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The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham

WAR OF CHAOS

From the The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham series , Vol. 2

An engaging book for kids, with a particular interest for the budding mechanic.

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A middle-grade fantasy novel continues the story of a young inventor and his hidden golden hometown of Chelldrah-ham.

After the events of the previous book (Stig’s Flight of Encounters, 2014), Stig returns to Chelldrah-ham with tales of the lands beyond: the sentient wooden pods that produce healing “corms,” the corrupted race of creatures called the Bach, the flower-wearing folk of the forest of Polandrea. The city’s Elders have debriefed him thoroughly about the Bach threat as well as the strange substance called “usty metal.” Stig’s instincts tell him they’re hiding something, so he keeps his newly developed empathic abilities secret, though he frequently communicates in dreams with Meg, the Polandrean girl he fell for on his journey. Alarmed when she falls silent, he gains permission to visit her, setting out with his best friend, Arn, one of the city’s doughty Guards of Old. They are shocked when they retrace Stig’s steps, visiting the homes of friends he made—and discover only devastation, the aftermath of fierce battles with the Bach. And when they finally reach Meg’s homeland, they discover that she’s missing, on a mission to rescue her brother, one of many Polandreans kidnapped by the Bach for nefarious purposes. Soon, Stig learns that the Bach are under the influence of a woman named Anet, who came through a rift from a place called Earth, “not on this planet, but also not off it.” Anet starts to breed bigger, more evil Bach with the help of a poison called Chaos; she plans to unleash her army and take over both worlds. Can Stig and his friends stop her before it’s too late? While the first book in the Chelldrah-ham series suffered from a surfeit of exposition, the background details pay off in this fast-paced sequel. Von Clinkerhoffen blends imaginative flora (like the fluid-filled flowers used as canteens) and fauna (Stig’s pets Noname, a plimph, and Jess, a fledgling bird of prey called a jeswit) with the hero’s love of machinery and problem-solving skills. The narrative chronicles Stig’s experiments with various contraptions, including a plane (he “pushed the motor lever forward to ‘Go.’ The motor whirred, the plane started to make a wooooooo sound, and a wind started to blow from the rear of the fuselage. It bounced slowly and then started shaking violently”).

An engaging book for kids, with a particular interest for the budding mechanic.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5147-0361-8

Page Count: 210

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

IRON FLAME

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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