ARC Mini Review – High Times in the Low Parliament

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson. I didn’t know anything about this one going into it, and, honestly, I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

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Book Review – Star Wars: Padawan

Hello there! Today I’m reviewing Padawan by Kiersten White, the most recent addition to the canon Star Wars books published by Disney.

Obi-Wan Kenobi struggles with his place in the Force as a young Padawan in this coming-of-age adventure!

Obi-Wan Kenobi really wants to be a good Padawan. The best Padawan, even. But that’s feeling more and more impossible with his new master, Qui-Gon Jinn. All of Obi-Wan’s friends are off training to be real Jedi, getting mission experience, while he’s still on Coruscant, practicing his forms and sitting in silent contemplation. Ever since Qui-Gon’s former master, Dooku, left the Order, it feels like Qui-Gon has been too busy trying to connect with the Force or arguing with the Jedi Council to properly train his Padawan.

When Obi-Wan finally convinces Qui-Gon to take him on a mission to a remote planet once explored by an ancient Jedi, his master doesn’t show up the morning they are to leave—so Obi-Wan impulsively takes off by himself. Upon arriving on the mysterious, lush planet, he encounters a group of teenagers with no adult supervision—and who all seem to have some connection to the Force. Free from the constraints of the Order, Obi-Wan joins them in their daring adventures, but the Padawan side of him keeps questioning the teens’ strange relationship to the Force, and to the verdant planet around them, and what all of it might mean to his future. Obi-Wan will test the limits of his relationship to the Jedi and to the Force in this exciting, yet soulful exploration of one of Star Wars’ most enduring heroes.

This book had some huge shoes to fill because I loved the Jedi Apprentice series as a child. So, the replacement of those stories with something new was always going to be a hard sell for me given the nostalgia factor of that series. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this book and enjoyed it quite a bit more than I anticipated.

Overall, it was a fun coming-of-age story for Obi-Wan. I was surprised at first by how anxious and afraid of failure this portrayal made him, but it worked really well for his age at the time and the scenario he experienced over the course of the story. He struggled to find his place within the Jedi order and overcompensated for his fear of failure by sticking rigidly to rules and trying to control everything. This unexpected adventure helped him learn to be present in the moment and trust in the force. There were interesting parallels between him and Anakin, and I could definitely see how some of Kenobi’s personality in the future could be rooted in the lessons he learned from his experiences in this story.

I really loved the setting for the story, as well. The ecosystem of the planet was fascinating and worked really well as a metaphor for the balance necessary for nature to thrive and the threat that uncontrolled human consumption has on that balance. Other relevant and timely themes were also explored in the story, including the potentially harmful effects of reliance upon tradition despite evidence to the contrary and the destructive nature of fear, greed, and lust for power. I also really liked the queer rep in the book and thought it was incorporated in a way that was perfect for these characters and their unique situation.

There was only one thing I wish this book had more of: Qui-Gon. He’s in a few scenes, and there was a ton of Obi-Wan contemplating the rocky start to his relationship with his master. However, Qui-Gon was missing from most of the book. I’m not gonna lie. I was a bit disappointed that the two of them didn’t go on this adventure together, but I’m not sure it would have worked out the same way or had the necessary impact on Obi-Wan if they had been together. So, I get why he was absent, but now I really want another story of the two of them together.

In conclusion, this was a fun coming-of-age romp where Obi-Wan had to find the balance within himself to overcome his fear of failing at the Jedi path. It had an interesting setting and compelling themes, but it didn’t quite give me everything I wanted from an Obi-Wan padawan story. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

ARC Review – Daughter of Redwinter

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald. I’ve had a streak of disappointing reads recently, but this book broke it! So, I’m excited to be sharing my thoughts about this one.

Those who see the dead soon join them.

From the author of the critically-acclaimed Blackwing trilogy comes Ed McDonald’s Daughter of Redwinter, the first of a brilliant fantasy series about how one choice can change a universe.

Raine can see–and more importantly, speak–to the dead. It’s a wretched gift with a death sentence that has her doing many dubious things to save her skin. Seeking refuge with a deluded cult is her latest bad, survival-related decision. But her rare act of kindness–rescuing an injured woman in the snow–is even worse.

Because the woman has escaped from Redwinter, the fortress-monastery of the Draoihn, warrior magicians who answer to no king and who will stop at nothing to retrieve what she’s stolen. A battle, a betrayal, and a horrific revelation forces Raine to enter Redwinter. It becomes clear that her ability might save an entire nation.

Pity she might have to die for that to happen…

***Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

Daughter of Redwinter had it all: magic, mystery, philosophy, relevant social/political commentary, and a hint of romance. It truly had everything I like to see whenever I read a fantasy book. The writing was excellent with brilliant descriptions, engaging dialogue, and a steady pace that kept me hooked from the very first chapter. The plot had plenty of twist and turns, and even though I figured some of the twists out in advance of the reveals, the book was written in such a way that I kept second-guessing myself, which kept the reading experience exciting and fun.

The world-building was exquisite, and I loved the magic system and lore. The world felt incredibly real and lived in, and I was surprised by how deep it seemed almost from the start. There was a sense that the civilization was old with a storied history, almost like this book barely scratched the surface of unraveling the mysteries of this world’s past and how they impacted its present. It makes me really excited to see what is in store for the future installments of this series. Despite there being such a seemingly vast history, the author did a great job of utilizing it to facilitate this story rather than overwhelming it with endless minutiae, which can sometimes be the case with fantasy books. It can be a difficult balance to strike, but McDonald did it perfectly here and has whetted my appetite for more while delivering a compelling story.

Raine is now one of my new favorite characters. She was just so compelling and complex, and I found her struggles fascinating to read. Her journey illustrated the dangers of suppressing one’s emotions and the power that can come from experiencing and processing them instead. She also dealt with needing to overcome her fear and figuring out where she belonged in a world that told her she shouldn’t exist. All of the other characters were also three-dimensional with interesting motivations. I liked a lot of them, but Sanvaunt was probably my other favorite. He was mysterious, duty-driven, and aloof, and I swear I fell in love with him when I found out what he was writing in his notebook. It was not what I expected to say the least. lol.

One of my favorite things about fantasy is the ability to explore thought-provoking, relevant social commentary in a relatively non-threatening, and often fun and exciting, way. This book does this so well. It explored the ethics of a society that relies heavily on social dominance for what seem to be very good reasons. I’m curious to see where this discussion goes in future books as the history and roots of the civilization are further explored. There was also a great deal of philosophizing in this book, and it was integrated seamlessly into the story. I loved the discussions on the nature of evil and what it means to be truly free while one lives and participates in society. I was honestly surprised by just how much thought-provoking material was packed into this one book, and I’m still thinking about a lot of it days after finishing it.

Overall, Daughter of Redwinter is an excellent start to a new fantasy series. I can’t think of anything critical to say about it, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and declare it my second ever instant favorite!

ARC Mini Review – Rise of the Renegade Child

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Rise of the Renegade Child by Robert Roth, which is the second book of The Gates Saga. I enjoyed the first book of this series quite a bit, and I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel ever since.

While Cameron Maddock celebrates the rescue of his best friend Tony, his budding relationship with the Turani Protector Jerusalem Finn, and the surprising demise of his murderous nemesis Omni, the lingering question of his true origins still haunts him.

Years after the tragic loss of his last love, Jerusalem Finn has finally opened his heart to someone new. But a fresh mystery reveals how complicated that’s made things, forcing him to reckon with where his feelings and loyalties truly lie.

Renowned physicist Dr. Ella Carvallo is determined to discover the answers behind a series of unexplained quantum events, even if it means a journey into the shadows with the charming but enigmatic NSA Special Agent Edison Lloyd.

And the mysteries only deepen when surprising new enemies and an unexpected ally send Cam and the gang on a multiverse-spanning thrill ride in this explosive follow-up to the critically acclaimed queer sci-fi thriller Into the Lightning Gate.

***Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I’ve been wanting this sequel for a year now. Rise of the Renegade Child was definitely worth the wait and expanded on many of my favorite elements of the first book in the series. The world-building was, once again, very interesting, and I loved getting to see some new locales while also learning a lot more about the political structures of the different alternate realities. The science in this installment was really cool, as well, and I appreciated that the author included a lot more information about how everything works. The inclusion of the new character, Ella, was a great way to do this, and I really loved her character. I enjoyed the plot of this book even more than the first. I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy, and this book had one that spans at least several different realities, which led to plenty of fun twists and turns as the story progressed. The pacing was intense throughout, and the book felt like one long thrill ride. The characterization was also on point. Each of the main characters had a discernible arc that resulted in a great deal of growth even with all the action going on around them. My favorite arc was probably Omni just because of her badass personality and super fascinating background, which was explored in more depth. I also loved the banter between Cam and Finn and wish there had been more of it and their relationship. I get why it couldn’t happen in this one, though, but I’m hopeful the next book will focus at least a little more on the romance. I did like that the author directly addressed the insta-loveyness? of their relationship despite not being able to spend a ton of time on exploring their dynamic. Additionally, this book continued to center thought-provoking social/political commentary and queerness throughout the story. So, if you enjoyed those aspects of the first book, I’m sure you’ll love it in this one as well. The main thing I didn’t really love was the way the AI was able to fix almost anything. It felt like a major crutch at times. I also didn’t care for the narrative choice of re-hashing the same scenes from different POVs. There were a couple times that I was annoyed by it because I just wanted the story to keep moving forward, which led to skimming through some of the sequences. Overall, though, this was a great sequel that improved upon the first book, which was already good, in so many ways. If you are looking for a new queer sci-fi series with intense pacing, pulse-pounding action, and fascinating world-building, then you need to be reading The Gates Saga!