YA

Book Review – Waters of Nyra

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Waters of Nyra, Volume 1 by Kelly Michelle Baker

Never an ordinary dragon, Nyra grew up forbidden to breathe fire or fly. Like her mother before her, she has only known a life of enslavement, held in thrall by mountain dragons, which need Nyra’s ripening wings to secure hunting for the future. But at the cusp of her first flying lesson, new rumors whisper through the herd. Mother pursues friendships in forbidden places, blurring the once succinct enemy line. In a whirlwind of realization, Nyra uncovers a secret in plain sight, one thought unknown to her enslavers, and one putting her at the focal point of rebellion should it come into play. And come it does, but through a terrible accident, killing the slaves’ last chance of escape. To survive, Nyra must conquer the sharp-ended lies cutting her future to ribbons and the war threading in their wake.

Score: 3.5 stars

Breakdown:

Plot – 3

Characters – 3.5

Writing – 3.5

I found the book very slow to get going, and at first I struggled to engage with both Nyra and her brother. I think this is mostly because the characters are much younger than I am, and I think, looking back, that they author did a good job of representing pre-teens. Nyra got to grow on me as the book went on, and I really liked the character of their mother, Thaydra. she’s smart, optimistic and determined, but still bears the pain of the previous failed escapes. There were a few characters like Opalheart who I felt as if I was missing their purpose. Maybe they will come back more in the later books, but they lost relevance in this book.

When the action is good, it’s very gripping. I found myself flying though the section with the fire. However, the book takes a long time to get going, which meant I struggled with the beginning. The legend is an important point, but Nyra’s boredom and sleepiness in the scenes where it is being retold meant I was not engaging with it. (I do love the twist on it that is revealed at the end and that does make me interested in the second book.) There was also too much time spent on things like how young dragons learn to fish, which slowed down the pacing. I have the feeling the sequel will be better paced.

The ending felt a little rushed, in contrast. It definitely leaves the story wide open for a sequel, but the stop point felt a little arbitrary. I didn’t feel like I had a conclusion to this book. There are also some things in the last chapter, particularly around Thaydra, that I wish had been gone into in more depth for emotional reasons.

The language is very pretty, and I didn’t notice much in the way of errors. At points, I felt the the sound of the words over-took the meaning of them, so there were pleasant sounding phrases that didn’t mean much, but that wasn’t a frequent issue. I think this book will be best received by middle grade readers with a strong vocabulary, but will also be enjoyed by young adults who want an easy escape full of fantastical creatures.

You can buy Waters of Nyra at Amazon and leave a review on goodreads. Catch up with the author at her website, facebook, or twitter.

Please note: I’m still finding my feet reviewing, so the format may vary from book to book until I get comfortable. If you have a self-published novel, use the contact form to drop me a pitch. I’ll only taking on very few at a time, but if I like the sound of it, I’ll be in touch. I enjoy fantasy, horror and sci-fi and you get bonus points if your book has a gay romance.

Book Review – ASPECT OF WINTER

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Aspect of Winter by Tom Early

It’s hard enough just being gay in high school even as a senior, but Feayr (Fay) must also deal with hiding the magic of winter that he possesses. His best friend Sam (Samantha) is his only confidant, and every day that he has to pretend to be normal pushes him closer to the edge.

When Janus University, a college for teenagers with magical capabilities, discovers the pair and sends a student to test them, Fay and Sam, along with their classmate Tyler, have to quickly adapt to a far more dangerous world than they’re used to. The three friends have to survive misguided summoning attempts, ancient holidays better left forgotten, and even a first date, all while preparing for the Trials, the University’s deadly acceptance process. As they do their best to come out ahead, the trio experiences firsthand just how wonderful and terrible a world with magic can be.

Score – 4/5 Inventive and enjoyable YA fantasy coming of age story with strong characters

Breakdown:

Plot – while a fairly standard YA setup (magic, magic academy, trials and threats to be overcome), the overarching nature of the situation is refreshingly original and the  magic is consistent and well realised. The plot takes a very dark turn at the end which I would have liked a bit more fore-showing. I have no problem with the events, but it’s like taking a blow to the stomach without tensing first.

Characters – I loved these guys. I found it very easy to relate to quiet, awkward Fay who is struggling to fit in on a number of levels. He’s brave and intelligent, but takes matters too seriously and blames himself to easily. His best friend Sam is a delight. Outspoken, loyal, more than a little violent, but hiding the pain of grief from her mother’s death. And then there’s Tyler, the love interest. I found their relationship adorable, and it’s a sign of well-formed characters when I’m happy to read about the more mundane aspects of their lives as well as the plot. It was nice to have some bi characters as well as gay ones.

Writing -well-balanced and easy to read. The book flows well and Fay’s personality carries the narration well. The characters have strong, individual voices and their personalities never get muddy. I particularly enjoyed the clever use of scientific understanding to get the best out of the magic powers. I found the trials towards the end of the book dragged just a tad, but there’s nothing wrong with the writing and the action scenes are clear and easy to visualise. I just wanted to get  more of Fay’s plot a bit quicker. I also think things went a little easy for the team (up until the very end of the book, when trust me, that is no longer true), but I never felt like they didn’t deserve to win any of their battles.

You can get a copy of Aspect of Winter from Amazon