“A Spell in the Country” by Morgan Smith
A young soldier from a small town thrown into the heart of battle against supernatural evil threatening her country. Which incidentally puts her in close company with top scholars, nobility and of course the gorgeous prince :)
The story generally flows quickly across a landscape with detailed history. There’s a slow part in the middle where I was wondering if there was going to be any more action, but rest assured, the ending delivered some real tension.
Sometimes a contentious point in medieval fantasy settings, but gender equality is handled well and consistently. The author has obviously put some thought into how traditional concepts of chastity, purity and objectification would map out in a society with full equality (Shades of old-school Mercedes Lackey).
I found the hints of backstory about attitudes toward magic intriguing. How the state religion is split over it’s handling, and it’s viewed with significant suspicion by most citizens. I would have liked a few more details but the viewpoint is an eminently practical soldier. As much as magic drives the plot, we’re only seeing the surface. I expect this will be fleshed out more as the series goes on.
If you love character driven romantic suspense, pick this one up! The female lead (Imara) and her good friend (Rayle) jump off the page. The male lead (Lièrén) takes a while to shine, but when he does, I think he’ll win your heart. Particularly since he finds a way to help the woman he’s fallen for _without_ taking over. Building on her strengths rather than flaunting his own. This is very refreshing to see.
This is a very sex-positive story but does not delve too far into ‘hot’ romance (which I appreciate – I’d rather focus on the romance, not the sex). I also appreciate the proper accenting of the pinyin used for Chinese names and dialog! (This is a pet-peeve of mine :) )
Minder Rising is the second book of the Central Galactic Concordance series by Carol Van Natta. You may want to start with the first book Overload Flux. Personally, I wanted to read #3 Pico’s Crush, but was advised to read Minder Rising first to get some background, and I’m glad I did.
As authors, we become embedded in the literary world. We’ve read hundreds of reviews and written scores. We forget sometimes that not all readers are this hard-core, and are a little trepidatious about dropping a review online.
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This book was a completely engrossing, heart-wrenching adventure from start to finish. Katniss was a fully realized character who had believable foibles, strengths, hopes and fears. She grew throughout the book, never stagnating, always moving relentlessly forward to an end she alternately dreaded and longed for. Katniss was not a typical heroine. She sometimes screwed up and she and the people around her had to pay the price, she realistically alternated between naivety and competence depending on where her skills lay, she was kinder than she wanted but equally capable of being cold-blooded when called for because of her past, she was dour and depressed at times but also giddy and perfectly 16 at others.
I read the book after seeing the movie and I have to say there is no comparison…the book is deep and moving in a way a movie cannot possibly be. Suzanne Collins brings you suddenly and starkly into Katniss’ life through her use of first-person/present tense and by the end of the book, you are reluctant to leave her. The close connection I felt with Katniss is a testament to the author’s skill at breathing life into a character in a desperate situation. You want Katniss to win, but you don’t want her to lose her humanity in the process, because that is what Suzanne Collins has so expertly displayed in her protagonist, supporting characters and in the society they live in – humanity in all its cruel and compassionate depths.
The only part of the book that made me go ‘huh?’ was the monsters near the end. They felt forced and unbelievable…as if a random horrific creature was needed to add some final mortal fear and moral crisis, so they were thrown into the mix (which may in fact be the feeling the author was going for). But because they felt so out of place and plastic to me, they had absolutely zero impact. I hope these monsters will be specifically dealt with in the following books. Perhaps there is an explanation of exactly what they are, how they were created and why they were used in the Hunger Games? I will certainly keep reading to see!
Katniss is a true heroine, unlike many of the passive sniveling idiots portrayed in Hollywood and in many mainstream books. She’s smart, competent, honorable, loyal, compassionate, and most of all human. She makes mistakes like everyone does, but owns up and does her best to make things right.
I highly recommend this book as an antidote for young women who have been cruelly subjected to the recent pathetic whims of mainstream fiction.