Happy belated Canada Day to my fellow Canadians and happy Independence Day (4th July not the movie!) to all my American friends. I hope that everyone had/has wonderful celebrations. I had a mini celebration this week as the two final books I read for SPFBO2016 were OK. Hurrah! If you read my WIR last week you would know that I didn't have that much success with the books that I read. This week it was much better. So what did I read and what did I think?
The Berserk Beast by R. Mountebank is the first in the Tales of the Horn series. Mary Horn hates her mundane life stuck in a town that she can't escape from. Reviled by the other teenagers in the town and ignored from her eccentric father Mary has a very lonely life. She is delighted when her brother returns home with a very pregnant wife in tow and close behind them the means to escape her lonely life. However, the escape from the monotony of her life came with a big price when she sacrifice her freedom by becoming the slave of the 'Old Man' in an underbelly of the evil sorcerer's shop. Mary learns some hard truths not just about herself but about her family and being bored doesn't seem such a bad thing as she starts to morph into a monster caused by the Old Man's evil magics. Mary needs to escape before she becomes unrecognisable and before she becomes another of the Old Man's victims.
I quite enjoyed Mountebank's tale and while I didn't really like Mary I thought she was an amusing character. Mountebank a wonderful imagination and really demonstrated an ability for story telling and world building in his description of the Old Man's shop and the creatures that served him. Mary's behaviour, actions and dialogue was very true to life - the typical teenager in a very atypical setting. I loved the scenes where she turned into a berserker or as Mountebanks describes her - ungirl. Mountebank includes nearly every mythical, fantasy and god-like race going. There were faeries, fomorians, werewolves, elves, Norse gods and even Romulus and Remus (from Roman mythology). There was a war brewing between the various races and Mary is right in the middle of it unfolding. While I enjoyed reading The Berserk Beast I think it did suffer from too many characters (and in fact races). The mix of mythical characters with the various pagan gods seemed too much. It felt that Mountebank was trying to wedge too many races in just to ensure that no one got missed out. This detracted a bit from the story overall. I am tempted to continue this series but not exactly waiting in anticipation for book 2.
I also managed to finish Alan Ratcliffe's Dawn of the Dreamsmith which is the first in The Raven's Tale series. The story is told mainly through Cole, a young man with the ability to enter another's dreams is on the run, across the Empire trying to save it's people from a murderous cult that are killing and enslaving it's people. Early in his journey he meets the mysterious Raven who has a mission of her own - to get vengeance for her father who was murdered in front of her by this same cult. Together they make an uneasy alliance on this epic journey that takes them to places that even the bravest soldiers in the land fear to go.
Overall, I would say that I liked this story but didn't love it. I quite liked Cole and Raven as characters but I found the story a bit dis-jointed. The book started with Raven as a young girl and describes the events where her village is pillaged, her community either killed or enslaved and her father killed but it didn't return to her POV. I thought that she was the more interesting of the two characters yet we learn relatively little about her in comparison to some of the other characters. I also didn't think that the story moved that smoothly between different characters, different locations or different time periods. This necessitated a couple of re-reads as I tried to figure out where I was. This wasn't helped by my choice of format - note to self - don't try to read a Word doc on your phone. Every mis-swipe of my pudgy fingers had Word thinking I wanted to do a spell check, delete a sentence or two or close the document. I was forever losing my place. This of course, wasn't the author's fault but invariably it did make it a bit more challenging to get into. I thought this could have been a really good story with a bit of polish and maybe a bit of editing.
That is it for me for this week. I am looking forward to getting a few books off my TBR shelf so fingers crossed I have some quality reading time. Until next week Happy Reading.