on 5 June 2014
I'm going to review each book in turn, briefly, as they're by 7 different authors and are quite different in terms of style and quality.
Defender by Robert J Crane 2/5
To be honest, I didn't really enjoy this and would regard it as the weakest book in the set. It read to me like a write up of a D&D campaign or similar - the characters seem to be largely motivated by "doing more missions in order to win more money and buy better armour", and I was three quarters of the way through the book before I could tell the difference between the two female Elf characters who both had names starting with N... The only character who really had a distinctive personality was Vara, and that was largely "stroppy and defensive".
The writing itself wasn't very descriptive - I never really got good visuals or a real feel for the appearance of characters or settings. There were also quite a lot of typos.
Legacy of Light by Daniel Arenson 3/5
This book was more descriptively written, with richer narrative and fewer typos. The concept of a whole race of people who can morph into dragons was original and cool, and I found that engaging, especially as the dragon appearance reflected the character of each individual. The "good" characters seemed more three-dimensional and conflicted and I sympathised with them more. The "bad" characters, however, still felt a bit shallow and insane - I couldn't really understand what drove them. Some of the extreme violence seemed a little gratuitous.
The White Tree by Edward... 4.5/5
This was by far my favourite book in the set. The narrative was really rich and multifaceted - scenes played to all your senses. The two main characters were playful, interesting and credible, and their loyalty to one another was touching. The slight moral ambiguity around the whole mission was intriguing, and the layers of scheming kept it interesting. It also had very few, if any, typos, making for an easier read. The way the backstory of the characters built gradually was good - it kept it fresh and interesting throughout.
The Dark Citadel by Michael Wallace 3.5/5
I liked the fact that a lot of this story was set in a non-European type civilisation - it was set in arid lands and felt more north Africa or Middle Eastern, giving it a fresh perspective. The magical system was interesting, and the characters were all strong and engaging, and the interactions between them were good. I think it's a series with potential.
Shader: Sword of the Archon by D.P. Prior 3.5/5
This was an enjoyable story. The jump in time from the first chapter to the rest of the story was interesting as it meant the lead character had a lengthy and complex backstory in between that you don't get to fully discover during the story. The supporting characters intrigued me - I especially enjoyed reading about Cadman and Shadrak, with their somewhat ambiguous morals and motives, and the Grey Abbot and Elias as "warmer" characters. The much-post-apocalyptic setting with a few residuals from the civilisation's previous incarnation was fun, as and provided a way to throw little bits of technology into an otherwise pre-industrial society. I found the rape scene a bit unnecessarily detailed, though I guess it served a plot purpose. I also found the geography a bit confusing - I got the impression things took place in a sort of reincarnated Europe and Australia, but how the different locations related to each other sometimes got a bit baffling as a lot of country names were thrown around. I get the feeling that if you keep reading with this series it'll get more complex and multilayered and hence grow on you more.
Weight of Blood by David Dalglish 2/5
I did initially wonder if this was a bit of Dragonlance fanfic reworked as an original novel for publishing. The two half-orc brothers, aside from the grey skin and big ears, do appear to be virtual carbon copies of Raistlin and Caramon: you have Qurrah, the small, puny and slightly sickly sorcerer with a feverish lust for power and a relentless, amoral ambition and a ruined, whispery voice, and then you have Hurraq, the more amiable, honest brother who is tall, strong, trusting, devoted to his brother despite being frequently treated like dirt, a fighter, and not the sharpest tool in the shed. However, to be fair there is a bit more to it than that - some exploration of concepts of redemption and internal conflict, wrestling with conscience. But it didn't really inspire me.
Ravenwood by Nathan Lowell 3.5/5
This was starting to look like stronger story. It didn't grab me on the first page but by the end of the chapter I was definitely well into it. The lead character, Tanyth, is appealing - she'd grounded, realistic and not an oil painting, so feels believable. Not many fantasy stories really focus on a middle-aged woman as the protagonist. The initial description of the scenario, her backstory and the situations she finds herself in are compelling - lots of good visualisation and you can easily get immersed in the adventure. There's a gentle sense of foreboding and mystery surrounding the early chapters that keeps you hooked as you want to see what will unfold. However...as it goes on, the threats start to feel a little more trite - somehow, the sense of menace is lost a little bit. Also, apart from Tanyth, the characterisations are extremely weak - a lot of the time, you wouldn't be able to tell if it was Sadie, Megan or Amber speaking unless told (and none of them are really described), while Thomas and William are equally indistuinguishable. So although I had high hopes for this, I was a bit disappointed by the end.