Book Review: By Wingéd Chair

By Wingéd Chair by Kendra Merritt

I’m a huge supporter of my local library, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take advantage of a free trial of Kindle Unlimited when The Big River throws one my way. This book was part of my mad binge-reading during that trial.

Description

Seventeen-year-old Merry has one goal—become a licensed mage—but her tendency to mouth off to anyone who underestimates her because of her wheelchair hasn’t made her boarding school mistresses more willing to write her the necessary letter of recommendation. Instead of heading to the University, she takes the train home to face her father—until a group of corrupt peacemakers and their shape-shifting allies attack. As the daughter of Woodshire’s premier expert in the memory-stealing creatures, she can defend herself. The outlaw mage who “comes to her rescue,” however, drags her into a resistance movement she didn’t know lay in her own backyard. When the creatures decide to take the memories of those she cares about most, she must decide whether returning their memories is worth giving up her chance to earn respect as a mage.

Character

Merry represents a fantastic blend of strength and insecurity. At the outset, she hides her emotional pain behind her sharp tongue and masked expression, but as her confidence grows, she displays her friendly side more often. She never lets anything hold her back, though the author doesn’t shy away from portraying the challenges she faces as a paraplegic. Likewise, the other characters have their own struggles and motivations, especially the leading male, rounding out the cast of misfit outlaws.

Toward the end, the author reveals the villains’ true motivations, which make them seem both more human and more realistic. However, these details were added so quickly, they feel like an afterthought. That said, the process by which the creatures become “good” and “bad” fascinated me. I love the idea that all their small decisions culminate in their final nature.

Plot

The plot, a retelling of Robin Hood, follows Merry as she befriends the outlaws and helps them work against the tyrannical duke and the creatures he is using to steal memories from the populace. The story progresses at a solid pace, with a balance between action and character development. There weren’t any surprising twists, but I enjoyed the journey.

Writing Style

Merritt writes with a good balance between description and action. She evokes the characters’ emotions without wallowing for too long. I felt Merry was a little blind and self-absorbed, but at her age, I was equally introspective. The love-story subplot was appropriate for a young adult audience. I found it refreshing compared to the hypersexualized stories that have flooded the genre in recent years.

Miscellaneous

The author’s Christian allegory was very well done. She successfully wove religious themes into the fantasy world, highlighting the relevance to each character’s development. Though evident immediately, the Christian themes didn’t come across as preachy, and weren’t as obvious as, say, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This book may hold special appeal to Christians, but readers of any belief system—or lack thereof—could enjoy it.

Conclusion

One part Robin Hood, one part Christian allegory, By Wingéd Chair is a delightful fairytale which portrays resilience in the face of suffering. Merry’s personal journey encourages readers to draw strength from their weaknesses, and the well-rounded cast of outlaws provides ample support for the broader theme. I enjoyed this story, and I look forward to reading more.

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By Winged Chair

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Read My Review

Read My Review

I haven’t written a review on this, but with a nerdy princess and lots of magic/action/romance… let’s just say I loved it. Trust Me.


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Book Review: The Winter Dragon

What better way to spice up your Christmas season than with dragons and giant mountain goats?

The Winter Dragon: A Fantasy Novella by Jo-Anne Tomlinson

I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of this fantasy novella, though I did pre-order it as well.

Description

In the land of eternal winter, archer Katja and her sister prepare for the festivities of Juletine, when the people of Brunn give thanks to the Winter Dragon. Though no one has seen the dragon for centuries, tradition demands the villagers honor the gifts of healing and protection given to their ancestors. Everyone but the king, who for reasons unknown hasn’t shown his face in several years, leaving his haughty-but-handsome son to conduct the rituals.

The bothersome prince isn’t the only thing troubling Katja. The barrels of healing water grow smaller each year as the frost wall grows thinner. When the traditional hunt goes terribly wrong, endangering her family, Katja must journey beyond the safety of her home in order to save it.

Characters

I can tell the author has siblings, because Katja and her sister behave exactly like you’d expect for two girls who both love and torment each other. Katja’s stubbornness gives her the grit she needs as the protagonist, and the prince comes around by the end. This short tale packs a lot into a few pages—dragons, princes, imps, and giant mountain goats. I’d like to spend an entire novel in this world.

Plot

The plot moves steadily with the perfect balance of action and reaction. The story intertwines personal and societal stakes as Katja must journey up the mountain to save not only her family, but her people.

I wish the novella had been longer, a short novel even. A lot of the emotional turnaround happened too quickly, leaving the deeper conflicts resolved but unprocessed, shallow. A novella is too short to dig deeper into such transformations.

Writing Style

The author’s prose is descriptive enough to set the fantastical scene, but not so heavy as to slow the plot. She writes in long sentences, without too much purple prose. I’m impressed an author from a tropical island can write such a great winter story. I doubt I could write a convincing story that takes place on a beach.

As I mentioned above, Tomlinson prioritizes action over emotion, which is appropriate for this genre, I remind myself. I’ve been reading a lot of high-drama contemporary fiction lately, so while I felt the emotional conflict resolution was shallow, readers exclusive to fantasy may find the level just right.

Conclusion

What better way to spice up your Christmas season than with dragons and giant mountain goats? The short-but-powerful story grips readers with Katja’s personal stakes while raising the pressure with threats to Brunn’s way of life. Well worth reading, and I hope the author writes more. I can never get enough dragons.


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The Winter Dragon

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Fates of Ruin

I read an early version of this book, and I eagerly awaited the release of this version so I could start hawking it to all my friends.

Fates of Ruin by Jo-Anne Tomlinson

I read an early version of this book, and I eagerly awaited the release of this version so I could start hawking it to all my friends. I’m also a huge fan of her space opera, which is linked below.

Amazon Description

“Jahna Mornglow is a thief and a liar, a half-breed of the ostracized Narcean race, born with the gift of fates. With no kindred to call her own, Jahna lives as an outcast, placing her faith in the dagger and the coin rather than family or the silent gods that have abandoned them.

But not all is what it seems. Her world is in danger and when the fates within her awaken, Jahna finds herself the banished heir of a kingdom close to ruin.

The land of Ardentia is vast and magical, carved by the Celestial gods and ruled by their mortal descendants. With a once great king mysteriously ill, a thousand-years’ war raging in the east and whispers of an ancient evil’s return, Ardentia’s salvation now rests on the shoulders of Jahna and her guild of young outsiders.

Enemies will be unmasked, secrets will be revealed and a fragmented artefact will breathe new life into the myths of old.

Spurred by vengeance and grief, does Jahna possess the resolve to keep safe a world that has shunned and discarded her?”

Characters

Tomlinson has a gift for crafting engaging, three-dimensional characters. The witty repartee between them is entertaining without feeling forced. Many modern movies comprise one long action scene with a few lines of awkward comic relief. While this book’s plot is filled with action, the characters’ interaction is so genuine you come to view them as your new best friends. Furthermore, Tomlinson goes beyond the usual orcs and elves to create unique races and creatures.

Jahna, Lilac, and Silko are three misfits disappointed with their lack of progress toward their dreams. As a millennial who too-recently went through the “quarter-life crisis,” I could relate. Jahna’s unknown past comes crashing into the present, launching her and her friends on a quest to claim revenge, and maybe save the kingdom in the process.

Jahna

Jahna struggles with her biracial identity as her unfamiliar Narcean heritage continues to surface along the journey. She is a strong female lead, but vulnerable enough to gain sympathy.

Lilac

I love Lilac because she subverts a trope I would like to see extinct: the sexy ninja trope. You know, the 90-pound supermodel in tight leather and heels who takes down six marines and whose hair—which she didn’t even bother to put into a ponytail—looks like she just walked out of a salon rather than a fist fight.

Lilac, however, is a muscular brute of a woman described such that I totally believe she can rip a man in half with her bare hands. She sweats, belches, and gets covered in mud. She keeps her hair pulled back in braids and wears practical footwear. I adore her.

Silko

In the earlier version of this book, Silko fell into another trope I despise: the wussy academic. We’ve all seen the four-eyed geeks who have to take a puff from their inhalers before squeaking out a line of comic relief. Being married to an engineer, I like to point out that statistically, people with a high IQ are in better physical condition than those with a lower IQ.

Fortunately, as the author aged up her characters, Silko gained more of a backbone. He is still a physical weakling—a nice contrast to Lilac, and a logical result of his obsession with books—but he speaks his mind more and uses his intelligence as the weapon it is. This first book in the series suggests a strong growth arc for him, so I’m okay with him starting out as a coward. This type of physically weak smart guy, I can handle-one with potential for growth and whose role in the plot goes beyond comic relief.

Plot

This plot well paced for the modern attention span. It is not for readers who enjoy stopping and smelling the roses. Tolkien fans will not find pages of poetry, invented languages, or interminable stretches of historic backstory. It starts with action and continues to hop from predicaments to predicament as the protagonists push toward their goal.

Beyond the usual “ambushed by bad guys and have to fight their way out,” the protagonists face interesting challenges that require them to rely on each other’s unique strengths to overcome.

Writing Style

As I mentioned before, Tomlinson has a gift for character creation, particularly with dialogue. She provides enough description and backstory for the reader to immerse themselves in the story world without bogging down the pacing. I’m not a fan of cliff-hanger endings, but as I know I’ll buy the next book anyway, I’m okay with this one.

Miscellaneous

I like the new cover design, but I don’t think the title was emphasized enough throughout the story. Perhaps the next book in the series will make it more clear.

Conclusion

If you seek an escape into an exciting world with interesting people, look no further. The Fates of Ruin is an engaging read that will have you thinking about its characters even as you make your morning coffee run.


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