So the War of Mist blog tour has been extended for a couple of days which means I can talk about The Oremere Chronicles even more! If I haven’t yet convinced you, dear reader, to pick up this incredible fantasy trilogy by Helen Scheuerer, I clearly haven’t talked about it enough. Although I’ve written essentially three posts discussing just how great this series is, I don’t think I ever really went into the minor details that really made the books so damn enjoyable to read.
Here’s a quick listicle on my top 7 reasons why I love the Oremere Chronicles to death and why you’re sorely missing out if you don’t read it.
At the beginning of this year, I picked up a book that nearly everyone on my Twitter timeline was obsessed about. Jade City fever had hit the book community towards the end of 2018 and it was difficult not to succumb to the hype when practically every reviewer that I trust swore by it. Once I started reading it, I immediately understood why.
Jade City was A RIDE so WILD that I struggled to hold on to my dear life. I had no idea where we were going but I enjoyed every moment of it. There was a magic mafia, martial arts, and family drama – Jade City has been described as The Godfather but with magic and for good reason.
When Shealea (@Shutup, Shealea and @CaffeineTours) announced that she had the honor of organizing an international blog tour of Jade City‘s sequel, Jade War, I signed up for it so fast that I barely had the time to blink. I knew that there were only limited slots and with my humble blog’s stats I didn’t really have much hope but still I had to shoot my shot.
By some stroke of luck, I got in! I returned to Janloon, said my oaths to the Pillar of No Peak once again, and experienced the absolute rollercoaster ride that was Jade War.
March has gone and went with barely a word of warning. I swear I was just complaining about how sudden February ended and now here I am, complaining about how March breezed by. Clearly, I need to improve my time management skills, maybe then I’d finally be more aware of how long a month lasts.
Anyway. I’m not normally the kind of person to prepare a TBR list at the beginning of the month. Heck, I’m pretty much notorious for overpiling my TBR shelves. However, this year I’ve made it a practice to come up with a reasonable reading list at the beginning of every month and – miracle of miracles! – I’ve done a fairly good job at sticking to it. I was pleasantly surprised at how much easier it is to pick up a book and start reading when I’ve already decided what books to prioritize at a given month. Turns out there is a real benefit to trying to stay organized. Who knew?
Honestly, I’m kind of looking forward to reading the books I’ve lined up for April. I keep forgetting that I have so many promising titles hidden away in my TBR shelves.
In any case, in no particular order, here’s my April TBR:
Rather than starting off this post with yet another self-deprecating anecdote about my pathetic life, here’s a mostly relevant gif instead:
That’s right, this series is officially a thing that I do on my blog now. The first Sequel Sunday of mine wasn’t just a fluke that I can surreptitiously bury with each passing month. 2019 is the year I actually try to challenge myself to write better and more frequently.
But anyway. As I said on my first Sequel Sunday, this series aims to take a look at the second instalment of a book series and see if it holds up to the first. If it isn’t already obvious, this post is dedicated to the second book of The Bone Witch trilogy by Rin Chupeco, The Heart Forger.(No Spoilers)
Just a little preface in case my actual message/review is buried in my haphazard asides: I LOVED Sebastien de Castell’s Spellslinger. It was riveting, emotional, and immersive. This book went far beyond my expectations and I went into this book expecting to like it. Spellslinger is a wonderfully magical book that stands out from other recent fantasy novels and is, in my opinion, offensively underrated.
That being said, watch me contrast it to possibly the most overrated fantasy series of all time.
I know that it’s trite and unfair to compare every book about a kid who can use magic to the Harry Potter series but hear me out for a second. Spellslinger might just be the anti-Harry Potter series that we didn’t know we needed. That’s right. I said it.
Whether de Castell intended it or not, most of the elements in the story are almost in complete opposition of everything the Harry Potter books stand for. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the two for a second. (Note: I’m looking at the HP series as a whole while only talking about the first book of the Spellslinger series. Uneven footing, yeah, but I feel like my point still stands.)
In Harry Potter, Harry was brought up in a strikingly non-magical household after the death of his parents. He starts learning how to wield magic and is quite a natural at wizardry. Harry quickly gains fame as a powerful wizard, though people expected nothing less from The Boy Who Lived. Harry immediately falls in love with the magical world and ultimately ends up putting his life on the line for his people.
Spellslinger goes in the exact opposite direction. Kellen grew up in a powerful magical family, both of his (living) parents accomplished mages in their own right. He was taught how to do spells since he was a kid but has always been rather mediocre at practicing actual magic (though he knows all the theories behind the spells to heart). Kellen quickly gains infamy within his clan as the weakest initiate. And, one of the biggest contrasts to Harry, Kellen, over the course of the story, slowly realizes that the magical society that he has loved all his life is actually really, really shitty.
Over the years, I’ve honed what I now call my three-chapter sniff test. Basically, if I can’t find anything or anyone to care about by chapter three, there’s a huge chance that I’m not going to care about the story as a whole. And I’m usually right. It doesn’t have to be a something big like the main character or the plot. Really, it can be any aspect of the story, from one interesting plot point to a minute worldbuilding detail. In fact, the main reason why I was so taken by Ready Player One – to the point where I literally did not notice the problematic main character, the flimsy plot, and dumb dumb dumb action scenes – was because I fell hard and fast for the concept of OASIS.
Ultimately, readers are looking for one thing when they’re reading a book: a reason to care. It’s a simple enough requirement but anyone who’s ever dabbled in fiction writing will tell you that it’s extremely difficult to execute. Which is why I was so enamored with Helen Scheuerer’s Heart of Mist on the very first chapter alone. In such a short period of time, I cared about Bleak, the tough as nails, aloof main character who, for all intents and purposes, should have made me recoil. I’ve consumed enough media to know how… iffy these types of female characters, especially YA heroines, can be portrayed so I think I was rightly wary. I mean, tough-talking, ostracized, female character, with a pining conventionally attractive childhood friend to boot? Sounds like 80% of the heroines in the genre, let’s be honest.
However I soon learned that while Bleak might seem like the standard no-shits-given main character with a tragic past in a YA fantasy, she’s far from the typical cardboard cutout “badass” heroine.
I have a passionate love for books with magic or superpowered people and I’m currently in the processing of writing my own little fantasy tale and, let me tell you, as fun as imagining a make-believe world is, it’s insanely difficult to establish a coherent magic system. Depending on the kind of story you’re writing, a magic/power system can be as comprehensive or as mysterious as you want and oftentimes even just deciding which route to take can be difficult.
In my opinion, a story can have the most fascinating magic/power system ever but if that system doesn’t have consistent rules, if the system can’t even stand under basic scrutiny, then the whole story will flop. Willing suspension of disbelief can only go so far and when you’re dealing with magical folk you’re treading on thin ice to begin with. Now, from what I’ve gleaned from weeks of on-and-off research, making a rational magic/power system is attainable if you take three things into consideration: the verisimilitude of the system, the conflict/s that the system invokes, and the impact of the magic/power to users, non-users, and society as a whole.
As an example, let’s take a look at Marissa Meyer’s triumphant sci-fi adventure series, The Lunar Chronicles. Although the book series doesn’t have as extensive a magic/power system as in a Tolkien tale or any Tamora Pierce book, I believe The Lunar Chronicles is a great example of how a simple superhuman ability can shape a simple story into a complicated, riveting yarn.