Book Review: The Outcast

The Outcast
Summoner
Trilogy prequel
by Taran Matharu

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: YA fantasy

Outcast

Spoiler notice: The following review may contain some spoilers for the books in the trilogy, The Novice, The Inquisition, and The Battlemage.

In a land where only children of noble birth have the ability to summon demons, Arcturus, an orphan and stable boy, accidentally becomes the first common summoner. He is drawn into a political battle that threatens his life and the lives of those noble-born students he is studying alongside. He’ll have to choose between his fellow commoners or his fellow summoners.

On its own, this book was intriguing and exciting with good world-building and some engaging characters. However, as a prequel, it had some issues–namely too much repetition from the original trilogy and too many characters in common.

The first third or so was especially had a lot of similarities to the first book in the series. A commoner unintentionally summons a demon, is whisked away to Vocans, the summoner school, and is snubbed by some, but not all, of the nobles while being far friendlier with the servants and “lower” races than most other humans. Even some of the early explanations of how spells work felt repetitious.

Prince Harold in particular I really liked in this book. And Captain Lovett as a teenager was quite the fun and rambunctious character too. However, while it was kinda neat to see characters in this book that were in the trilogy, or were parents of characters in the trilogy, when all of these characters who we know are alive years later are put into peril, there’s no question of whether they will survive or not. Though I will say that, for me, this didn’t mean there was no suspense. There was still some danger, but it wasn’t as exciting as it could have been.

As for Arcturus himself, who is very similar in personality to Fletcher from the trilogy, when I was reading through the trilogy, I really liked Arcturus. And when I saw there was a prequel about him, I expected there to be a lot more of him in the last half of the trilogy than there ended up being. In the end, perhaps he wasn’t the best choice for the subject of a full-length prequel novel. Yes, he was the first common summoner, which was mentioned in the trilogy but made for a decent story on its own. But from what I understand, Matharu had already written a shorter story of his origin, and then later turned that into the full novel. But the story wasn’t far enough removed, and the time it took place wasn’t long enough before the trilogy, for this to work all that well as a prequel.

I wonder if it might actually work better if this book were to be read before the trilogy. I can’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be some world-building that was lacking in the prequel, because the reader is expected to know the world already, but I didn’t really think that was the case. Whether or not someone who has read the trilogy absolutely needs to read the prequel before calling this series complete, I would say…it’s a toss-up.

Find out more about The Outcast

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Single-Word Titles

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is “Books With Single-Word Titles.” I thought this would be really easy, and then I looked through my list of books on Goodreads and realized…it’s not so easy. At least, not for me with the amount of books on my Read and Want to Read shelves, which I generally want to stick to for these weekly posts. And because it is a Top Ten list, after all, I didn’t want to include any books I didn’t really enjoy. Below is what I came up with, which includes 8 books I’ve read and 2 that I haven’t, but have a very good feeling I will like more than the average books I read. For once, my list is ordered 10 to 1, with #1 being my favorite of all the books on the list.

10. Redshirts by John Scalzi
Between enjoying the 2 books of Scalzi’s that I’ve read so far and being a Star Trek fan, not to mention my husband’s recommendation, I expect to really like this book too.

9. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
I read Brant’s second book before reading this, his first, and have plans to get to it soon. His second book (Blessed Are the Misfits) is great, so I have high hopes for this one.

Pithea cover, Kindle

8. Pithea by Kristi Drillien
Bridging the gap between the books on the list that I haven’t read and those that I have is my own book (which, of course, I have read).  (See more about this book here.)

7. The Battlemage by Taran Matharu
I sort of cheated with the “The,” but ran out of books and wanted to fill out the final spot. This is the third book in a trilogy that that I really liked, and my favorite of the 3.  (See my review for this book here.)

6. Sneak by Evan Angler
This is book 2 in the Swipe series, which contains 4 books with 1-word titles. I’ve only read 2 of them so far. (See my review of this book here.)

5. Holes by Louis Sachar
Great book, great movie. If you haven’t read or seen this, you really should! (See my review of this book here.)

4. Thr3e by Ted Dekker
Great book, not such a great movie. I definitely recommend the book, though. (See my review of this book here.)

3. Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone
This book has a subtitle, but I’m ignoring that for this list. Actually, the 2nd book on the list has a subtitle too…oh well. (See my review of this book here.)

2. Obsessed by Ted Dekker
I tried to not include any 2 books by the same author, but oh well. I have not read this book for many years, but I read it a few times in my early adult days. I remember loving it, but plan to re-read it soon to see if it holds up.

1. Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
A new favorite of mine by my favorite author.  (See my review of this book here.)

What are your favorite books with single-word titles? If you also posted a TTT, share your link so I can check it out!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Covers

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is a freebie about book covers. I’m going to keep it simple, since I’m still new to all of this keeping track of books I’ve read and want to read, and I’m definitely not ready to get detailed with a list like this. So I stuck with books that are on my Goodreads shelves and found 10 books with covers I really like for one reason or another. Here they are, in no particular order:

wingfeather

1. The Wingfeather Saga books by Andrew Peterson
If you click on the link above, you won’t see these covers. The series came out between 2009 & 2014, but the covers above are from a re-release. Those shown are the only 2 (of 4) that have new covers yet, but I’m guessing the other 2 eventually will as well. I actually do like the look of the original covers too, but it was these that first drew me to the series.
Shown here: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (read my review of this book) and North! or Be Eaten

2. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
I’ve always really liked the macabre cover to this book, which is a play about two minor characters from Hamlet. I remember reading it in high school, and then watching the movie with Gary Oldman and Tim Roth and that tennis court scene. My love of the cover might be as much nostalgia as anything, but it still counts!

3. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
I’ll be honest–I might be more in love with the cover of this book than the synopsis (which is interesting, don’t get me wrong), but someday I’ll have to actually read it and find out if I like it.

4. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
I really like the way they made the cover (front and back) with a distressed look, so that it would look like it had been around since the 90s (when the book was set). (Read my review of this book.)

5. Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren
I had this book for over a year before I read it, and the cover always made me muse about just what was going on in that plot. The synopsis also mentions the neighbors’ house, which “defies the laws of physics.” Both are a good teaser for what’s inside the book. (Read my review of this book.)

6. Lock In by John Scalzi
It may not be the most visually appealing cover, but, like the previous book, I stared at this for a long time before I ever got around to reading it. And like with the previous book, it made me really curious about what was inside. (There’s a reason why when I started back into a heavy reading habit last year, these were some of the first books I read.) Knowing what the book is about, the cover is quite fitting. (Read my review of this book.)

7. The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels
I don’t think I have to explain why this cover appeals to me so much. If you’re viewing this post, you probably love books as much as I do, and a cover like this is just beautiful! From what I’ve read of the synopsis, it sounds like the book will be equally as wonderful for book lovers (I haven’t read it yet).

peregrine

8.  Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I only heard about this series for the first time recently, but I was able to pick up books 1 & 2 for good deals, so I plan to start into it soon. For now, though, I really like the way the author took actual vintage photographs and used them to inspire the stories, and how employing them for the covers turned out.
Shown here: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City

summoner

9. Summoner series books by Taran Matharu
I really enjoy the covers of the all of the books in this series (a trilogy of 3, plus a prequel). The trilogy covers all feature the main character, showing him decked out in whatever gear he acquired in that book, and with some iteration of his summoned demon, who was practically like a character himself. The third book is my favorite cover of the trilogy (shown on the left) for many reasons, some of which are a bit spoilery. And the prequel cover, which features a different character, I chose to also show mostly because it’s so beautifully purple.
Shown here: The Battlemage (read my review of this book) and The Outcast

colors

10. True Colors series books by various authors
Though I’ve been a bit hit-or-miss in my love for the stories themselves, I really love the covers in this series of books. I’ve read 2 of them so far, and have a 3rd coming up on my TBR. They’re all basically stand-alones (maybe a little overlap of characters) about true crime stories in history, and they all have a color in the title. Most of the covers, then, are black & white, with one item of the same color as in the title standing out (as seen in the 2 I shared above).
Shown here: The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken (read my review of this book) and The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear

What book covers are you crazy about? Link your own TTT post in the comments so I can see what you did with this week’s freebie!

October in Review

I read even less books this month than last month, but I’m not really surprised. Between homeschooling and working a part-time job with sporadic hours, plus spending a lot of my free time working on getting my own book ready for publication, I’m glad to have read what I did. This month will probably be even lower, due to NaNoWriMo.

Here are the books I read in October:
Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock (4 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (4 / 5)
Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff (3 / 5)
The Battlemage by Taran Matharu (4 / 5)
The Dinner Party by R.J. Parker (2 / 5)
Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone (4.5 / 5)
The Butterfly Recluse by Therese Heckenkamp (3 / 5)

This list includes 4 ARCs and 0 re-reads. My favorite book from August was Priceless. I finished 1 series (a trilogy), continued 1 series, and started 0 series. My ever-changing list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: The Battlemage

The Battlemage
Summoner
Trilogy #3
by Taran Matharu

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA Fantasy

Battlemage

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the previous books in the trilogy, The Novice and The Inquisition.

The Battlemage picks up immediately after the previous story’s end, with the main character, Fletcher, and what’s left of his unit jumping into the otherworldy ether to escape the enemy. They must find a way to return home, and then deal with the aftermath of their mission in the jungle, which ended in treachery and betrayal. Meanwhile, the orcs are poised to invade Fletcher’s country with an army that might be too large to overcome.

This book did a great job of wrapping up the entire trilogy, while being a full story on its own. I was a lot more excited going into this one than into the 2nd one, based on the cliffhanger at the end of the previous books, and the ether didn’t disappoint. The book was more distinctly 3 separate acts than any book I’ve really ever read, and the second act was also a lot of fun to read. By the third act, I knew what was coming, and it did end up being my least favorite part of the book. But that is purely personal preference, as I’ll explain further below.

It was great to see back some of the characters from the first book, and a little from the second. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see much more of Arcturus, and overall, he wasn’t in the trilogy as much as I would have hoped and expected, especially considering that the prequel is about his history.

I enjoyed the middle act, where we really get to see Fletcher grow as a leader, and where the race warfare throughout the trilogy comes to a head, a lot more than I would have thought I would.  But I knew what was looming–the big war with the orcs. I don’t personally care for large-scale, devastating wars in books, so that’s why the third act was my least favorite. It was made better by getting to see Fletcher’s ingenuity though, plus I like the addition of the demons during the fighting.

The ending of the book had some moments I was really happy to see, but also failed to wrap up some storylines in a way I would have preferred. However, I wasn’t left with the feeling that anything was completely neglected, so I can’t really complain. For some reason, I was just left with this feeling of it being anti-climactic, but I can’t explain why. I think it’s just because I would have liked more in the series in general. Overall, this entire trilogy was a solid 4 stars for me.

After reading the first book, I described it as a mix between Harry Potter and Pokemon, even though at the time, I hadn’t read any Harry Potter. I have read the first 2 in the series now, and I stand by my assessment, but only of the first book. The second and third books could better be compared to Warcraft, or even LoTR somewhat. In general, though, I would recommend this trilogy to anyone who enjoys magical fantasy books.

Find out more about The Battlemage

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Fall 2019 TBR

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. This one was easy for me because I had the next 9 books I’m going to read planned, and was easily able to add a 10th. I recently went a little crazy requesting ARCs from Netgalley, so I’m trying to get caught up (I don’t know how others do it without letting the pile of ARCs awaiting reviews drive them mad). But I wanted to space out the ARCs with other books from my TBR, so in the below list, every other book is an ARC. This list should take me through most of the fall (I’ll probably slow down in November because of NaNoWriMo), and I suppose they’re not necessarily fall-oriented…I don’t usually think in those terms when it comes to reading (except I probably will at Christmas time).

So without further ado…the ones near the end of the list may change as I get closer to them, but I think the order will be mostly this:

1. Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone
2. Smoke Screen by Terry Blackstock
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
4. The Passengers by John Marrs
5. The Battlemage by Taran Matharu
6. Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff
7. The Martian by Andy Weir
8. Claiming T-Mo by Eugen Bacon
(Not technically an ARC, I won it in a Goodreads giveaway, and have gotten a couple of emails requesting that I review it soon.)
9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
10. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
(This book was released in 2008, but was re-released in hardcover with new illustrations, so is still an ARC.)

Have you read any of these? What do you plan to read over the next few months?