Category Archives: Novels

Review of Dragon Knight

Disclosure: I am related to the author of this novel, and thus may be biased in favour of this story. I also have some nostalgia for this book in more ways than one. If you think that after this statement that I can give a fair review then continue to read, if not please read and judge my work.

Corsender (a.k.a. Cor) is a magical red dragon who has a problem; he’s bored. So he sets out to become a knight with his princess, Espreta, as his cultural guide to the human world. When word reaches Cor that there is a dragon’s bane killing his brethren, he makes it his knightly quest to put an end to the villainous knight. Complications arise as other knights join the party, baby dragons imprint on Cor, and everyone involved gets a romance path as well as have their names reduced to three letters. And to help add to the confusion of remembering names and nicknames, we also have Espreta, dubbed Esp, shares a name with another side character named Espreta who later gets called Preta and has the same nickname as Cor’s mother, Esperanza.

I’m not going to lie this is not the greatest thing to be self-published. The characters are pretty two-dimensional, the villain, Jeareth, is a non-threat to Cor, and… actually, the biggest problems I have are with the Cor-Jeareth dynamic. Cor is built up to be nigh unbeatable while transformed as a human and straight up invisible against anything a human can throw at him. And Jeareth is proven to be inferior to Cor in both categories of brawn and brains. Lex Luthor is a great villain because he can challenge Superman; Jeareth just cannot contend with Corsender. Yes, he tries to use hostages to his advantage, but each time he does, it’s as useful as grabbing a snake by the tail. Cor either says “new rules”, or the hostage actively undermines Jeareth’s advantage. As it turns out villains are a detriment to their story if they don’t pose a challenge to the hero in some meaningful way. Jeareth’s presence acts as a speed bump rather than a blockade to Cor’s ultimate objective.

In the end, things get tied up too easily and quickly. It doesn’t help that the story hasn’t been paced well enough up to this point for a proper conclusion to unfold in a timely manner. It is odd sometimes you get a couple of excellent chapters and then other times you get a few chapters just exist to throw exposition at you, and all of this is nestled in the bulk of the rest of the story that is more half-baked and not quite so fleshed out.

I still have a soft spot for this novel, but looking at it more objectively I can’t say that it’s good.

Review of The Guardians of Ga’hoole Book One: The Capture

This is the first book the series of Guardians of Ga’hoole, and by the end, it shows. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s start at the beginning.

Soren is a young barn owl from the forest kingdom of Tyto. He’s only been alive for a few weeks in the tender care of his parents when he falls out of the nest and is snatched by the owls of St. Aegolius, what can only be described as an owl cult with eyes on conquering the other owl kingdoms. Along with an elf owl named Gylfie, Soren makes his attempt to escape and reunite with his parents, Kludd his older brother, and Eglantine his younger sister. On their journey, they meet Twilight, a great grey, and a burrowing owl named Digger; they even find Soren’s family’s nest-maid snake, Mrs Plithiver (Mrs P for short). Together the decision is made to find the Great Tree of Ga’hoole and get help from the Guardians that legends speak of.

It’s an okay enough plot that is, unfortunately, left unresolved by the end. The primary focus on escaping and then the forming of the team is fine enough, and the strings that have been left untied allow for future instalments to weave seamlessly into the story. It doesn’t feel wrong for the book to end where it does; there’s a good enough sense of resolution that your not going to be lying awake at night wondering what will happen next and enough left open that you don’t have to worry about how the next one will fit in either.

The main characters, Soren and Gylfie, are under-owls from the start; both were too young to learn how to fly when they were taken. And them being young, inexperienced owls looking for a way out is the cream of the story. Gylfie is the clever brains of the two coming up with most of the plans to learn more about their situation in order to escape. Soren is the heart of the duo; displaying glimpses of leadership and the ability to inspire others. The narrative mostly focuses on him, so we also get to see more of his doubts than Gylfie, but that does serve more to build on him as the heart of the team.

When it comes to discussing side characters in this story we have two pronounced divisions: secondary and tertiary characters. You can argue that most stories have this, but here I say it is more noticeable than a lot of stories I have covered so far. The secondary characters I would say are Twilight, Digger, and Mrs P because they are the ones being carried most prominently forward with our main characters Soren and Gylfie. Mrs P and Digger are pretty standard for the roles they occupy while I found Twilight an absolute delight. He’s the loyal, boisterous type that I love who will claw and sing his way to victory and celebrate the loudest afterwards.

There are a few good tertiary characters as well that I enjoyed, but Grimble stands out as one of the best characters of the book for me. I like the complexity of his character; he understands that he is assisting evil, but initially, sees it as the only way to keep his family safe and later does it solely out of grudging duty till the opportunity to betray his oppressors presents itself. He is the tragic hero of his story and an inspiration to our young main characters and myself.

There’s a certain charm to the story; it’s made for kids but not at the expense of children. It’s a well-done concept that doesn’t sacrifice good storytelling just cause the audience isn’t targeted at adults. The ideal audience for this book is certainly kids age 8 to 12, but I’m in my mid-twenties, and I enjoyed myself enough.

Review of Star Wars: The Rise of the Empire

Alright, it is time for a mega super review of Star Wars: The Rise of the Empire. We have three short stories (Mercy Mission, Bottleneck, and The Levers of Power) and two novels (Tarkin and A New Dawn) making up this Star Wars collection. I’ve already covered the novels, so I’ll address them again briefly at the end. This review has been a long time coming, but it’s finally here.

Starting with the short stories:

#1. Mercy Mission

This story acts as a nice little prologue/flashback for Hera that I would recommend reading either before you read A New Dawn or after the first chapter of A New Dawn. It’s heart pumping and ties nicely in between Lords of the Sith and A New Dawn.

Hera is a co-pilot on the freighter Eclipse making a smuggling run to get medical supplies to her home planet of Ryloth which is under the heel of Moff Mors after the misadventure that was the plot of Lords of the Sith. There’s some real suspense as your reading this; the stakes are simple but high. The characters have natural motivations to grasp, and yet a couple of them feel like there is a bit more below the surface. It is an excellent addition that kept my undivided attention.

#2. Bottleneck

Bottleneck is just about the best story to go in between Tarkin and A New Dawn. It is placed in between the two novels both physically in the book and chronologically. The principle characters are Tarkin and Vidian performing an inspection of the production facilities of Gilvaanen, facilities that produce stormtrooper armour. It’s a tale of corporate espionage and rebel scheming that Tarkin and Vidian are tasked with sniffing out. The atmosphere is much calmer than Mercy Mission, and with it being placed right after Tarkin I think it is a good tone shift to prepare you for the feel of A New Dawn.

The characters here are solid well defined, and each one is memorable. Thanks in large part to the much smaller cast. One thing that gets me though, and this is starting to seem like a running pattern, is that alien species are not adequately described. If you asked me what the Ithorian looked like, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what basic shape they have compared to a human.

#3. The Levers of Power

This story revolves around Rae Sloane during the battle of Endor. Sloane was the captain of the Star Destroyer in A New Dawn under Vidian, and here she has gotten to the rank of admiral. The whole story takes place on the bridge of the Star Destroyer she commands, with the focus on her reactions to the progression of the battle. If you’ve seen Star Wars: Return of the Jedi then you know how that goes, and see the response solely from one continuous perspective.

Personally, I think this story is fine but out of place in this collection of stories. Yes, Sloane has been featured in Bottleneck, and yes, she had a prominent role in A New Dawn. However, this story takes place over a decade after the events of A New Dawn and aside from a couple of common elements has nothing to do with the rest of the collection.
#4. Tarkin

I gave my thoughts on this first novel a little while ago, so I think I’m going to link that review here. Fear not though I shall give a brief version of my thoughts here as well.

Tarkin is a good story where the title character is absolutely brilliant. Tarkin certainly has the presence to carry his own story; everyone else feels like a side character even Darth Vader. Couple that with a pair of intriguing stories woven together expertly, and you have a very solid story centred around a villain you are simultaneously rooting for and against.
#5. A New Dawn

Similarly, I’ve also done a previous review for A New Dawn and will be giving my quick thought on this novel.

If you couldn’t tell from comments in previous sections, I particularly like this story and love it when the short stories tie into it. Kannan has a fantastic arc, Vidian is cruelly efficient with a reason you can almost understand, and some of the side characters are simple but enjoyable. If you were to take away the Star Wars aesthetic, I think you would still find an excellent story.

Overall, I believe that this is a worthwhile collection to pick up; particularly if you haven’t already gotten Tarkin and/or A New Dawn. The short stories are nice, but I think I would need maybe another pair of good stories before I would recommend it solely for the short stories. I think that this is certainly worth having if you’re a Star Wars fan but only if you don’t already have both Tarkin and A New Dawn. If you’re not a Star Wars fan then first I would have to find out specifically what it is you don’t like before making my recommendation, but in general, I would say go to your local library and read either Tarkin or A New Dawn and if you like either one of those then I would say get this, if not save your money.

Review of Star Wars: Tarkin

Governor Tarkin sees the Galatic Empire as a machine that needs more centralised oversight. As insurgents perform hit and run attacks against the Empire, Emperor Palpatine orders Tarkin and his apprentice, Darth Vader, to investigate and put a stop to the rebel attacks. It’s a story full of twists and turns, and if you’re familiar with Star Wars, then you know that this is a story told from the perspective of the classic villains of Star Wars: A New Hope. In addition to the main plot, we also get to see important moments in Tarkin’s life that made him into the man that he is. We see his early life that gave him his outlook on life, parts of his early military career, his first meeting with the future Emperor Palpatine, etc. This really is a book about Tarkin, and it is glorious. A proper story for a classic villain; not at all a disappointment.

Tarkin as the main character is a brilliant character because as you learn more about him the more, you understand him, and in understanding him, you are almost convinced by him. He has a very pragmatic outlook on life, and his life is built on maximising his ability to the best utility he can have. Unfortunately, this focus on Tarkin doesn’t come with a compliment of equally interesting support characters. The support characters are good—Vader has a few good moments—but they don’t have the same presence on the page as Tarkin.

The antagonists of the story are a group of rebels that would normally be the protagonists of another Star Wars story. Most of the rebel crew is the usual crew you might expect, but their leader, Captain Teller, has a great moment with Tarkin at the end that I won’t spoil. Teller stands as a fine foil for Tarkin at that moment and serves as a good comparison between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.

I’m not sure how to go on in this review without spoiling anything, so I’ll just say that if you enjoyed Star Wars: Darth Plagueis then you’ll enjoy this just fine. As for me, this was a fantastic read, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading a real villain centred book. Star Wars: Tarkin isn’t perfect, but it’s one of the best books in the new canon that I have read so far.

Review of Star Wars: A New Dawn

Star Wars has always been special to me. I grew up watching the movies, and fantasizing about my own adventures in a galaxy far far away. One thing I never did was get into the expanded universe (EU); I just didn’t know where to start. So when Disney bought Star Wars and said that they were pushing the restart button on EU; I had mixed feelings. On the one hand I knew this was going to divide the fandom, but on the other hand I knew exactly where to jump into. While I’m going to try my best to keep up with the New Canon, I, also, plan to collect the old EU (now called Legends).

But I’m getting side tracked. Let’s start with the first novel, Star Wars: A New Dawn.

Now A New Dawn takes place years after Revenge of the Sith, but before the TV show Star Wars Rebels. And shows how Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla (both major characters of Rebels) met. Kanan is an ex-Jedi trying to keep his head down to avoid the very much unwanted attention of the Empire, and Hera is a rebel trying to get information to aid in her cause against the Empire. When their paths cross, and the Empire’s cruelty finally makes Kanan take a stand, what you get is a very Mission Impossible style story of infiltration and sabotage.

Even if you don’t like Star Wars, know anything about the movies, or watch the television series, this is a story that you can enjoy regardless of your past experience. What you need to know from the movies (and that’s not much) is present in a short prologue, and you don’t need to know anything from Rebels. The setting of the Star Wars universe is just that, the setting. It doesn’t demand you to already know the universe, and if you take it away you still have a compelling story of a fugitive joining a rebel group to stick it to the Man.

Kanan is the reluctant hero of the story. The main focus is on him overcoming his reluctance to get involved against the Empire he has been successfully avoiding until now, with Hera taking the part of the mysterious woman that, through happenstance, enlists him in an espionage mission. Kanan is more fleshed out as a character, but this is due to a purposeful decision to make Hera and her goals more mysterious and elusive to the reader. Both are portrayed very well, and feel like separate people with conflicting goals to start: Kanan wanting to ignore what’s in front of him and Hera’s desire to take it to the Empire when she can. This clear separation between the two of them is very important because when you break their characters down they are very similar. Their similarities and differences helps create this tug and pull relationship that doesn’t seem forced. Resulting in a fun and believable working relationship.

And in the Empire’s corner, bringing cruel efficiency to everyone, is our villain for the day, Denetrius Vidian. He is a mysterious cyborg who is placed in charge of thorilide production on the planet Gorse. Through him we get an idea of the pressures and stresses that drive Imperial officials to use iron fisted tactics to keep ahead of their rivals, or to unseat them. He’s a dynamic villain with an enigmatic past, but his desperation does take control of him by the end and removes the nuance from him. However, I thought he was a good villain and a part of me will miss not seeing more of him.

So much of this story is tied to the enjoyability of the characters. If you don’t like the characters then you loose the suspense and impact of the story. Luckily there are a number of characters that help bring that needed tension: Skelly is an explosive expert that has safety concerns over the mining operations on Gorse’s moon, Cynda, Zaluna Myder is a morally conflicted surveillance officer that you swear is going to crack under the pressure, Okadiah is a miner foreman and bar owner who is the closest think Kanan has to a friend, and Captain Rae Sloane a Star Destroyer commander under Vidian.

Skelly and Okadiah are both co-workers of Kanan’s in the mining of thorilide. Skelly is that guy so set on his goals that you’d be forgiven if you thought he was a conspiracy nut, and he’s crazy. Like Kanan you don’t warm up to him till much later in the book, which I think works best from a narrative stand point. Okadiah is that uncle figure that everyone needs in their life. He’s down to earth, relaxed, and has a warmth to him that I found to be quite charming, which is very much how Kanan also feels about him. Both have a distinct appeal to them that really help drive home the emotions of a moment when the time comes.

Zaluna Myder is a Sullustan female who has lived her whole life on Gorse. She acts as an intelligence officer spying on the local population to find dissidents against the Empire. Think Big Brother from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four. She is, however, no lover of the Empire, but is absolutely terrified when she finds herself unwittingly caught up in Hera’s fight against the Empire. Much like Kanan, she is reluctant to go against the Empire, but she enters this fight with a more civilian perspective. Making her the bravest character in my mind.

Captain Rae Sloane is interesting since she isn’t Vidian’s henchwoman. She takes his orders for sure, but she has her own goals and only goes along with Vidian as long as his goals aline with hers. She is a believer in the Empire and has an air of confidence to her that makes you believe in her. She is only a villain in the fact that she is on the enemy team.

The setting is primarily the gritty industrial planet of Gorse and the mines of its moon, Cynda. And Gorse has one other distinct feature; the only habitable zone of the planet is this band of twilight between the side of the planet that always faces the sun and the side that faces away. Now, while I think that is a cool concept, the actual weather of a planet like this would be utterly terrifying. We are talking about perpetual storms as bad as anything we have on earth at least. I’m not even sure if there would even be an atmosphere on a planet like this. If you can get past the science that makes this setting impossible, it is an interesting world.

Now if it was hard to tell I really enjoyed this book, and I strongly recommend it to Star Wars fans and non-fans alike. Hardcore sci-fi fans will most likely get hung up on the less than science aspects of the story, but if you can suspend your disbelief to the end I think you’ll find it completely worth it. However, it is not perfect sometimes there just isn’t enough description for a couple of things that are unique to the Star Wars universe, and some of the flaws I have with Vidian due impact the plot.