Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Silver Under Nightfall (Rin Chupeco)

So there are vampire novels out there that I do like!

★★★★★ (4.75) – CALSPIE 9.36

Title: Silver Under Nightfall
Author: Rin Chupeco
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 2022
Edition: Hardback, published by Saga Press in 2022

Remy Pendergast is many things: the only son of the Duke of Valenbonne (though his father might wish otherwise), an elite bounty hunter of rogue vampires, and an outcast among his fellow Reapers. His mother was the subject of gossip even before she eloped with a vampire, giving rise to the rumors that Remy is half-vampire himself. Though the kingdom of Aluria barely tolerates him, Remy’s father has been shaping him into a weapon to fight for the kingdom at any cost. When a terrifying new breed of vampire is sighted outside of the city, Remy prepares to investigate alone. But then he encounters the shockingly warmhearted vampire heiress Xiaodan Song and her infuriatingly arrogant fiancé, vampire lord Zidan Malekh, who may hold the key to defeating the creatures—though he knows associating with them won’t do his reputation any favors. When he’s offered a spot alongside them to find the truth about the mutating virus Rot that’s plaguing the kingdom, Remy faces a choice. It’s one he’s certain he’ll regret.


I was a little hesitant going into this one. I had heard such good things and had been persuaded by good reviews and the stunning cover, but well aware that I normally do not get on that well with vampire stories. You can imagine how glad I was that me taking a chance on this book had been completely the right thing to do!

I loved this book. The fact that this vampire story is set in a fantasy world rather than a contemporary urban type setting really helped me I think. It meant I could just submerge myself in the world and the story and not worry about the details that don’t make sense to my strange brain.

It took me about 30 pages to get into the story, but I soon really enjoyed Remy as a main character as well as his vampire companions. A minor complaint is that I felt their characters could have been fleshed out a little bit more, but with the way the story was written it did work.

There were horror elements in this book, but though some of it was a bit gross, it was nothing I could not handle. The same could be said for the sex in this book. Not it was gross at all, but just that it didn’t go over the top. In fact, there was more description regarding the horror elements than the sex, something I actually really appreciated. Definitely bonus points for non-cringy sex scenes that weren’t overly descriptive. It’s a fine line! As with horror. It’s a fine line between what I can handle and what I can’t! This was fine.

I will definitely be reading the next book, which I think is due out some time this year.

This was a really fun novel that worked surprisingly well for me.

4.75 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 9
  • Ambience: 9.5
  • Language: 9
  • Story: 9.5
  • Pacing: 9.5
  • Interest: 9.5
  • Enjoyment: 9.5
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Gypsy Morph (Terry Brooks)

A solid finale to a strong enough trilogy

★★★★☆ – CALSPIE 8.43

Title: The Gypsy Morph (Genesis of Shannara #3)
Author: Terry Brooks
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Dystopian
First published: 2008
Edition: paperback, published by Orbit in 2010

The last cities have fallen. Demons and once-men swarm the ravaged landscape of the former United States. A small band of survivors – the elves of Cintra and a ragtag group of human children and their protectors – flees northward toward a safe haven promised by the mystical King of the Silver River.


This final book in the Genesis of Shannara trilogy gives a strong finish to this trilogy of books in a long running series of books. I am reading the whole Shannara saga in chronological order and this is the final book in the first trilogy.

I enjoyed this one better than the middle book. The story is stronger and things come together quite nicely. Terry Brooks’ books will never be the best written, but I really enjoy the tone of them. There were a few writing choices that irked me, some pet names people had for each other and the random Spanish words to denote that a person was in fact Mexican (I think that’s right), was a little bit unnecessary, but overall it was absolutely fine.

The stories of this author’s books all kind of follow a similar format and it is a format that, though maybe a bit formulaic, works for me. I always know what I am getting into and sometimes that is exactly what I need.

This series, like another epic fantasy series I love, is set in a future world where civilization is destroyed and gets rebuilt into this fantasy world. I really enjoy that trope and it is nice to get that background in this series before moving on into, eventually, the original Shannara books. That does mean that this series certainly begins more dystopian than fantasy, but it really ends up firmly in fantasy territory.

All in all, I enjoyed this series and this was a solid final book. I am looking forward to continuing this journey into Shannara with the Legends of Shannara duology, which I have never read before.

4.25 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 8.5
  • Ambience: 8.5
  • Language: 8
  • Story: 8.5
  • Pacing: 8.5
  • Interest: 8.5
  • Enjoyment: 8.5
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: Daggerspell (Katharine Kerr)

This was just not the story for me

★★★☆☆ 1/4 – CALSPIE 6.59

Title: Daggerspell (Deverry #1)
Author: Katharine Kerr
Narrator: Ruth Urquhart
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 1986
Edition: Audio & paperback, published by Harper Voyager in 2019

Even as a young girl, Jill was a favorite of the magical, mysterious Wildfolk, who appeared to her from their invisible realm. Little did she know her extraordinary friends represented but a glimpse of a forgotten past and a fateful future. Four hundred years-and many lifetimes-ago, one selfish young lord caused the death of two innocent lovers. Then and there he vowed never to rest until he’d righted that wrong-and laid the foundation for the lives of Jill and all those whom she would hold dear: her father, the mercenary soldier Cullyn; the exiled berserker Rhodry Maelwaedd; and the ancient and powerful herbman Nevyn, all bound in a struggle against darkness. . . and a quest to fulfill the destinies determined centuries ago


Going into this, I knew this would be an old school fantasy book and I was actually looking forward to it, but though I liked some of the characters unfortunately the story itself never really grabbed me.

This is very much a classic fantasy book and considering I like the characters themselves just fine I should have liked this novel more than I did. However, for me the interactions between the characters felt quite stale and the plot fell a little flat and was just not that interesting to me. Maybe this type of fantasy with Celtic roots is not my favourite. I have read books in the past in this type of setting that I have enjoyed, but they had more interesting plots than this one. The setting and the lord-and-lady type background was just a little on the boring side.

There were a couple of plot devices I did not really care for. Maybe this whole reincarnation/destiny thing does not do it for me. Then there was the much-discussed incest in this book that I already knew about going into it. To be honest it felt a bit unnecessary, but it did not overly bother me. It is meant to be disgraceful, so of course it is. Did it add anything to this book? Was it needed? No, I don’t think so. Still, I guess it makes for a talking point.

I am well aware that this book is almost forty years old and much has changed in the fantasy genre. Had I read this book twenty years ago, I may well have enjoyed it better. As it stands, it just felt a little on the dry side and I found myself a little bored.

I listened to this one on audio. The narrator suited the story very well and did help me to finish the story.

I have book two and three in this series, but I will not be continuing and the books are going on my unhaul pile.

3.25 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 7.5
  • Ambience: 6.5
  • Language: 7
  • Story: 6.5
  • Pacing: 6
  • Interest: 6.5
  • Enjoyment: 6
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Elves of Cintra (Terry Brooks)

Middle book syndrome!

★★★☆☆ 3/4 – CALSPIE 7.71

Title: The Elves of Cintra (Genesis of Shannara #2)
Author: Terry Brooks
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Dystopian
First published: 2007
Edition: paperback, published by Orbit in 2009

Thousands lie in fortified strongholds; others roam the landscape as either predator or prey. Standing against the forces that have tipped the balance from good to evil are a very few heroes, men and women imbued with powerful magic and sworn to a high destiny.


I was looking forward to my continuation of this re-read of the Shannara world, but this second book in the Genesis of Shannara series did appear to suffer from ‘middle book syndrome’. For me the story just moved a tad too slow and I never felt quite as invested as I did with the first book.

It was definitely nice to get back into the Elven realm, somewhere familiar for those who have read other Shannara books, but its essence remained quite vague to me and if you only read this book to get an idea of the elven world it really would not tell you enough. It definitely feels like to know the elven world Brooks created, he would have expected you to have read some of the original Shannara books. There was just not quite enough world building there.

In other parts of the book the story moved too slow for my liking. I felt my attention drift and it took me way longer than it should have done to get through this novel.

Having said that, as a whole I still really enjoyed the world and the story and I am looking forward to reading the final book in this trilogy. Terry Brooks’ books will always be a cozy happy place for me. It will be interesting to eventually get to the original Shannara books, as I have not read those in many, many years.

3.75 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 8.5
  • Ambience: 8
  • Language: 7.5
  • Story: 7.5
  • Pacing: 7
  • Interest: 8
  • Enjoyment: 7.5
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Green Rider (Kristen Britain)

I missed a sense of urgency

★★★☆☆ 1/2 – CALSPIE 6.93

Title: Green Rider (Green Rider #1)
Author: Kristen Britain
 Fiction / Fantasy / Young Adult
First published: 1998
Edition: Paperback, published by Gollancz in 2011

As Karigan G’ladheon trudged through the forest, using her long walk home to contemplate her depressing future – and the expulsion it was bound to hold – a horse burst through the woodland and charged straight for her. The rider was slumped over his mount’s neck with two arrows embedded in his back. Wherever his horse was taking him, he would be dead before they got there. There’s nothing Karigan can do, as the young man lies dying on the road. He had sworn to carry out his mission as a Green Rider – one of the legendary messengers of the king – and he has a life or death message that must reach King Zachary. Karigan may be unable to save him, but she can deliver his message. He makes her swear to it, to keep it secret and, with his last breath, he warns her to ‘beware the shadow man …’


This story had so much going for it and somehow it kind of missed the mark for me. That is not to say I did not enjoy the read – it was fine – but little things kept bugging me and taking me out of the story.

Soon after starting this novel, I found echoes to Tolkien. Not necessarily in the plot itself, though there were elements, but mainly in the voice of the author. The ‘let it shine light in the darkness when all hope is lost’ kind of vibes, or whatever the exact line is that Galadriel speaks. However, unlike in Tolkien, I never feel that these kind of words really pay off.

Karigan is given a quest, or it is bestowed upon her – she had little choice, as heroes seldomly do – and yet there is so little sense of urgency to her. Also, if I was her I would have been so curious about what was going on, but she just kind of wasn’t and I had trouble understanding that. That is not to say the characters were bad, because they weren’t as a whole and I liked Karigan as a main character. There were just some things that did not make sense to me.

Some plot points were not really resolved, but I presume they may be dealt with in later books in the series, which I will not be reading.

I enjoyed this book for what it was, but I am happy to leave it here. I am unhauling this one, even if I love the cover!

3.5 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 7.5
  • Ambience: 7.5
  • Language: 7
  • Story: 6
  • Pacing: 6.5
  • Interest: 7
  • Enjoyment: 7

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Jasmine Throne (Tasha Suri)

Enjoyable, but I never fell in love with the characters


Title: The Jasmine Throne (Burning Kingdoms #1)
Author: Tasha Suri
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 2017
Edition: Paperback, published by Orbit in 2021

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.


First line(s): 

In the court of the imperial mahal, the pyre was being built.


Going into this book I fully expected to adore it. Everything about it sounded just great. The exotic setting, the characters sounded great and so did the synopsis. After reading it I can honestly say I think it is a good fantasy novel. I enjoyed it and I understand why people love it. . However, for me there was something missing.

I think the main problem that I had with the story is that I never quite felt connected to any of the characters. Although I cared what happened to them, they felt distant in a way I find hard to explain. Malini especially felt… not real enough somehow. Not fleshed out enough? I found it a bit easier to root for Priya, but even then, at times I found my mind wandering.

The plot itself was definitely interesting. I liked the magic and the idea of the Temple Children. I just don’t know if I ever quite understood the magic system. That could well be a me thing.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would actually. It is a good read and the problems I had with it may not be the same for anyone else reading it. I liked the cultural elements and the ideas. I just wasn’t the biggest fan of the execution. It read a bit too much like YA for me. Therefore I am not sure whether I will continue in this series.

5 out of 7 stars


CAWPILE score: 7.7

  • Characters: 7
  • Atmosphere: 8
  • Writing Style: 7.5
  • Plot: 8
  • Intrigue: 8
  • Logic: 7.5
  • Enjoyment: 8
Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Hero of Ages (Brandon Sanderson)

An almost perfect conclusion to an ambitious trilogy


Title: The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 2008
Edition: Paperback, published by Gollancz in 2010


For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.


First line(s):

Marsh struggled to kill himself.


I waited way too long to read this conclusion to the Mistborn Trilogy. I read the last one about six months ago and I wished I had read this one sooner now.

The aspects that I admire most in these books are the plotting and the pacing. I get that the writing and the characters may not be for everyone, but they definitely work for me. Together with that perfectly executed plot makes this one of the best conclusions to a series I have read. I enjoyed it from start to finish.

The magic system in this series is so well developed and feels so original and yet it seems so natural and believable. I think for me that goes for the whole story. It’s crazy and over the top, but I loved it.

I also loved the emphasis on religion in this final book. Not about any religion in particular, just religion as a vehicle, as a belief system and a means of preservation. As someone who has a big interest in theology (but is agnostic) I found the angle endlessly fascinating.

The ending ties things up in a beautiful bow that may be too tidy for some and may be a tad rushed, but I did not mind. When I closed the book I was satisfied and that’s all I ask for.

7 out of 7 stars (6 1/2 rounded up)

CAWPILE score: 9.1

  • Characters: 9
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Writing Style: 9
  • Plot: 9.5
  • Intrigue: 9
  • Logic: 9
  • Enjoyment: 9.5

Previous books in the trilogy:

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Final Empire (Brandon Sanderson)

Unique magic system, check, good characters, check!


Title: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 2006
Edition: Paperback, published by Gollancz in 2009

For a thousand years the ash fell.
For a thousand years, the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years, the Lord Ruler reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Every attempted revolt has failed miserably. Yet somehow hope survives.
A new kind of uprising is being planned, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the courage of an unlikely heroine, a Skaa street urchin, who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a mistborn.


It has been a while since I sank my teeth into a chunky fantasy series and boy, did I enjoy the experience! This series has been sitting on my shelf for way longer than it should have.

First of all, I love Sanderson’s writing. It’s easy to read and just flows incredibly nicely. It always feels intelligent enough, but never feels dense. He keeps up the pace nicely and the plot developed evenly throughout the book.

The world and the magic system were very well done. It was not like any magic system I read about before and I definitely appreciated that. I enjoyed the characters, though I would have appreciated a few more women in the mix. Overall, I think the author did a great job building the story and the characters There were a few things that I did find a bit predictable, but nothing that particularly bothered me.

I am glad I finally started this series and I am looking forward to diving back into this world with The Well of Ascension soon.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Kingdom of Copper (S A Chakraborty)

Loved this second book in a fantasy series that actually feels a bit different


Title: The Kingdom of Copper
Author: S A Chakraborty
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, published by Harper Voyager in 2020

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.


This is the second book in the Daevabad Trilogy, the first one being The City of Brass. As far as second books in series go, this one was right up there for me. It had been a while since I picked up a big book like this and it did take me a while to read, but I enjoyed every page.

I adore the Middle Eastern setting in this series and how it uses the existing map for a fantasy story. Having enjoyed stories and poetry rooted in that area regularly lately, this was right up my street. Although it took me a while to read the first half, I almost flew through the latter half.

This world felt different and the magic was creative, even if I still don’t understand it. On that note, I did not always quite get the whys and what-fors or the reasoning behind the characters decisions, but to be honest it not bother me enough to take me out of the story.

This book did turn a lot of thoughts, feelings and prejudices I had in the first book on its head and I kind of love it for that. It completely swept me away at times. It did not feel too long and it kept me gripped throughout.

I am looking forward to reading the final book in this series soon!

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Heartstone (Elle Katharine White)

A fantasy retelling of a Jane Austen classic let down by a lack of passion


Title: Heartstone
Author: Elle Katharine White
Genre: Fiction /Fantasy/ Retelling
First published: 2016
Edition: Paperback, published by Harper Voyager in 2016

They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again. Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

A fantasy book based on the framework of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? Yes, please! Unfortunately, it did not quite hit all the right notes for me, but I did enjoy it.

There were parts of this book I really enjoyed. The world building was not extensive, but there was enough for it to work. The idea of putting the story of Pride and Prejudice in a fantasy setting with dragons, direwolves and gryphons was a good one and it almost worked.

Where it let me down was the character interactions. They just lacked any kind of tension. The thing that makes Jane Austen’s book work so well is how dynamic the dialogue and interactions are. In this retelling they were lukewarm at best. If the love story, which is kind of what it is building throughout, was stronger, it would have made a much better book.

If I stop comparing this book to the book that inspired it, it was a good read that I enjoyed well enough. It was entertaining and it was well enough written. In a way it is frustrating as there is so much potential, but somehow it missed the mark a bit.

Overall, I felt the story was held back by a lack of passion, on the love front, but also on the battle front. There were a few bits that were strongly written, like the initial encounter with the gryphons, but others just lacked depth and excitement.

If the synopsis floats your boat, this one is worth reading. It may work better for you than it did for me.

4 out of 7 stars