Review: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology (Greek & Roman)
Pages: 448
Series: The Trials of Apollo #3
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

5 Stars

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I’m going to start with the dedication. I like Rick’s dedications; like the evil one in House of Hades or the sweet one in Son of Neptune. This time, it’s more of a fun little warning about what’s to come.

To Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy, I hope you’re pleased with yourself.

And having read the book, I find it to be spot-on. I don’t think any of his books so far have hurt quite this much. So keep some tissues handy because Uncle Rick did not pull any punches.

And on that happy note, let’s get to the review. At the end of The Dark Prophecy, Apollo got a very long prophecy (a sonnet) telling him about his next quest, one that would involved the labyrinth. Initially, I thought that’s what the title of the book meant. But the burning maze is different. It’s a part of the labyrinth that’s been… infected, you could say. It’s controlled by the third and last emperor and the third Oracle is in the middle.

We always knew that the third emperor was the worst of them, the most dangerous. Even in this book, Apollo’s afraid the moment he starts to suspect about the emperor’s identity. And boy does the emperor live up to the hype. The guy is evil with a capital everything. He’s also smart, swift and very resourceful, with a bunch of evil and powerful allies and minions. It’s not hard to understand why Apollo’s afraid.

Speaking of Apollo… He’s still brilliant. I’ve loved his perspective from the first book and even as things get more and more grave, we can always rely on him to cheer us up. But more than, I’m so proud of how far he’s come. You can tell just from his narrative that he’s a very different guy from the one he was at the beginning of the series. He’s more compassionate and considerate. He’s learning about the hardships of life as a hero. He hasn’t become this utterly selfless person (which is neither all that bad nor surprising since he’s still a four thousand year old former god) but he no longer expects others to simply do stuff for him. He cares about others and is willing to risk his own safety and comfort for them. That’s a pretty big thing, if you ask me.

Also, I love Meg now. She’s not the easiest person to understand but the more time we spend with her, the better we get to know her. She was scarred heavily by Nero and she’s not someone who’s eager to talk about her feeling. But I find her tendency to shrug off big news, or simply give a one-word response, quite charming. She’s a girl of a few words but she’s good for Apollo.

Last few characters I wanna mention are Jason, Piper and Grover. I liked meeting up with the former two again but honestly, Grover stole the show. He’s another character who’s come very far from his first appearance in The Lightning Thief. Grover’s always had a very pure heart and a desire to help. Now, he’s more capable, more sure of himself and braver than ever. He’s become a leader, something I wouldn’t have expected of him. He and nature are a very crucial part of the novel

Overall, I loved this book, even if it did hurt a lot. This is the most series book in this series so far and, hopefully, the most tragic because I don’t think I can take any more. Still, I can’t wait to see what more Rick has in store for Apollo.

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Review: The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

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Genre: Middle-Grade/Childrens, Fantasy
Pages: 214
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #3
Release Date: February 25, 2000
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Previous two review here: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room

4 Stars

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A Series of Unfortunate Events, as you know, follows three orphans, and an evil man, Count Olaf, who wants to get his hands on their inheritance. In every book, Count Olaf comes up with a plan, bad things happen to the kids, but they manage to stop him. Temporarily.

The newest guardian for the Baudelaires is Aunt Josephine, who’s a sucky guardian because she’s afraid of everything. But the children are still trying to make do and, what do you know, Count Olaf shows up again. Obviously, none of the adults are any help because they refuse to listen to kids so they’re on their own, trying to escape Count Olaf’s clutches once again.

It’s the same formula with every book, but not in a bad way. It’s like Phineas and Ferb. They make something awesome (and usually impossible), Candace tries to bust them, Perry goes off to fight Doof. Perry succeeds, Candace fails, onto the next episode. It works.

The thing that, for me, improved in this particular was that it was more clever. The solution to the problems wasn’t obvious. You could see that the Baudelaire orphans are genuinely clever kids and it was really fun to see them trying to outsmart Olaf and save themselves. What wasn’t fun was the baby, Sunny, saying a one or two-syllable non-words a few times every chapter and the author telling us what she meant by them. For example:

“Delmo!” Sunny offered, which probably meant something along the lines of “If you wish, I will bite the telephone to show you that it’s harmless.”

I didn’t mind it at first, but it’s gotten more frequent and also, annoying. And I still think the tone of the novel is a little patronizing, which is not helped by the frequent explain-the-meaning segments. I like this series and I’m eager to find out what will become of the kids, I just think there are some things we could do without. But those things do not include the alliterative names. I love those.

Review: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy, Mythology (Greek)
Pages: 381
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Books

5 Stars

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After what, to me, seems like a horde of negative or negative-ish reviews (5 in a row!), it was time for something positive. And what could be more positive than an amazing conclusion to an amazing series.

I finished rereading this book just a few hours ago and it made me so sad. I mean, I was really, really happy because the ending is so perfect. But I was also sad because I love this series to pieces and this was the last book. No more books from Percy’s perspective. No more great prophecy about the demigod of the eldest gods, no more wondering about Luke and Kronos. Last time I finished this series, I was a little shell-shocked because I’d marathon-ed the whole thing and I couldn’t believe it had ended. This time, it’s more of a bittersweet feeling.

But enough about that. At the end of Battle of the Labyrinth, Luke’s body got overtaken by Kronos, meaning Kronos is finally out of Tartarus and considering the amount of trouble he created when he wasn’t even there, we know that things are going to get so much worse.

At the beginning of the novel, Percy’s sixteenth birthday is only a week away, and all the campers have been going on missions to try to at least reduce the destruction Kronos is causing and maybe slow him down. They’re looking for the cruise ship because that’s where Kronos is and they’re waiting for the final showdown, the battle with Kronos and his forces. And let me tell you, it is a hell of a battle.

A large part of the novel is actually taken up by it. The fight that we’ve all been anticipating, it’s here and it’s done so well. We don’t often get to read about stuff like this. Two leaders, two armies, battle strategies, reinforcements, patrols… the whole thing. And I can’t tell you how satisfying this was to read. Rick Riordan once again proves that he’s amazing at his job. And I’m not just talking about the fighting. There was so much going on. We finally heard the full great prophecy, the gods were more involved than they’ve ever been, there was an arc with Rachel, with Nico, some really heartbreaking moments, and we got to know Luke a lot better.

The stakes were really high. But more importantly, they felt high. You could tell this was the end. And it was the perfect end.

This series is one of my favourites and if you’ve read the previous four books, which I’m guessing you have or you probably shouldn’t have read this review, I don’t need to recommend this one to you. You’re going to read it anyway. So I’ll just reassure those who are sceptical when it comes to last books of series’ (people like me) that this is a perfect conclusion.

Review: The Silver Mask By Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 200
Series: Magisterium #4
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Beware of spoilers about the previous three book of the series!

4 Stars

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This review will mainly be about the one issue that I have with the novel. I know that’s not how it usually works but the thing is, I really like this series. I love the Magisterium setting, the characters are great, and I love the plot. The first two books in the series were really good, especially the first one. But even with the other two, Holly and Cassie always manage to deliver a twist we don’t expect. Like killing Aaron and putting Callum in prison at the end of The Bronze Key (those were not happy twists). The problem is with the writing.

It’s not bad, per se. But I know that both Holly and Cassie can do better. The atmosphere that they created in The Iron Trial, how hard the revelation about Callum having Constantine’s soul hit the readers, that’s missing. I feel like they’re not bringing their A-game.

I understand that they both have their own, separate projects, and I feel like this series is being neglected. This book was really short. And maybe that was planned, but I’m not sure it was entirely planned. Things were kinda rushed. There could have been more time taken to building up the creep-factor of living with Master freaking Joseph or dealing with Constantine’s mother, more intensity that would really immerse us in the novel. But it was — and I know a lot of people say this about a lot of books — more telling and not enough showing.

This series could be a lot better and despite my complaints, I’m hoping for the best with the next novel. It’s the last one in the series. This was a good installment (better than the last one, for me). It just didn’t feel like enough effort was put into making it great.

Alex’s character needed more time than he was give. This book was Callum’s personal journey, coming to terms with who he is, but I still think the other characters should have been given a bit more. The romance, especially, could have been better written. It came out of nowhere. I ship Callum with Jasper more than I ship him with Tamara.

I feel like this series is being treated like a side project. Maybe that’s not the case, maybe it is. I just hope that the last book is amazing like the first one.

Review: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Young-Adult, Fantasy, Mythology (Norse), LGBT+
Pages: 432
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard  #3
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Star

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Took me a while to get my thoughts in order. I honestly thought I was over my reading slump. And in a way, I am. Just have to take things slow. And avoid big books.

This book isn’t that big, but it also isn’t that small. And we again have a whole lot of names I can’t pronounce (though there’s a guide provided). Seriously, where do all these giants and their names even come from? Half the problem while reading came from there. The other half came from Alex, but we’ll discuss that later.

This is the final novel of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy. Loki’s free and his ship of nails is almost ready to sail. And as soon as it sets off, with Loki on board, Ragnarök will begin. It’s up to Magnus and the crew to stop him from sailing or the world will end. But since that requires a sea voyage, Annabeth suggests that he gets some helpful tips from, none other than, Percy Jackson. By the way, ending the last book with a tease like that was so not cool.

But yeah, Percy’s in the book. Not for long, because uncle Rick lives to torture his fans, but he’s there and it’s awesome. Percy’s my favourite person in the whole world.

Afterwards, they’re off. There are a lot of giants and gods and god-giants. They get vague clues about what they should do and have to figure the rest of the stuff out on their own. The book is funny, as usual, with lots of exciting adventures. Magnus is a great protagonist. And another great thing in the novel was how each character (like Mallory, TJ and Halfborn) got their moment to shine. There was lots of getting-to-know and development for each character.

My favourite of the series is still Hearthstone. I can’t explain it, but I don’t think there’s any character who makes me as fiercely protective as he does. I want to tuck him into the world’s most comfortable bed, wrapped in the softest blankets, in the world’s coziest room and, outside the room, post the Avengers on guard duty. It’s that bad. He’s just so… good and innocent. He’s also has the worst. He was shunned by his entire species. And then his brother died and his father put him through so much. Basically, I love him and I will, honest to God, murder anyone who hurts him.

Hearthstone aside, I like all the other characters too. It was really great finally getting to know where they came from. One character that bothered me was Alex (for the sake of the review, I will be referring to Alex as a he), who I loved in Hammer of Thor.

It’s wasn’t a huge thing. Alex still kicks major butt. The problem was with his relationship with Magnus. I felt that he was a bit too harsh. He’s harsh with everyone but with Magnus, he was almost cruel. To the point where Magnus doubted he (Alex) cared about him (Magnus) at all. Magnus has low (or zero) self-esteem in the first place and the way Alex treated him was like kicking a man when he’s down. It was unnecessary and I didn’t like it.

Other than that, things were fantastic. This was a great novel. Loved the ending. It concluded the current storyline perfectly, while also dropping hints of a future Norse series, one that I would be very interested in. Fingers crossed that uncle Rick writes it.

Review: The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Urban Fantasy, Mythology (Greek)
Pages: 361
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4 (series of 5)
Release Date: March 6, 2008
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

5 Stars

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This book is a favourite from the series for the majority of the fandom and it’s makes complete sense why, because this is a masterpiece. I can’t even tell you how much I love this book.

I mean, we have the things that have been consistently great throughout the series, like the fast pace, the story, the prophecy, the characters, and Percy’s perfect and hilarious narrative. But there’s even more here to love. For one, the setting.

The book starts off with Percy visiting his new school for orientation. There he gets attacked by monsters (because messing with Percy is the Fates’ favourite pastime). He escapes, only to have to rush to camp because things have gone from bad to worse. Luke’s allies are increasing and Kronos is gaining power, and their next move seems to be to invade camp. But the only way to get monsters into camp is via the Labyrinth, a vast underground maze that’s impossible to navigate. To stop the invasion, there needs to be a quest through the Labyrinth.

And let me tell you, that Labyrinth is very creepy. It full of traps and monsters, there’s no real concept of time and you never know where you’re going to end up. Very dangerous, but very exciting to read about.

One of my favourite scenes in the maze, and in the novel, is one that features a Sphinx which, if you didn’t know, is a mythical creature with the body of a lion and a human head. The scene is a satire on the education system and it’s genius. I won’t go into detail because I want you to enjoy it for yourself, but that scene alone is worth five stars.

Then there’s a great message about preserving nature. The book also addressed grief, friendship, guilt, responsibility, choices, right and wrong, and consequences. The Percy and Annabeth relationship is amping as well up because their feeling have grown to more than friendship but they’re not ready to accept that and don’t know how to handle it.

Nico’s arc was very important. He’s just a kid but he’s also a powerful demigod who’s just lost his sister. He’s very angry, not to mention impressionable.

There is, honestly, so much to learn. It is truly amazing how much Rick Riordan has accomplished in a single novel and if I didn’t already know that Uncle Rick is brilliant, I would now. Best book in the series so far. Highly recommend.

Review: Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

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Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Novella
Pages: 175 (seems much shorter)
Series: None
Release date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications

4 Stars

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Gwendy’s Button Box is set in Castle Rock, Maine, which from what I’ve heard is a very significant place for readers of Stephen King. Many of his works have been set there. I’m personally not familiar with those works (I’ll get there, I promise) but I wanted to put it out there.

The story’s fairly straight forward. Gwendy is a young girl who, one morning, meets a mysterious man who introduces himself as Richard Farris. She’s wary of the man but he doesn’t seem to have any ill intentions toward her. He gives her a box. The box has buttons on it, and two levers. When you pull one lever, it gives you a little chocolate treat in the shape of an animal. When you pull the second, it gives you a silver coin. The button though, have more dangerous functions.

Gwendy is told to take care of the box and use it wisely. The novella is set over a period of many years, as long as Gwendy has the box, and is a tale of  how she deals with having so much power handed to her, and how the box affects her life, because it’s not just an ordinary box; it seems to have a life of its own and it impacts her life greatly.

It’s an eerie and mysterious story, but the main theme is responsibility and choice. What if someone came up to you and presented you with a ‘end the world’ switch, or something that could change the planet? Do you think you would be able to handle that responsibility? Do you think you can be trusted with that? What choices would you make if you had infinite destructed power? I, for one, would not want Gwendy’s box. I think of myself as a fairly well-organised person and I wouldn’t trust myself with something like that. I doubt I’d go the apocalyptic route, but would I bet the world on that? Not really.

But it’s something to think about, for sure.

Both Stephen King and Richard Chizmar have done a marvellous job in writing a short, fast and engaging read. I highly recommend that you pick this one up; even though I feel weird recommending a book co-written by Stephen King. Doesn’t the name Stephen King already make it a must-read? I think it does. So… you know, read it.

Review: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy, Mythology (Greek), Humor
Pages: 320
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3
Release Date: May 5, 2007
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

5 Stars

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I was very excited to read this installment (yes, even the reread) because Thalia came back to life at the end of Sea of Monsters and I couldn’t wait to read the implications or that little incident (again).

Thalia’s addition was… interesting. Since the prophecy calls for whichever child of the three elder gods turns sixteen first, and Thalia is older than Percy, does that mean she’s the child of the prophecy?

Also you might remember Annabeth saying in the last book that Percy reminded her of Thalia because they were quite similar. Well it was true, they are similar. They’re both kind of used to leading because they’ve always been the “important” ones compared to the other demigods, so putting them together in a situation complicated things. They didn’t get along. And I honestly loved how Uncle Rick decided to portray two powerful demigods clashing, despite being on the same side.

But… Thalia was a bit of a jerk as well. She ordered people around a lot and expected them to do whatever she asked and if you didn’t listen to her, she would likely kill you. She was too sure of herself, as Chiron said.

Other than the tiff between Thalia and Percy, Annabeth got kidnapped! And Artemis! Obviously, a quest was in order. Too bad Percy wasn’t allowed to be on it. Percy was not happy about this development. He was also worried about Annabeth and pissed off about everyone ganging up on him. What to do now?

Overall, this made for an extremely fun and fast-paced read with many heartfelt moments and even more oh-my-gods-they-are-all-gonna-die moments. We met Artemis and her hunters, met Apollo (he was awesome-ly hilarious) and got another step closer to the big series finale.

Before I close up, I just wanted to leave a little paragraph from my original review. Apparently, I felt bad for Hades.

I also really wanna meet Hades again. Just to see how he’s doing since no one really includes him in the meeting. Poor guy’s been left out. Someone should pay him a visit.

Review: Hotel Valhalla Guide and Camp Half-Blood Confidential, by Rick Riordan

I read Camp-Half Blood Confidential a couple of days ago but I felt weird reviewing just a short companion novel which you can’t even read unless you’ve read eleven other books, so I read the Hotel Valhalla Guide as well and now I’ll review them together.

The genre for both books: Fantasy, Middle-Grade/Young-Adult, Mythology (One Norse, other Greek)
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

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Title: Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds
Pages: 156

Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Rating: 4 Stars

Review:

This is a novella you can read without having previously read anything by Rick Riordan. It contains no spoilers for any of the series. It mentions a little detail about Thor’s hammer which you find out in The Sword of Summer, book 1 of the series, but it’s nothing major in my opinion.

It has a fun and simple narrative, illustrations, and introduces you to Norse Mythology. If you don’t know much about Norse deities (like I didn’t) than this book will help you become familiar with the gods and goddesses, the various creatures, some important stories, and the nine realms. It’ll definitely help when you’re read The Sword of Summer, which also has very little in the name of Percy Jackson spoilers. There’s a Hammer of Thor (book 2) sneak peek at the end, but that you can easily avoid.

So if you’re unsure about reading the series, start with this. You’ll become familiar with the myth and Rick Riordan’s writing. Then you can make your decision.

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Title: Camp Half-Blood Confidential
Pages: 181
Series: …it’s complicated
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

Review:

Yeah… you can’t read this one if you haven’t read a lot of other book, not unless you want to get spoiled for a whole lot of things. To read this book, I recommend reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Heroes of Olympus series, and book 1 of The Trials of Apollo series. It just won’t be as fun, or make as much sense, otherwise because there are a lot of easter eggs and details related to those books.

But if you’ve read them, then you can read this just fine. You get a little intro from Percy and he checks in every now and then, but this novella contains chapters and stories from many of the other campers, mainly the Cabin heads.

You also get a chapter from Chiron, interviews with recurring characters and descriptions of all the places in the camp. You get some history on Camp Half-Blood and, in true Rick Riordan fashion, it’s told hilariously. There are illustrations and little tidbits from the orientation film Apollo made for the camp about (I think) a 100 years ago. The orientation film is the reason from the book. It was so bad that the campers decided they needed something better to inform new campers of how things worked.

It’s worth the read in my opinion. But if you’re one of those people who are going to whine about Rick Riordan trying to “squeeze more money out of the Percy Jackson franchise”, just steer clear. Let us others have our fun.

Review: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade/Young-Adult, Fantasy, Mythology (Norse), LGBT+
Pages: 471
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #2
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

5 Stars

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You know those rare moments when you’re in the mood to read a very specific kind of novel and then you find it and read it and everything is completely awesome? Yeah, that happened to me, and I can’t tell you how great it feels.

You see, I saw a map somewhere and there was a place labeled ‘Bali’ on it. That made me think of the Bali from Norse myth (Norse mythology doesn’t have a Bali; his name is actually Balder; Loki killed him) which made me want to read a very specific type of Norse mythology-related book. Then I realized that I hadn’t read Hammer of Thor yet so, on a whim, I paused my current read and picked this one up. Cue the best one and half day of the month. I never wanted the book to end.

It did end, obviously, and now I have to wait for the next, and last, book of the series, but that doesn’t take away from how much I enjoyed reading it.

The book picks up six weeks The Sword of Summer ended. Magnus has had time to adjust to being an undead warrior and has had some training. But while he was acclimating, bad stuff was still going down in the nine realms. Loki is up to his evil schemes again (when is he not?) and the giants are preparing to invade Midgard. The only way to stop them is with Thor’s hammer, which is still missing. So Magnus has to find the hammer before the giants destroy the world, while dealing with whatever Loki is up to. Easy peasy, right?

Yeah… not so much. But he’s gonna try his best. And he, of course, has lots of help. The old gang is back together!

We have Blitzen and his fashion expertise, Hearthstone with his rune magic and his uncanny ability to make everyone want to “wrap him in a blanket and shield him from all the bad in the world” (that’s a quote from a comment left on my Sword of Summer review on GR), and Samirah with her Valkyrie brilliance. There’s also a new character, Alex, but I want you to get to know this character yourself, so I won’t comment.

But yeah, everyone’s on a mission, the narrative is fun and hilarious as always, the characters are wonderful, the pace is relentless and the story is endlessly engaging. On top of that, Loki is so freaking awesome. I mean, he’s evil but he’s so clever that you can’t help but love him even though you kinda hate him too.

So, if not for all else, read the book just for Loki …And Magnus’s haircut. I don’t why, but I can’t get over the fact that Magnus got a haircut and Thor got one as well in the upcoming movie, Thor: Ragnarök); so now, in my head, Magnus looks like a younger Chris Hemsworth. I know that’s not relevent to the novel but it just keeps popping up in my head. My head’s weird.

Overall, I realize that half of the review was just me rambling but I’m hoping it was enough to convince you (if you even need convincing) to read the book. If not, read it anyway.

P.S. I forgot to mention Jack, the talking, flying, and singing sword, who is totally get back into the dating scene in this novel. You can’t miss that.