“Goldenhand” by Garth Nix (HarperCollins, 2016)


The long-awaited (whether it’s published two weeks after the last one or two years, it will always be long-awaited) fifth installment of the Old Kingdom is out! Goldenhand is the one fans have been waiting for, featuring many old friends we’ve cared for and wondered about for some time: Sabriel, the Abhorsen; King Touchstone; Lirael, Abhorsen-in-waiting; and Nicholas Sayre; and yes maybe Chlorr of the Mask is involved somehow too.

Sabriel and Touchstone are on their first vacation in a very long time. The word from the Clayr is nothing is going on and nothing is going to be going on involving necromancers or dark beasties. Lirael, the Abhorsen-in-waiting, is holding the wall – so to speak – for the time being. Of course, it is exactly then that things take a turn for the terrible and dark. After rescuing Nick Sayre from one of those scary, dark beasties, she makes the decision to take him to the Clayr’s Glacier on a paperwing to see if she can help him with his free magic problem. It is there she will eventually meet someone who knew her mother well, and who bears a very important message for her. A message that has far reaching ramifications that will affect people on both sides of the wall.

Fans will be absolutely delighted with Goldenhand. Nix has certainly not lost his touch, as readers are plunged into the creepy world of the Old Kingdom with its gates through death and the terrifying things that reside there. The story is compelling, as readers get to see some old friends they’ve dearly missed, while new views and plots about the Old Kingdom are revealed. Goldenhand may be one of the best in the series!

Originally written on November 22, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Goldenhand from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Calamity” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2016)


In the final volume of the Reckoners trilogy things come to a close in an acceptable way. The group has been pushed to the brink and while they’re licking their wounds, they must face their former leader, Prof, who has now gone to the dark side of being an epic.

The Reckoners travels will take them across the country to the interesting city of Babilar (once Atlanta) that moves along and rebuilds itself constantly. There they will have a showdown with their former member and will somehow have to beat him. David believes he knows Prof’s weakness. He also has another card: Firefight aka Megan aka David’s girlfriend is proof that when an epic is pushed to the brink they don’t always turn evil; it is possible to come back.

She also has this incredible ability to open portals into a parallel world where there is no Calamity in the sky that causes all the problems. Things in this parallel world are different and the epics appear to be mostly good in nature. So David knows a world without Calamity, the ultimate epic, is a good thing. So in addition to bringing down Prof, he also needs to take care of Calamity and save the world. Just another ordinary day for him and the Reckoners.

Calamity has the same feel at times as the first two books, but is certainly a lot darker, bleaker and more intense, but then this is the final showdown and who knows who’s going to make it out alive. There is a lot of traveling around again, which can get a little boring at times for the reader. But the final payoff with the Calamity showdown is well worth it, as a surprising end is reached that leaves the reader fully satisfied.

Originally written on March 25th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Calamity from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Hostage” by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith (Book View Cafe, 2015)


The second book in The Change quartet, after Stranger, does a lot of things the second book in the series should: opening the world further, adding some new and interesting characters, and raising the stakes to a whole new level that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.

The sheltered town of Las Anclas is still licking its many wounds from the attack by King Voske of Gold Point. They expect another possible attack but have no idea when, but as Ross Juarez is out on a routine mission with some friends, a team has been sent out by Voske and captures him. He is brought back to Gold Point and shown a world where the changed are respected and at times revered. But this is also a harsh place run by the iron first of Voske; for those who do not follow these ways, they are crushed and ended without question. Las Anclas returns the favor by kidnapping the Voske’s daughter, Kerry, who learns of the very different world and place that is Las Anclas.

Will either side be willing to make an even exchange for the two? Not likely. So the hostage situation will have to be resolved in some other way, that will likely involve bloodshed. But each side has their own people with their own special powers that can be put to use. The final decision will ultimately rest on Kerry’s shoulders: after seeing the good and bad in both Las Anclas and Gold Point, she will have to make her choice and choose a side.

Originally written on March 25th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Hostage from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Stranger” by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2014)

Stranger
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Welcome to the quaint little town of Las Anclas, located on the edge of nowhere. It’s a frontier town with high surrounding walls and guards constantly watching from above. Interestingly, those guards are all ages from teenagers to adults, and they all look like they know how to handle those weapons they’re carrying.

In this harsh world, places like Las Anclas are necessary refuges. You’re either a normal human or a mutant who is “Changed,” giving you special powers and abilities. There are those who will respect you for being different and others who will despise you, even inside those safe town walls, so watch your back.

Ross Juarez has just escaped death from a bounty hunger and the lethally dangerous crystalline trees and has made it to Las Anclas, seeking refuge. There he will make friends, but also enemies. He is also in possession of a special ancient book written in a language he can’t read.

Stranger is one of the few post-apocalyptic young adult books to earn its place next to Hunger Games. The diversity of the cast make this made-up world a completely believable one. The science fiction elements leave you shivering with fright, but also wanting to understand more. By the end of the book, you’ll be looking for the sequel; fortunately there is one.

Originally written on March 19, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Stranger from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson (Delacorte, 2013)

Steelheart
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It seems that whenever Brandon Sanderson puts his head down to write something, the resulting story is usually an incredible one that any reader will enjoy. The man is talented; it’s as simple as that. Sanderson had a second young adult novel come out in 2013, after the Rithmatist, and kicks off a new young adult series called The Reckoners with Steelheart. It’s your classic fantasy tale of superheroes, except all the superheroes in this book happen to be supervillains.

It all started with a strange comet and an even t that came to be known as the cataclysm where a certain number of the population gained superpowers and became known as Epics. David got to experience the supreme power of epics first hand when he was at a bank in Chicago, when the epic Steelheart murdered his father. Since then, ten years have passed and David, while living through hard times, has devoted every spare moment to learn what he can about the epics of the world.

He knows a couple of things: each epic possess his or her own unique power and with that power they have a key vulnerability. Some of these “weak points” he has discovered about the epics, others he is still learning. He also knows there is an underground rebel group looking to fight back against the epics one at a time. He’d love to join up with this rebel group, known as the Reckoners, but they’re very good at remaining hidden and undiscovered. But then again he’s also very good at finding things out that you’re not supposed to.

Sanderson takes a great concept of the superhero, makes up a bunch of them, then turns it on its head and makes them all evil. But whether he is writing fantasy or science fiction, the magic abilities of his characters always have limits in some way, just as the superheroes we know so well, like Superman or Spiderman, or the many others. Whether you’re a kid, or an adult who’s a kid at heart, you’ll love Steelheart.

Originally written on April 12, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Steelheart from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“The Rithmatist” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2013)

The Rithmatist
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To spend a day in the mind of Brandon Sanderson would be a truly awesome adventure. It’s good that he’s such a hard-working writer and brings out multiple books a year, so readers get to enjoy his complex and fascinating story ideas. He does it again in The Rithmatist, creating a unique world, with an incredible magic system, some compelling characters, and a story that quickly becomes a favorite.

This is not the United States you are familiar with; this is a different world. There is the United Isles, consisting of a massive collection of many islands, each named with their own peoples and ways; some names are familiar like Texas, Wyoming and Montana; others are enticingly alien, such as the Californian Archipelago, Crockett, Georgiabama, Canadia, and New France. On a number of these islands are Rithmatic Academies, where Rithmatists train and are taught to become skilled warriors to join the battle, and defend against The Tower on the island of Nebrask. Our story takes place on the island of New Britannia, at the Armedius Academy.

More than anything in his life, Joel would like to be a Rithmatist, but during his inception ceremony, things didn’t go right and he wasn’t given the Rithmatic power. Rithmatists are those who have the power to give life to chalk shapes, and chalk drawings known as chalkings. A Rithmatist’s first line of defense against enemy chalkings is a perfect circle drawn around them which the chalkings will attack, but the more perfect the circle is, the stronger defense the Rithmatist has. If a portion of the circle isn’t perfectly curved, it is a weakness that the chalkings soon tear through it. There are many circles of defense that can be drawn to aid and protect a Rithmatist, named after their creator.

As for chalkings, they can be just about anything the Rithmatist can conceive of: a spearman, a tiger, a unicorn, a monster; the more detailed and complex the chalking is, the stronger it will be. They answer to simple commands, usually movement, a direction, and to attack. And when a Rithmatist is in a duel, which is an important part of training at the academies, it becomes a complicated trial of choosing the right defense that will protect the Rithmatist, but also give him or her a strong offense with chalkings.

The first chalkings began many millennia ago, it is thought from cave drawings, but then there were the wild chalkings, of unknown creation, that attack, harm and kill anyone, be they Rithmatist or ordinary human. The United Isles was a scary place back then, but now these wild chalkings have been kept secured within The Tower, but it’s necessary to have a formidable army of Rithmatists to keep up the defenses to hold these chalkings back. This is the most important role of the Rithmatist.

But getting back to Joel, he isn’t a Rithmatist. He spends his days at the academy, doing his regular classes at a mediocre level and wanting to learn as much about the world of Rithmatists as he possibly can. His father was a chalkmaker who had supposedly discovered a new form of defense, but this information was lost when he died, and whenever Joel asks his mother about it, she ignores him and continues her job of janitor at the academy.

The problem is that students have started disappearing, important Rithmatists from rich families, and nobody knows who is doing it and whether they’re even still alive. A single professor is chosen to solve this mystery, working with the police, and Joel is helping as he’s the professor’s assistant for the summer. This is his chance to learn more about Rithmatics and to hopefully help these kidnapped students.

The Rithmatist is one of those great stories that just sucks you in and never lets go. Together with the unique topography and fascinating magic system in a quasi-steampunk world using steam and other unusual forms to make everything run smoothly. It is a believe world, one in which the reader may be happy to live in, but also fear that distant island of Nebrask where The Tower stands, as the many wild chalkings attack and claw at the weakening defenses, looking to break through and kill everyone.

Originally written on June 12, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Rithmatist from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Homeland” by Cory Doctorow (Tor, 2013)

Homeland
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After the traumatic events of the bestselling Little Brother, Cory Doctorow returns with the sequel in Homeland, as Marcus Yallow finds himself in a harsh world where the government is always watching and waiting.  His time being detained has scarred him in some ways — though not as bad as some of his friends — so that he is now less trusting than ever.  But he also knows that while the truth may not set or keep him free, getting it out to the masses is more important.

Homeland opens with an entertainingly fantastic chapter where Marcus is at Burning Man for the first time in his life, which Doctorow describes with such detail that it seems as if he may have been once or twice himself.  It culminates in a Dungeons & Dragons session with the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and actor Wil Wheaton.  Marcus also comes across an old enemy and comes into possession of a flash drive with some very incendiary information.

Back in San Francisco, life is the same with Marcus’s parents out of work, as well as himself, with everyone trying to get by in this terrible economic climate.  Marcus gets a job offer he can’t refuse: working as the webmaster and tech guy for a candidate running as an independent for the California Senate, looking to change the world and make it a better place.  So things start to look up for a little while, but Marcus has to make the decision about what to do with the flash drive.  It contains a torrent address and password that lets him download gigs of information on the corruption in the government, hard proof of what they have perpetrated, how they have tortured, under the guise of protecting the American people.  Marcus will have to decide if his safety and health are worthy sacrifices for getting this information out to the people.

Doctorow keeps the thrill running just like he did with Little Brother, putting Marcus into tight spot after tight spot, using his friends when he can, but also knowing the risks of putting them in danger.  Doctorow also does a great job of using cutting edge technology to make the story feel a little futuristic, but at the same time completely plausible.  Fans will be sucked into Homeland and kept going until the last page, hoping for a possible future continuation to this chapter in the story of Marcus Yallow.

Originally written on April 27, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Homeland from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.