BOOK REVIEW: Shadow Chaser by Jerel Law

Back for a third entry, Jonah, Eliza, and Jeremiah Stone face their biggest trials yet in Shadow Chaser, book three in the Son of Angels series by Jerel Law.

Shadow Chaser takes off right where Fire Prophet, book two, left off with Jonah and his siblings at Angel School in New York City. Something evil is lurking in the shadows of the convent where the Quarterlings, part humans, part angelic Nephilim, have been living, studying, and growing closer to God. And coming up next? Mid-term exams that will test the Quarterlings in their skills and faith.

But Jonah Stone has other problems: he keeps hearing strange voices in the dark of night. A shadow seems to creep about in every corner. Not to mention that his face has now been covered in zits and all the other kids in the convent want nothing to do with him. Can Jonah figure out what’s happening in the dark before it overtakes them all?

This entry in the Son of Angels series is not necessarily my favorite of the three so far, but it’s still a good, fun read. Some readers may feel that this book is like an extended add-on to Fire Prophet, with a lot of the action centering around the Angel School in the convent. At times I kept wondering if things would get shaken up a bit, but they stayed pretty much on course until near the end. I won’t give anything away, but something happens at the end of this book that was truly shocking. I’m very interested to see where this story goes in the final book: Truth Runner.

Although parts of the plot feel like a redux, Jonah definitely has the most character development in this book. His life begins to resemble that of an Old Testament prophet, complete with the trials and temptations that came to many of those men and women of God. Jonah’s struggle with his friends feels very real to life, and he grows through the things happening to him rather than becoming vengeful.

Those who have followed Jonah thus far will enjoy Shadow Chaser, but newcomers would do best to go back to book one, Spirit Fighter. Jerel Law remains a solid author with some very different stories to tell. Definitely worth a read.

You can purchase this book on Amazon.com.

BOOK REVIEW: Death Weavers by Brandon Mull

A year was a long time to wait for Five Kingdoms: Book 4: Death Weavers, but, a year wait does not disappoint when it comes to Brandon Mull. Mull’s signature high stakes fantasy adventure fills the pages of this next installment, and definitely leaves a few surprises for the very end that had me gasping at the last pages.

Cole and his friends have been through three of the five kingdoms in the Outskirts: Sambria, Elloweer, and the futuristic kingdom of Zeropolis. And now, they have finally ventured over into Necronum, the land of the dead. Apparitions appear frequently with slippery deals and valuable information. Hunters lick up their trail. And a mysterious fiery horse named the Mare has been sighted roaming the vast lands. When Cole’s friends fall prey to an evil entity, Cole must travel to the land inbetween the Outskirts and death and try to rescue his friends before they are separated from him for good this time.

Death Weavers felt very different from Mull’s other books, but also very similar in some ways. At this point, we have arrived at a bit of a formula for these Five Kingdoms books: find a princess, rescue the princess, and reunite her with her run-amuck power. While that structure is truly at the heart of this fourth book, there are also some other pieces at play. We finally discover more information about some of the evils lurking throughout the Outskirts, and we also learn more about what exactly has happened to bring Cole to these kingdoms. As usual, Mull is quite innovative when it comes to twisting up the typical fantasy tropes and make them into his own creations, giving us some of the most unique places in the five kingdoms yet.

However, Cole continues to remain something of a flat character. This is something I noted from previous installments in the series, and it is definitely true here. Cole has a bit of a character arc, but he feels much more typical than Seth and Kendra from Fablehaven or even Jason from Beyonders. There is something about Cole that seems to keep him stunted in character growth. Is the story still entertaining? Yes. Is it a page-turner? Oh yes. Is Cole someone worth rooting for? Sure…?

Fans of the previous books will love Death Weavers. Newcomers will definitely feel lost entering the series here, and it is really best to go back to Sky Raiders and start from there. Mull has set up some great conflicts for the last book in the series coming in another year, and it will be interesting to see how he ends up wrapping things up.

You can purchase this book on Amazon.com.

BOOK REVIEW: Raising Dragons Graphic Novel by Bryan Davis & James Art Ville

I first discovered Bryan Davis’ Dragons in our Midst series when it released way back in 2004. I remember reading the first book, Raising Dragons, and instantly being drawn in to the story and the characters, and the sheer novelty of a Christian YA fantasy novel that combined dragons, the Bible, and action into one sleek story. Now, over a decade later, Bryan Davis has partnered with James Art Ville to create the graphic novel version of the book that has now grown into three epic dragon-filled book series.

The story is straight from Raising Dragons, and those who have read that book will not find anything new here story-wise. The book centers around a boy named Billy Bannister, who is just trying to survive school when he discovers a strange ability: he can breathe literal fire. Soon, his power is growing out of control, and so is the secret his family has been hiding all these years. Now, an ancient dragon slayer is after Billy and his new, mysterious friend, Bonnie Silver. Together, they must unravel the mystery of Merlin’s riddle, as well as survive the snowy mountains surrounding their town. Only their faith in God can save them now.

Told in a graphic novel format, the story of Raising Dragons is pretty easy to follow. I would even venture so far as to say the graphic novel treatment actually lends itself to the action sequences pretty well, and makes them a bit easier to follow than the novel. However, some of the initial weaknesses of the first book are revealed here. Davis has grown much in his story-telling abilities, and the fact that this first book features some convenient plot devices and logic jumps become even more apparent when pared-down for the visual format. Some of the characterization is also lost in translation, and often we find others explaining the emotions of the main characters rather than seeing them for ourselves. All said, the story was so innovative back in 2004 that much of its weaker points were not as easily noticeable.

As for the art, that is where Raising Dragons Graphic Novel shines. Ville’s style is perfect for this brand, and the way he has brought each of these characters and dragons to life is incredible. The art is great, and it is very easy to see some of his influences from Akira Himekawa and others. The panels flow well from one to the next, and definitely tell the story well. The only thing I could have seen it benefit from is the breakup of some of the sections into chapters. It might have been a tad easier to follow the storyline if there were some definite breaks between sections. Otherwise, the art is really top notch.

Fans of the original Raising Dragons novel will likely love this, as I did, and newcomers to the series can definitely start here as all the essential plot points to set up later books are contained here. It’s definitely worth your while to check out this incredible new artist, and revisit an old favorite in a new way.

You can purchase this book on Amazon.com.

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BOOK REVIEW: Isle of Stars by Wayne Thomas Batson

When I first heard Wayne Thomas Batson would be returning to the world of pirates, I was beside myself with excitement. Isle of Swords and Isle of Fire were two of my favorites when they first came out back in 2007 and 2008, respectively. So to hear that another installment in what was truly an incredible series of books would be arriving soon was enough to get me itching to return to a world of pirates, swordplay, and adventure. And Batson definitely does not disappoint here.

To begin with, Isle of Stars is a shorter story than the first two books in what is now known as The Isle Chronicles. The story is smaller is scope than the previous two, and the characterization is much more subdued than before. Also, Batson weaves in characters from his Dreamtreaders series, and readers unfamiliar with those books may be lost at the beginning of the book. Also, the plot device to bring in those characters from Dreamtreaders is a little forced, which may turn some readers off.

The story this time circles around Cat and Anne, who are going to be getting married soon — hopefully by Christmas, but no guarantees what with pirates about — when word arrives that the nefarious pirate, Captain Tobias Dredd has surfaced and is looking for the legendary Isle of Stars, an island that has never been desecrated by human sin. When Dredd kidnaps young Hopper, it is up to the crew of Captain Declain Ross’ ship to rescue him and stop Dredd from reaching the starlit isle before it’s too late.

Isle of Stars moves very quickly, and returns the reader to the world of the Batson’s pirates in a way that left me wanting much, much more. I was aching by the last page for another full novel set in this world, and time will tell if Batson plans to return here later. There is some violence here as well that does come across a bit shocking when it arrives, but it fits the world created here.The climax of the book does come rather quickly as well, and I had to stop and take stock of where things were at a couple of times to make sure I was still following the storyline.

All said, Isle of Stars is a very welcome addition to The Isle Chronicles, and I deeply hope Batson continues to put out more of these kinds of adventure stories. Here’s to hoping.

You can purchase this book on Amazon.com.