As promised, here is the first set of mini-reviews for the Noblebright boxed set. I’ll do four this time, and hopefully get through at least four more books before the set goes live on October 18. Rise of the Storm is my contribution to the set, and I’ll just assume you’ve read it, or at least have heard about it. Of the other books, I’d already read one, which put me ahead a little. I didn’t read them in any particular order, nor will I rank them in any other way. Honestly, each one of these is wonderful, but in different ways, and I’m not just saying that. 🙂
First up is C.J. Brightley’s The King’s Sword. C.J. is the organizer of this set, and the one who conceived of a noblebright movement for fantasy writing. This book really epitomizes the highlighted qualities of kindness, honor and integrity that are such features of noblebright. It follows battered soldier Kemen Sendoa in his quest to to keep safe the young prince Hakan, whose throne and life are in serious jeopardy. For what is essentially an action tale, it is very introspective, and handles some important issues like racism, sexism and classism in a sensitive, non-preachy way. Though the world is well-developed and interesting, the true highlight is the complex characterization of the two leads. Sendoa especially is fascinating: he’s a good man, but not without his flaws. Prince Hakan doesn’t come off as well at first, but under Sendoa’s mentoring, he becomes a good person in his own right. The story unfolds in a satisfying way, and the end wraps up this part of the tale, while leaving you wanting more of this world and its people.
I’d already read Lindsay Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge; in fact, I’ve read most of the nine-book series. It’s loads of fun. In a steampunk world, Amaranthe Lokdon is an imperial law enforcer. When notorious assassin Sicarius comes back into town, Amaranthe is ordered to kill him. Except that’s nearly impossible, so she’s forced to ask herself why her superiors want her dead. The answer to that question puts her on the run and into an unlikely, uneasy, untrusting alliance with Sicarius and a few other misfits. The ensuing action is nonstop, as Amaranthe gets into one scrape after another, escaping only because of her own ingenuity, and sometimes, Sicarius’s mad ninja skills. Through all of her hardships, Amaranthe’s solid integrity remains on display, helping her create a force that everyone, from the emperor on down will have to pay attention to. A super-enjoyable series. I’m saving the last few for those times when I need a fast-paced, escapist read.
Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest defies classification. If pressed, I’d call it literary young adult, but it’s more than that. There are some fantasy elements, mostly in the form of folk magic, but the whole book has a slightly dreamlike quality, in spite of the urgency of the story. Em is a thirteen-year-old girl living in Mermaids Hands, a floating village off the gulf coast. She sends out a message in a bottle, which eventually reaches Kaya, a young political prisoner being held in a hut on a platform suspended over an active volcano, in an unnamed country in the Indonesian archipelago. They become pen pals, assisted by Kaya’s mother and pet crow, forming a fast friendship. When Em’s village is threatened, Kaya is able to help in a surprising way, and by the end of the book, Em has returned the favor in an even more unexpected fashion. Told strictly in the form of letters and diary entries, Pen Pal is a beautifully written ode to friendship and family.
Mike Reeves-McMillan’s Hope and the Patient Man is a highly unusual romance. And I say this approvingly because I seldom enjoy reading romance of any kind. But when I saw this tagline: “A love story, with engineering. About – and for – smart, nerdy women and the men who adore them,” I was pretty sure I would love it, and I was right! This isn’t steampunk exactly, but it’s set in that kind of world, with lots of gears and cool contraptions. The characters spend a lot of time at work, figuring out how to make things, while falling in love. Unlike most romances, the main couple starts out happy and functional, with one little problem. Solving that problem is the focus of the story, and its surprisingly compelling. There’s magic, politics and yes, engineering, but most of all, it’s about two people who love each other very much and are determined to make it work. It’s a sequel to another book, but can definitely be read as a stand-alone. If more romance were written like this, I’d be a fan.
So there you have it! Click on the covers or links above to check out any of these right now, or you can buy the boxed set now for only $2.99. Just click on the pic below: