2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious – Shannon Hale & Dean Hale

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Authors: Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
Series: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl novels #2

Pages: 323

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Squirrel Girl is BACK in an all-new adventure and things are about to get . . . hairy. Thanks to Squirrel Girl, Ana Sofia, and the Squirrel Scouts, the crime rate in New Jersey is at an all time low. It makes for safer streets but also bored-er squirrels. That’s why it’s super exciting when Doreen’s school announces a new mall is being built right next to their town. Mmmm . . . Doreen can smell the soft pretzels now. The corporation building mall has also announced that there will be a competition to choose the mall’s mascot. Because malls need mascots?Anyway, Doreen’s school will be voting for a cat and the neighboring school will be voting for a dog. As the relationship starts to unravel between the two towns, Squirrel Girl and her friends suspect something more sinister is at work. With the help of old friends like Ana Sofia, Tippy Toe, and The Mighty Thor as well as some surprising new ones, Squirrel Girl will squash a villainous plot and save everyone.The unbeatable Squirrel Girl is ready for more nuts AND more butts! Are you?

It happened again. I tried to follow a reading schedule that would allow me to read books and comics and I was able to stick to it for like 6 months before getting behind on comics. Almost a year has passed without reading one. I want to make some time for them, but I can’t see how. Between that and that my reading device died a true death, I guess I will have to accept that I’m not reading comics anytime soon. But books with Marvel superheroes? I have a clear schedule for them!

In this second book we get to follow Squirrel Girl adventures once more (otherwise the title and the cover would have been very misleading…). All the neighbours of her town are very excited about the new mall. The public relationships guy is doing a superb job at getting the town engaged for the opening. The students of two schools are being told to do a campaign for the mall mascot. The team that wins will be gifted with a pizza party. Doreen’s school is Team Cat and, with a superhero in their midst, it seem pretty unfair for the other school. But Team Dog is also quite strong and a weird animosity between them starts to brew. No wonder there is something fishy going on, the mall is run by one of the most villainous organizations of the Marvel Universe…

I said it before and I will say it again: The Unbeatable Squireel Girl rocks! One of the best superheroes out there with an amazing comic run written by Ryan North. The first novel based on that character was nice, but I felt that it was trying too hard to capture the epicness of the comics. This second book is much better. The more fluent style tells me that the authors are more comfortable with the character and with what they want to tell. The story is much better, the pace is much more lifely, the action is constant and the sense of humor is above awesome. It’s not perfect, but it is way closer to perfection than the first book.

Doreen is well known in the Marvel Universe for her epic victories against some of the biggest baddies from the comics. This book drinks from that idea and pairs her against a covert opeartion of Hydra. One of the worst organizations that has ever existed. Ask Captain America if you don’t believe me! A small town obviously has a small Hydra branch, but evil enough to create havoc that only Squirrel Girl and his army can solve. The lovely craziness of the story didn’t remind me of Ryan North’s comicbooks. It reminded me very strongly of G. Willow’s style in the Ms. Marvel comics. In case you are wondering, no, that is not a bad thing. Au contraire mon ami (I’m feeling my Gambit side, today! :P). It is the perfect approach for a book meant for a younger audience.

The story is a lot of fun, but the gold mine of this book rests in those chapters with group chats and forum posts. They are so, so… which word is greater than awesome? Nuts? I laughed a lot with those. Marvel humor at its best. The exchanges between some of the most popular characters (in both sides of the law) are legendary. I have had such a good time with those that I wish there were more. I would devour a whole book with just much more of that! That is the kind of humor my Marvel fan heart cherishes. The kind of humor thast is actually meant to be read by fans like me. Weirdly though, most adult fans would never read this book and most kids who read it won’t understand what they are being told in those chapters. In order to achive full enjoyment of the book, you need a rather deep knowledge of the Marvel Universe.

What it doesn’t work as smoothly as in the comics are the footnotes. Ryan uses the blank spaces of almost every page to write some comment or joke. This book tries to replicate the same. I bet in a printed edition they must look nice, but in my Kindle edition with a pretty old device (it has a complete keyboard!) reading the footnotes becomes tiresome pretty quickly. Navigating through them was an effort not worthy of my time.

It seems that there are zero plans for a third book, which is sad. I need to check more books based on Marvel characters to see if there is something interesting out there. Or even better, I should try harder to clear time for reading comics again.

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2019 – Book Gallery

 

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Remnant – Sean Williams & Shane Dix

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Author: Sean Williams & Shane Dix
Series: Star Wars: The New Jedi Order #15 / Force Heretic #1
Pages: 413

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As the bloodied and weary galaxy faces battle once more, the Jedi take on the formidable task of bringing the last of the Empire into the light…

From the ashes of the New Republic—torn to shreds by the savage Yuuzhan Vong forces—the newly formed Galactic Alliance has risen, determined to bring peace to the entire galaxy. But first the Yuuzhan Vong must be contained once and for all. And so Luke Skywalker seeks a world long lost to legend: Zonama Sekot, a sentient planet believed to have repelled an invasion by the Yuuzhan Vong decades ago. Deciphering the enigmatic secrets of Zonama Sekot just might turn the tides of a relentless war.

Aboard the Jade Shadow, Luke, his wife Mara, Jacen Solo, and other Jedi head off into the Unknown Regions, where rumors and clues suggest Zonama Sekot might be found. Yet the mission has barely begun when the searchers stumble into a horrific battle. The Imperial Remnant, in retreat from the mighty Yuuzhan Vong, is about to be destroyed. It would seem those aboard the Jade Shadow have little choice but to leave the Empire to its fate. But these are no ordinary space travelers, they are Jedi…

Will 2019 be the year I finally end this Star Wars saga? I want to, but I think I would bet on the opposite. Too many books catch my eye everyday and my TBR is becoming a crazy monster. One I will need two or three more lives to slay!!

In this book we have two stories, following two groups of heroes. The mission to discover what is happening with the communications in Galantos with Han, Leia, Jaina, Jag and Tahiri. And the mission to find the living planet Zonama Sekot in the Unknown Regions with Luke, Mara, Jacen, Danni, Saba and Tekli. Both of them are plagued by the Yuuzhan Vong.

I have liked the book, but I have also found it pretty much unnecessary for the big schema of the figth against the Yuuzhan Vong. Or, at least, half the book feels like that. The mission to Galantos is obviously important, but it has zero appeal for the reader. It is salvagable thanks to the slow romance between Jaina and Jag and the mysteries sorrounding Tahiri. The rest is just a bunch of paragraphs to fill the book. Not boring, though. It’s just that I don’t see the point in telling us this story so far into the saga.

The other mission is way more interesting. That group has to hunt the planet Zonama Sekot through the Unknown Regions and the Remnant Empire are the ones closest to it. So is just logical to think that they must have some kind of intel. The diplomatic mission turns pretty soon into a military one, because the Impirial Capital is under attack by the Yuuzhan Vong. Here we have lots of crazy action, interesting dialogues exchange with the Empire and also a bit of romance thanks to Jacen and Danni. I’ve been shipping for those two for ages!! This mission is much more enjoyable and feels like it holds some real weight for the future. It also gifts the reader with some epic moments. You don’t read everyday a Grand Admiral defending a group of Jedis.

This trilogy inside the New Jedi Order saga looks like is going to be a journey through memory lane for Han, Leia and their group. Their first step in Galantos has served to refresh the crisis with the Yevetha and for the second book they are all headed to Bakura (home of another old glaactic crisis). At least I’m glad the Yuuzhan Vong are not making allies among the scum of that faraway Galaxy… Let’s hope the stop in Bakura is more eventful. I’m very curious about the mysterious stranger that knows too much about everything…

I don’t have anything else to say about the book. It’s correct but lacks the epicness that has been a constant for this saga. I guess the following books will be much better now that the first steps are over.

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2019 – Book Gallery

Ylesia – Walter Jon Williams

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Author: Walter Jon Williams
Series: Star Wars: The New Jedi Order #14.5
Pages: 121

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RIPE FOR THE PLUCKING

That’s Jedi Knight Kyp Durron’s opinion about the planet Ylesia, home base of the so-called Peace Brigade, a group of traitors dedicated to hindering the war efforts of the New Republic and hastening the ultimate victory of the merciless Yuuzhan Vong. Kyp’s plan calls for a lightning-fast strike, backed with overwhelming force, to destroy the Brigade’s offensive capabilities and teach prospective traitors that betrayal carries a heavy price. But young Jacen Solo, still bearing the scars of his imprisonment by the Yuuzhan Vong, has a better idea: a daring raid into the heart of Ylesia’s capital, with the objective of capturing the Brigade’s top leaders—including the newly sworn-in President, Thrackan Sal-Solo, cousin to Jacen and his twin, Jaina.

But unknown to the Jedi and the New Republic forces, Supreme Overlord Shimrra of the Yuuzhan Vong has dispatched reinforcements to the Ylesia system. Instead of a swift surgical strike, Jaina, Jacen, Kyp, and their comrades are about to find themselves locked in a desperate battle for survival, with the odds stacked against them and time running out…

There is not much to tell about this book. It’s a short story that takes place in the middle of the previous book, so the reader has to adapt their internal timetable to not get lost with this tale.

The book narrates the battle of Ylesia. The Yuuzhan Von obliterated the hutts living there and now the planet is controlled by the Peace Brigade (a.k.a. Vong Puppets). The new leader of that Brigade is not other than Thrackan Sal-Solo, cousin of Jacen and Jaina Solo. They are not friendly with each other… The New Republic has a plan to capture the Brigades’s leaders and make their trials public to rise the moral among the loyal followers of the New Republic. Obviously, nothing is simple when there are Vongs involved…

It’s an easy and well-paced read. Nothing remarkable, but a nice peek to that huge Universe that is Star Wars. Thankfully, the author doesn’t waste time trying to sell the plan to the readers with lots of political and military meetings (as in other books of this saga) and gets his hands dirty pretty fast. Not boring at all, but far from memorable. I guess I will remember that I have read this because it will forever saved on my Goodreads list…

In this okayish book there is a bright light that I have really enjoyed. Maybe it’s because I’m a huge fan of romance books, so the nods to Jaina’s relationship with Jagged Fel has made me smile from ear to ear. Han’s and Leia’s daughter is one of my favourite Star Wars characters. I was so pissed after the last book due to what Luke told her… I’m glad she is getting a bit of happines from the Imperial pilot. Let’s hope it last!! Romance and Star Wars are not usually best friends…

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2018 – Book Gallery

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World – Shannon Hale & Dean Hale

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Authors: Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
Series: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl novels #1

Pages: 324

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WHO RUNS THE WORLD? SQUIRRELS!

Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green moved from sunny California to the suburbs of New Jersey. She must start at a new school, make new friends, and continue to hide her tail. Yep, Doreen has the powers of . . . a squirrel!

After failing at several attempts to find her new BFF, Doreen feels lonely and trapped, liked a caged animal. Then one day Doreen uses her extraordinary powers to stop a group of troublemakers from causing mischief in the neighborhood, and her whole life changes. Everyone at school is talking about it! Doreen contemplates becoming a full-fledged Super Hero. And thus, Squirrel Girl is born!

She saves cats from trees, keeps the sidewalks clean, and dissuades vandalism. All is well until a real-life Super Villain steps out of the shadows and declares Squirrel Girl his archenemy. Can Doreen balance being a teenager and a Super Hero? Or will she go . . . NUTS?

It’s no secret that The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is one of my favourite current comics. There are not enough adjectives to express how awesome it is!! When I was told Marvel was going to publish a comic featuring Doreen Green I laugh thinking it was very absurd. Nothing against the character, but she was almost a nobody. Many comics later, I wish I could punch my past self!!! Ryan North has elevated the character to such a high level that I’m already dreading the fall… Fingers crossed that that will happen in a really far future. Due to my love for Squirrel Girl, I couldn’t miss the chance of reading this book.

The story doesn’t take place in the current Marvel timeline (which is cramped enough). Instead, we get to know a little bit more about Doreen before becoming a superhero. She has just moved to New Jersey with her parents and is already in a mission: making friends. It’s way harder than you could think if you take into account Doreen’s way of facing life. Her unrelenting optimism can esily overwhelm people that are not used to it. Thanks to her perseverance, she gets two new friends: her classmate Anna Sofía and a squirrel named Tippy-Toe (yes, that Tippy-Toe).

But not eveything is a walk through the park (literally). There is a new supervillain in town that wants to make a name for himself: Micro-Manager. Obviously, he wants to defeat Squirrel Girl to make all the big baddies offer him a job. He doesn’t have any kind of special power, but he doesn’t need any. His knowledge about robotics and computers is more than enough to be a tough contender. If you are a comic reader, you may know that Doreen is also very proficient in those fields. Well, not in this book. Actually, she is lacking in all the academic smarts. Maybe too much. I found hard to believe that the Squirrel Girl from this book becomes the Squirrel Girl of the comics in such a short time.

The book is mainly written in third person, but there are several chapters from Tippy-Toe’s point of view. I have to say it: those chapters are pure genius. I didn’t know that squirrels could have such a huge personality. Tippy has made me smile the whole book with her antics.

I know I shouldn’t do it, but I can’t help comparing the book with the comics. The author tries too hard to mimic Ryan North’s style, which is a daunting task. At first, it didn’t work. It didn’t feel natural. But later on the book, I think Shannon is more relaxed with her story and her style starts working. By that I mean her sense of humor starts being funny by its own, instead of being funny just because it’s similar to the one in the comics. Am I making any sense?

Another thing that separates both formats is the audience targeted. The comics can be very enjoyable for any reader no matter their age. But this book is clearly more focused on the younger spectrum of that audience. If you are an adult who doesn’t like reading books for kids, it doesn’t matter if you love the comics, I don’t think you will enjoy the book.

There is a second book that I will read sooner or later. Getting to know how Doreen became Squirrel Girl has been very enoyable, so I don’t want to miss the next step in her path to become one of the best superheroes there is!!

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2018 – Book Gallery

Destiny’s Way – Walter Jon Williams

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Author: Walter Jon Williams
Series: Star Wars: The New Jedi Order #14
Pages: 480

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In the war against the ruthless Yuuzhan Vong, the fall of Coruscant leaves the New Republic divided by internal strife and on their verge of bowing to conquest. But those who refuse to surrender – Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo and their children and comrades-in-arms are determined to seize victory against overwhelming odds.

Can I rant for a little while? Being this my blog, I guess I don’t need permission, so… rant it is!! My love for Star Wars started a long time ago in a very close place: the cinema next to my home. About 15 years ago, I started reading books and comics of this huge Universe. I didn’t know a word in English back then, so I had to wait for the Spanish translation. Even though I learned English (I get by at least), I kept buying Star Wars books in Spanish to support the awesome publisher called Alberto Santos. They made a great effort to bring us many Star Wars books in the best quality possible. For reasons unknown, they lost the rights to publish those books. Planeta DeAgostini (a huge publisher) got them and started publishing them thorugh their Timun Mas editorial. The nightmare began.

Albert Santos only could publish four or five books of The New Jedi Order saga before losing the rights. Planeta DeAgostini, instead of releasing the rest in bookshops, thought it would be “funnier” to publish the rest as a weekly kiosk collection… I got a few, but I missed most of them. The service to get back issues was crap :(. I cried a little bit. I love The New Jedi Order books so much!! I wanted them in Spanish so my brother could read them, too. I felt backstabbed, but I put my faith on the new releases by Timun Mas. BIIIIIIG mistake!! The quality of the books was shameful. Horrible translations. Grammatical mistakes in every single page. I even have a book where, during a whole chapter, Padme is treated as a man and Palpatine as a woman… They killed this collector of Star Wars books in Spanish. That moment is when I decided to read them in English and ignore Timun Mas’ shenanigans.

Buuut Disney bought Star Wars and took the decision to put the whole Expanded Universe in a Legacy box and make it non-official. I know I shouldn’t, but I felt cheated. It’s a pretty clever move to give them some freedom and the books are still there, but I felt I was loving a Star Wars of a parallel universe and my interest for the Star Wars books (old and new) decreased to almost nothing. I need to get my mojo back, and what better than the New Jedi Order to achieve that? I have yet several books to read to know how they defeat the Yuuzhan Vong (if they defeat them!!).

This books tells the next step of the war against the Yuuzhan Vong. Jacen and Vergere have escaped, Jaina is leaving behind her dark moments and the New Republic is about to build a new government in Mon Calamari. In that planet, the former Admiral Ackbar comes with a plan to defeat the Yuuzhan Vong once and for all. Or at least to put a big dent in their military resources. That plan need a bait: Jaina. She doesn’t know that part of the plan, by the way. Everything is being kept very secret.

I won’t spoil the end of the battle, but I must say this is maybe the happiest book so far. There are not big deaths that make you cry for days as in previous books. The list of casualties is so long… I can barely keep track of all the awesome characters that have met they end during this conflict.

This book has a bit of everything. The worst are all the space battles before the big one. All those fights against the Yuuzhan Vong feel the same. The New Republic doesn’t have many tactics to avoid the dovin basals of the enemy, so the description of them is rather repetitive. That’s not the fault of the writer. It has been like that for several books already. I enjoyed the most the political part, even though our beloved heroes have some behaviours that make me a bit angry. The blackmail to influence the election results… That is going to come back viciously!!

I have to confess that I kind of hate Luke in this book. The way he moves his former students as if they were mere chess pieces… Man, that’s cold. Jaina and Jacen are family!!! And the words he says to Jaina during the Jedi graduation… I was speechless. I wanted to punch him so hard!!! He has to be extra-nice in the next books if he wants my forgiveness!!

I’m also a bit scared with myself. I didn’t dislike the Alpha Red solution and I know I should. The Yuuzhan have brought so much pain to the galaxy that my empathy for them is non-existent.

I’ll keep reading this saga, because I need to know how they defeat the Yuuzhan Vong. I don’t know if I will read more books of the Legacy box after the New Jedi Order. It will all depend  on the reanimation of my inner Star Wars fanboy.

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2018 – Book Gallery

Runaways: An Original Novel – Christopher Golden

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Author: Christopher Golden
Pages: 352

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Turns out murderous Super Villains don’t make for good parents. The Runaways had no choice. They had to kill them. Well, more or less. Now Nico, Karolina, Gert, Chase, and Molly are on the run again, hiding out and trying to regain a sense of normalcy. But kids with super powers don’t get to be normal.

The city is overrun with criminals, each faction bent on murdering them for one reason or another. It’s only when the Runaways uncover the truth behind their parents’ past that they realize the evil isn’t just in L.A.

It’s everywhere.

When I first heard about this book I thought it was based directly on the TV show, which would be a bummer. Don’t get me wrong, I like the TV show, but it’s not as epic as the first volume of Runaways published by Marvel Comics. But this book takes place in the same universe as the comics!! More precisely, the action is set between the first and the second volume. So, Alex is dead and they haven’t met Victor or Xavin yet. Once I learned about that, I jumped to get the book.

After defeating the Gibborim, the Runaways have found a nice place to live and they are not in any kind of danger. But that doesn’t last long. Their base of operations is attacked by Sunstroke. That obscure villain of the Marvel Universe is a member of the Masters of Evil when Crimson Cowl was the leader. They are taken by surprise, but the Runaways managed to escape and called the police. Even though they had to abandon their new home, Chase promised them he had a back-up plan. That the rest should have a fun night out while he and Molly went to a mission.

The “fun” night out ended up rescuing a poor girl called Allis who was going to be sacrificed by Pride followers. The same followers that in that moment were being attacked by the Nightwatch. Nope, not that Nightwatch. It’s not the good Kevin Trench. This Nightwatch is like Pride but for San Francisco. It seems there are more Elder Gods than just de Gibborim. In San Francisco, the Kurdogrim are the ones to watch. So, they rescued the girl and a boy that tells them he is the son of one of the Nightwatch.

Feeling that both of them are kin souls, the Runaways welcome Zeke and Allis to their new home. And here is when the main issue with the book begins. I mean, can any loyal comic reader tell me who is Allis or Zeke in the Runaways history? If there is something you can tell about that group is that they are usually fiercely loyal to their friends. During the story of the book, we read how Allis get closer and closer to Karolina or how Zeke charms Gert and Nico. We are sold that they became friends pretty quickly and soon I realized there was something fishy going on. I know Zeke and Allis are not in the comics and Christopher Golden knows it, too. So, it was pretty obvious that that friendship had to be a lie.

The author tries to hide the real role of Zeke and Allis in the story, but that is an impossible task if you know The Runaways. So, the end of the book is not shocking at all. It didn’t punch the reader with something unexpected. It was what it had to be. Otherwise, there would have been some contradictions with the comics that many readers would have disliked.

Even though the development of the book doesn’t surprise me, I must admit that is a very enjoyable reading. There is one fight after another, with lots of different powers at play. So getting bored is out of the question. I also liked quite a bit how the author has enhanced the Elder Gods mythology, which has been barely explored in the comics. And the Masters of Evil cameos have been a lot of fun!!

I’m satisfied. Much better than I was expecting.

Lord of Souls – Greg Keyes

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Author: Greg Keyes
Series: The Elder Scrolls #2
Pages: 316

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Forty years after the Oblivion crisis, the empire of Tamriel is threatened by a mysterious floating city, Umbriel, whose shadow spawns a terrifying undead army.

Reeling from a devastating discovery, Prince Attrebus continues on his seemingly doomed quest to obtain a magic sword that holds the key to destroying the deadly invaders. Meanwhile, in the Imperial City, the spy Colin finds evidence of betrayal at the heart of the empire—if his own heart doesn’t betray him first. And Annaïg, trapped in Umbriel itself, has become a slave to its dark lord and his insatiable hunger for souls.

How can these three unlikely heroes save Tamriel when they cannot even save themselves?

I could almost make a copy & paste of my previous review of The Infernal City, but that wouldn’t be fair. This second book is slighty better. Even though it lacks the same things as the first part; I was prepared for it, so the disappointment has been cut down.

It is supposed to continue the story from when we left it in the Infernal City, but it’s obvious there has been some development between the two of them that is not told by the author. It also presents a new plot line starred by Imperial soldiers facing Umbriel and Colin gets much more pages than in the first book. Sadly, Attrebus’ and Sul’s part is reduced… which hasn’t made me happy at all. The prince is still the most interesting character of the books.

The action gets better, but not much. The description of those parts is lazy and lacking interest everywhere. In this genre, if the action is bad, it’s very hard to engage the reader. The plot with the Imperial soldiers is supposed to be the one with more action, due to the army of zombies that they are facing. But still… It’s barely there… It ends as soon as it starts. I would remove those characters from the book. I could barely stand to read their chapters.

Annaïg and her cooking lessons is the other part that is overused. One more chapter about the daily menu and I would have thrown the book through the window… It’s a bit too much. The first time it was kind of cool to read about Umbriel’s high cuisine, but after that… I couldn’t stop screaming: Get to the good part!! In my humble opinion, the good part starts in the second part of the book, when Annaïg’s plan really begins.

What about the end? I must say the end is balanced with the rest of this saga: lazy and lacking feelings. There are some deaths that should bring tears to your eyes; but being honest, to feel those deaths you have to make a connection with the characters and it’s very unlikely that you could form one with the ones that Greg has created.

I know this sound like a very negative review, but the book is not boring at all. It’s just that the author has been unable to capture the richness of Tamriel. Too bad these are the only novels based on that Universe. I would love to keep reading books about the Elder Scrolls, but it looks like that bridge has been burnt.

I guess I’ll never know if Treb and Annaïg were happy after this. If you ask me, the Prince deserves waaaaaaay better. That breton lady is pretty scary…

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Next: You’ve Got Fail by Celia Aaron