes a backseat due to the events of The Eye Of God is Seichan and a fiery character as her is surely missed. Another slightly weird aspect was that Jason Carter’s previous experiences in Antarctica never quite get explored. However with the story unfolding at the pace it does, I don’t think the author could insert reminiscing about previous adventure in it. He however does include some fun cameos and gives a rather strong hint about a Subterranean sequel which if he writes, would be simply awesome.

For all that is good with the book, I must point out that previous points that went against the previous book in the series, are still present to a minor degree. One good thing is that this story is more of a standalone nature and that helps majorly for any new readers who don’t want to read all the previous books in the series.

CONCLUSION: James Rollins dazzles massively with his newest SIGMA adventure and if you haven’t read any of his work yet. Then this would be a nice start to the amazing world of SIGMA, with all of its’ exciting science, new locales and the mix of the two that makes his work so unique.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"The Boundless" by Kenneth Oppel (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit Kenneth Oppel's Official Website Here

OVERVIEW: All aboard for an action-packed escapade from the internationally bestselling author of Airborne and the Silverwing trilogy.

The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life!

When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?

FORMAT: The Boundless is a standalone YA novel. It is an action-adventure novel that has murder, mystery, and a few historical elements thrown in. The novel stands at 320 pages and was published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on April 22, 2014.

ANALYSIS: Murder, mystery, an occasional Sasquatch, and a giant circus are all tossed together to create the main storyline for The Boundless. This adventure-packed YA novel by Kenneth Oppel is beautifully written and for the right reader, a truly stunning novel.

I have read some of Kenneth Oppel's previous books – mainly the Matt Cruse series – and realized that Oppel has a very unique style of writing. The writing is solid and elegant. Oppel uses this style of writing to slowly develop both characters and plot. Readers will not form 'instant' bonds with characters, yet will slowly learn to love/cherish them.

The Boundless is no exception to Oppel's previous writing styles. The Boundless is set on an extremely large train that rivals some of the cruise ships of today. There is a saloon, pool, fitness room, shoot gallery, and circus all located on this train. That doesn't even count the shrine and all its treasures of the man who invented/created this train.

The entire novel follows Will Everett. While traveling on the very first trip for The Boundless, Will Everett has the misfortune of witnessing a murder. The murderer quickly sees Will and sets off to capture him/portray him as a 'bad guy' before Will can tell the authorities. In order to survive, Will must think on his feet. This includes joining a circus, spotting who may or may not be on his side, and doing things he never imagined he'd do in his entire lifetime.

The Boundless does take some time to get into. The story is slow to advance. There is a lot of time spent developing a backstory, creating characters, and focusing on the historical aspect of the story. This is not necessarily bad, but it really will only appeal to a certain type of reader. I think readers that want a lot of action and adventure will not stick around for the story.

The highlight of this novel is the train. Oppel does an amazing job describing the different class sections, the different cars, and really creating a world on this train. However, the almost sluggish pace of the novel will take away from this. There were many times when I felt more focus could have been on characters/plot development, and less on the train. The train was the real 'main character'.

When characters did do stuff or were introduced, everything was just so uneventful. The characters seemed to be going through the motions, as opposed to reacting to situations or really doing anything. I half expected something to snap and really wake the characters up, but it didn't happen.

Another highlight was the ending. I really felt the ending was pretty good and I liked the way things turned out. I just wish that the whole novel had the same appeal/feeling. The ending was amazing, but the beginning was just 'eh'.

I enjoyed reading The Boundless, but it didn't seem to have the impact Oppel's other novels did. I walked away feeling 'meh' about the whole experience. I feel more could have been done with the 'Sasquatch' character/idea. It had potential, but it came across as a thrown in idea to make the story appeal to a wider audience. Unfortunately, it just didn't have the same impact it should have on me.

Overall, I enjoyed The Boundless. Oppel's writing is amazing and strong, but I don't feel this is by far his best work. The train was unique and fun to read about, but the slow pace of the novel really took some of the novel's potential away. The Boundless will appeal to a certain reader, but in terms of having a wide appeal to a broad audience, I just do not think it is there.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley (Reviewed by A. E. Marling)

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: In The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, an army from one dying world invades another. Legions of soldiers abound, and if you envision them as men marching with swords and tower shields, you’d be wrong. The legionnaires are women. That’s only the beginning of the expectations Kameron Hurley delights in defying in The Mirror Empire.

Fair-weather fantasy readers who prefer occasional frolics into kiddy-pools of wizardry should stay away. The Mirror Empire, Book I of the Worldbreaker Saga will lose them in a jungle of complexity, and they’ll be eaten alive by rattler trees. The novel will be released with a map and a glossary. Being an advanced-reader pioneer, I had neither. Veteran fantasist though I am, I was perpetually in the state of No I Swear We’re Not Lost, Dear. 

This epic features four main characters, each with their own constellation of minor characters who sometimes gain the point of view. The tale spans three nations in one world, with brief jaunts to its mirror world where the sky smolders a poisonous orange. Star magic can be mixed with blood to open portals between the worlds, but a person cannot cross unless her reflection has already died on the other side.

The Mirror Empire is aptly named. A chance difference in the history of the two lands caused a single race of people to become lords in one world and slaves in the other. Before the exodus of the lords from one dying land can begin, the way must be paved with genocide of the slaves. The order of mass execution strikes General Zezili as curious. She may be a sexist killer, but she has her standards.

The female sexism tickled me. After one man rebuffs her advances, Zezili shrugs it off as his problem. He had no sense of humor. She prefers men “take up as little space as possible,” though she is devoted to her husband and only hits him when he deserves it. The culture has none of the tenderness or innovative family structure that I expected from a matriarchy, but Kameron Hurley’s goal is to show women in their full breadth of human experience. She speaks at length on the topic on a recent episode of Podcastle, “We Have Always Fought.”

(Art by Grace Liu)

I loved the visuals in The Mirror Empire. Fireflies dance in lanterns. Warriors ride bears and not in any mundane way. These bears have forked tongues and cat eyes. Other travelers ride giant dogs. Magic users craft the air into gales with swirling sapphire shine. Blue bonsa blades and glowing everpine branches sprout from arms, ready for battle. Most of all, the plant life of the world is breathtaking, and not only because of its paralytic poisons. Bone trees trap creatures and extract their calcium. There are root hooks and creeping deathwart. People are executed in giant pitcher-plants. I would’ve liked the story to take me on an endlessly dangerous safari, but the plants are most often mentioned in passing. To those who live there, they are but part of the scenery.

Lilia uses that foliage to her advantage. She traps her travelling companion in a spine pit, which will slowly digest her and quickly poison her. The thing is, Gian had saved Lilia’s life. Gian said she wanted only to save the world. The two girls might’ve even become lovers, but Gian got in the way of Lilia’s oath to her mother. Lilia, an exile from her home world, betrays most everyone she meets. As a heroine, she kicks aside reader expectation with her mangled foot. I hated her, but, to be fair, I also hate male heroes who torture to achieve their goals. Sometimes, though, I can’t stop reading about them.

The Mirror Empire can captivate with its wordplay, especially its verbs. Candles “drooled” over the table. Eye shadow “licked the faces of the dancers.” Did you envision women dancers? Wrong again. They are men. One word choice did not enchant me: “satellites.” These god stars bestow all the world’s magic. Power wanes and ebbs over the years, decades, and centuries depending on which one shines brightest. They’re like comets, but since they’re called satellites, I always envisioned them as spiky bits of metal with blinking antenna.

Four satellites trail swaths of magic, and the gifted harness them to unleash gouts of fire, to command terror plants, to spin air into armor and bashing gusts. One of the greatest gifted, Maralah, wears a fireglass coat, and she wields a twisty awesome willowthorn sword that glows violet. The gifted aren’t supposed to use their magic to dominate the ungifted, which is hilarious prohibition. A gifted who draws her power from the satellite Oma would is called an omajista. There are three other satellites and as many other kinds of magic users. I was not certain if they had distinct powers because I could never tell them apart (without a glossary). The satellites all have similarly short names that end in –a.

The onslaught of names in The Mirror Empire threatened to overwhelm me. One main character says, “I’m going to bring the bodies to Garika. I’d like Ghrasia to escort me.” When I read those lines I realized a few things. First, I had no idea who either of those characters were. Or even if they were people. Neither was I likely to ever distinguish them because they shared so many of the same letters and sounds.

I was wrong on one front though. I did end up remembering Ghrasia, one of the allies of Ankio. A shepherd scholar, he’s yanked into a position of power. He only wanted to be one the husbands of a local woman. What a delightful twist---for the reader---to learn that she may never have loved him, may have always schemed to manipulate him. Ascending to command requires that he ceremonially eat the remains of the former ruler, his sister. The sensory description of the cannibalism would make G.R.R.M. proud. Wait, did I say the past ruler was his sister? Well, maybe she wasn’t, after all. The rebels who claim he’s an ineffectual usurper may be right. Even if everyone accepted him, he’d chafe in his role. He prefers the passive masculine pronoun. His culture has five different ones for gender. Another nation has three pronouns.

One character lives them all, morphing between genders. Taigan is an assassin spellcaster who may just be immortal. She doesn’t know. Taigan can regenerate from any injury but still feels the agony of being trapped in a spine plant---“Fuck you, Lilia!”---and falls sick like anyone else. She wishes for mortality every time the involuntary gender change wracks his body. Taigan isn’t quite a main character. I’ll keep the identity of the last one a secret.

CONCLUSION: This will be an incomplete review of The Mirror Empire because to fully analyze it would take nothing less than a college semester. Readers who want a sea-depth of immersion in their fantasy will delight in a new universe to explore. Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear the trees have started their summer migration. I’m putting on my safari hat and joining them. Don’t worry, I’ll mind the exploding-acid pods.

GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: A.E. Marling is a fantasy writer, dancer, law-abiding citizen, human being (in that order). Discover his fantasy-appreciation blog and follow him on Twitter, @AEMarling, or the kitty gets it.

NOTE: Brutal bear art courtesy of Grace Liu.

Friday, August 15, 2014

"The Luck Uglies: The Luck Uglies #1" by Paul Durham (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Paul Durham's Official Website Here

OVERVIEW: The Luck Uglies is the first in a tween fantasy-adventure trilogy brimming with legends come to life, a charming wit, and a fantastic cast of characters-and is imbued throughout with the magic of storytelling.

Strange things are happening in Village Drowning, and a terrifying encounter has Rye O'Chanter convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned.
Now Rye's only hope is an exiled secret society so notorious its name can't be spoken aloud: the Luck Uglies. As Rye dives into Village Drowning's maze of secrets, rules, and lies, she'll discover the truth behind the village's legends of outlaws and beasts...and that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.

The first in a series, The Luck Uglies is an altogether irresistible cross of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, Stefan Bachmann's The Peculiar, and Chris Healy's The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, overflowing with adventure, secrets, friendship, and magic.

FORMAT: The Luck Uglies is the first novel in a proposed trilogy. It is a middle-grade/YA novel that is setup as a fantasy-adventure. It stands at 400 pages and was published April 29, 2014 by HarperCollins.

ANALYSIS: There are so many middle grade/YA novels being published that it is so hard to find the 'good ones' out there. That isn't to say that all books are bad, just some are more special than others. The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham is one of those special books – unique, fast-paced, and filled with fantasy-adventure.

It seems like everything in this book from the characters to the world building and pacing is just right. Durham knows how to really draw and develop a unique world for this story. It might appear to be just another 'ho hum' dreary depressing town, but Durham adds a few elements that makes it his own.

In addition to the small, unique twists in world building, Durham is successful in bringing the world to life. I could almost picture myself in the world and every time I picked the book up, I was magically transported back to this rather unique world created by Durham. It is the ability to transport readers to new worlds that truly makes a great book, and Luck Uglies has that element.

Another captivating feature of The Luck Uglies was the character development. Readers follow a young 11-year old girl named Rye throughout most of the story. Rye is full of personality and always has a surprise for the reader. I found Rye, her entire family, and friends enjoyable and extremely detailed. Each had their own unique personality and didn't come across as 'cookie cutter'.

The good guys weren't the only ones to be extremely detailed. There were several 'bad guys' including Bog Noblins, evil soldiers, and a selfish ruling Lord. Each of the bad guys were so developed that I have to admit I was rooting for them to lose. It will be interesting to see where the other novels go with some of these exact characters.

While The Luck Uglies is a wonderful novel and I loved every minute of it, it has a lot of parts that could be considered slower. There are a lot of things that need to be developed – the characters, the world, and the history between everyone. This could be considered a drawback, but I view it more as a great setup for the next two novels.

It should be noted that there is a lot going on in this little 400 page 'tween' novel. There are several storylines and characters that are all being developed at one point. I think the sheer amount of stuff going on could be overwhelming to some, but it really is a great way to introduce readers to the format used by so many fantasy-adventure novels.

Overall, I loved The Luck Uglies. I found myself wanting to read more as I got further and further into the story. I can't wait to see where the series goes and how the author takes this series. Truly a must read for anyone who loves quick, fun fantasy-adventure novels or who are looking for a good read that isn't super complex.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014

“Words of Radiance” by Brandon Sanderson (Reviewed by Casey Blair)

Order “Words of RadianceHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

With The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson began what he intends to be a 10-volume epic fantasy series called The Stormlight Archive. It's massive, it's ambitious, and it's wonderful.

If anything, I actually enjoyed Words of Radiance more.

At upwards of 1000 pages, this isn't a book that you're going to read in one sitting unless you are superhuman. But the plot drives forward, and unlike other massive epic fantasies I've read, every word is working hard for the story and I never get the feeling that it could stand to lose a couple hundred pages. It's long, and it's worth it.

Sanderson is trying to do so much, complicating everything in a beautiful way, but sometimes to a degree that sometimes leaves me more confused about what information I actually know. He has a tough balance to walk to give enough answers so that readers aren't completely overwhelmed, while he adds more questions and complications to others he's already asked. Mostly he's walking that line well. For instance, I think he's nailing the release of information about the Parshendi. We're getting information about the Radiants and spren at a good rate as well, but I am totally confused about the Voidbringers at this point.

Structurally, my only problem is that there are too many interludes after Part 1. Sanderson has talked before about what he's trying to accomplish, but dropping what is essentially a short story collection so early on and all at once killed the momentum. While I knew going in I wasn't going to finish the book in one sitting, the successive shifts left me tired and relieved that I had a clear stopping place to put the book down.

On the other hand, I think structurally the ending of Words of Radiance felt a lot tighter than in The Way of Kings. All of the main POV characters were physically in the same place, their arcs and climaxes were connected to the same event, and while there's no way Sanderson could have arranged that in The Way of Kings, it really worked in Words of Radiance.

And then there are the characters. Kaladin's characterization was a bit inconsistent at points: I love how clever Sanderson is, and that adds to the voice of many of the characters, but sometimes he slips quips into Kaladin's dialogue that don't belong there (especially when characters across the board comment about his utter lack of humor). It cuts Kaladin's broodiness a bit (and how he broods!), but also caused me to do a couple of double takes at the text.

On the other side, I am so interested in the direction Shallan's character took this book, and it was really a breath of fresh air from Kaladin's chapters. The contrast of their different reactions to awfulness emphasizes their agency and choices, and I absolutely love that.

We also got to explore Adolin more, which I really enjoyed. And Wit remains amazing. His bits and epilogues are possibly my favorite part of this series so far, though it is hard to choose.

In short, Brandon Sanderson has undertaken a task of enormous scope, and two volumes into The Stormlight Archive, he's executing admirably. Brandon Sanderson is putting the “epic” in epic fantasy and I'm reveling in the story every step of the way.

Friday, August 8, 2014

“Lockstep” by Karl Schroeder (Reviewed by Casey Blair)

Order “LockstepHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

I'm not normally a hard science fiction reader, but the premise of Karl Schroeder's latest novel Lockstep intrigued me. Then I started reading and it sucked me in.

So for those of you who are likewise not normally into hard SF, Schroeder does a good job of explaining the hard science aspects without writing down to the reader, which is a tricky balance to pull off. I do think he went overly detailed into world-building aspects that weren't really necessary for the plot, but I think that's also a target audience issue as well (in that that's not what I'm looking for in a novel, but many hard SF readers would).

What I loved most is that Schroeder fully explores the implications of his core conceit thoroughly. We understand how and why this technology came into existence, he convinces us of the plausibility of it and also its advantages, and then he explores just about every way it can go wrong or be abused. But he doesn't stop there: this isn't a dystopian outlook on the future, because the next step is what people can do to fix it, not by getting rid of the technology entirely, but by changing society. He goes deeply into the implications in politics, economics, and technology (though he mostly ignores anthropology in world-building outside of societal structures, there's so much else going on that didn't bother me much). Given the recent spate of dystopia in SFF, I really enjoyed his approach to the future that goes beyond abuses and into actively thinking about how we can shape our world.

I appreciated a teenage protagonist that is both smart and mature even with adolescent concerns, and the family dynamics were really interesting. It did feel like the characters acted because the plot needed them to make those choices, though, rather than acting like actual people. And our protagonist somehow never gets around to asking questions until he's in a situation when the person he's asking has an excuse to cut him off, which felt like a very blatant way to pace exposition. As much world information as he needs to convey to the reader, it definitely needs to be paced, but the problem is that the plot is full of twists that the reader has no way to predict because we never have the information soon enough. Not having the opportunity to put together the clues does keep the reveals surprising, but it also keeps the reader more outside of the narrative than engaged in the plot.

So despite some character and plot bumps, the exploration of the ideas and setting was strong enough to carry me through to a satisfying conclusion. I'll definitely be looking up more of Karl Schroeder's work.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Death's Academy" by Michael Bast (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit the Official Site of Death's Academy Here

OVERVIEW: The Death’s Academy entrance exam for Midnight Smith is quickly approaching. There’s just one problem: Midnight is the worst exam taker the academy has ever seen. If Midnight wants to ever step foot inside the school, he’ll have to join forces with the hated Guardian Angels, and together face the deadliest creatures in the world—the dreaded Unicorns. Becoming a Grim Reaper has never been more hilarious!

FORMAT: Death's Academy is a middle grade novel. It is humorous and contains elements of mystery and adventure. It stands at 249 pages and was published January 14, 2014 by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media.

ANALYSIS: What do you get when you take hoodies, angels, unicorns, and humans and combine it with gumdrops, lollipops and candy? Well, you get the world that was created for Death's Academy by Michael Bast.

I came across Death's Academy by accident while browsing my library's website. The synopsis appeared to be a combination of a Harry Potter meets Percy Jackson concept mixed with the humor that is found in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  So, I figured I'd give it a shot and I am glad I took a chance, as this novel is one of the best middle school novels I've read in a while.

What makes Death's Academy so good? It is the voice that Michael Bast brings to the novel. He has a way of telling the story in a fun, humorous style that doesn't seem to get old. There are running jokes throughout the book, but Bast knows how to toe the line between keeping the jokes alive and making sure they don't get old.

Bast knows how to bring humor to the story. There were several parts that I found funny, and most certainly if I were a child in middle school there would have been other parts that were just as hilarious. Death's Academy certainly has enough to keep the average adult reader entertained, but it is a book that is targeted to middle school, so there are plenty of fart references and other middle school humor elements thrown in.

In addition to the smooth, humorous voice, Death's Academy is unique, funny and a little bit 'out there'. Taking a look at all the elements of the book separately – guardian angels, grim reapers, unicorns, candy villages, and humans – it would seem like someone just took whatever thought came into their head and threw it down on paper. Even if this is what Bast did, he did it successfully.

Everything in Death's Academy seems to connect to each other and make the plot flow. There is just enough backstory provided that readers aren't lost, but readers aren't bogged down with lengthy explanations. The backstory that is provided is enough to make the characters stand on their own, but allows the readers to grow and learn with the characters.

What is nice about Death's Academy is the readers aren't rooting for the typical 'good' guy. Night, the main character, is ultimately a bad guy, but he isn't. He looks out for his friends, has difficulty killing things, and really wants to do what is best for everyone. Sure, he's a little mouthy and strong willed, but he works for the story and is relatable to almost everyone who reads this book.  

If you are looking for detailed, in-depth plot elements, you probably aren't going to find it with Death's Academy. There is enough to keep the story going, but adult readers will certain find holes in the story – and if you are looking to nitpick, I'm sure there is something there to find.

While I enjoyed Death's Academy, there is something that I would – if I had the power – change. I believe the title of the book is a bit misleading. It is more of a prequel to Death's Academy. The main character – Night – spends his time worrying about getting into the academy and really doesn't spend one moment at the academy.

The lack of Death's Academy doesn't take away from the novel, and once other novels are added to what one can assume will be a series it will make sense. However, it is a good setup to what will be a very promising series.

Overall, Death's Academy was a major surprise for me. I loved the main character and found him believable. In fact, I was rooting for him and felt a little bad for him at times. I really think Death's Academy is a great read for almost everyone. It is a great 'read aloud' book for families, while older more independent readers will find it a fun read. Adults will certainly appreciate the humor and creativity that is obvious with this novel.

I look forward to reading more from Michael Bast and hope the Death's Academy series will continue. I know I'll be waiting for more.


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