Tag: Fantasy / Sci Fi

Wings of Fire Book 5

by Tui T. Sutherland

This fifth book wrapped up the plot arc of the dragonet prohecy. It’s narrated by Sunny, the smallest of the five dragon protagonists. I think she’s one of my favorite characters. Sunny is very kind and always the optomistic one. Unfortunately her friends often dismiss her as just being little and cute, not really consequential. But Sunny proves in this book that she’s quite clever, and can be just as bold and brave as any dragon. She’s off on her own in this story, determined to still do something about the war, even after that devestating revelation about the prophecy. She goes to the Sandwing kingdom where she learns more about her parentage (and why she’s different from other dragons), runs into an old enemy, and uncovers quite a few important secrets. Sunny comes up with a real plan to end the dragon war, a thing that seems nearly impossible as there’s plenty of dragons who are happy to drag it on for decades, no matter how many dragons die. I liked seeing more about the human “scavengers” in this book, who yes, do have more of a role to play in what’s going on with all the dragon tribes! Oddly, they seem able to understand the dragons, either that or they have their own knowledge of dragon history, based on some of their actions. I really hope that gets explained in future books in the series. Didn’t mention it before, but the last few books and this one have, alongside the spying, kidnapping and violence, a few love stories developing between certain dragons. And I liked how that was handled- it was just as complicated and confusing as real relationships can be, but these young dragons are figuring things out.

In the end of The Brightest Night, Sunny’s actions along with the support of her friends, draw all the dragons together in a final confrontation with the three warring Sandwing queens. Again, nothing in this final scene went as I expected, which is delightful. I think this series is really growing on me, much in the way the Animorphs did. It’s a story that has a lot more going on than you’d expect at first, with continued surprises for the reader. And a very satisfying ending.

Rating: 3/5
308 pages, 2014

More opinions: Charlotte’s Library
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Wings of Fire Book 4

by Tui T. Sutherland

Warning for a pretty big SPOILER below!

This book felt a little darker than the earlier Wings of Fire books, and not just because some dragons die in horrible ways. A lot of it takes place in the Nightwing kingdom, which is doomed- natural disaster looming. The Nightwing dragons are in desparate need of a new home, and their plan is to relocate to the rainforest- ousting the Rainwing dragons by force. Luckily our narrator, Starflight in this case, with his companions starts to figure things out. He meets his father (the encounter is not stellar), finds out the Nightwing dragons do awful experiments, discovers why the Nightwing queen keeps herself hidden, meets the “alternate” dragonets of destiny, and starts to realize what’s really going on behind everything. One of the evil, machinating older Nightwing dragons literally pitches the young dragonets against each other, but instead of succumbing to the temptations to fight Starflight cautiously makes friends with some of his peers. I really like his character, even though he struggled to find his voice. I found him just as interesing as Glory was, for different reasons. Starflight is worried the Rainwing dragons will think he’s come back to the Nightwing kingdom to betray them, but he manages to kind of save the day in the end, getting messages across (via a magical object) and delightfully, the Rainwing dragons in spite of their laidback attitudes and lack of fighting skills, prove they have means to overcome their enemies without using brutal force. The biggest shocker came at the end though, when the scheming older Nightwing reveals to the dragonets that he made up the whole prophecy thing. No wonder he was trying to force things to go his way. The young dragons are reeling from this revelation, it makes everything they’ve worked for so far seem worthless.

There’s so much to like in this story, I can’t help leaving a lot out. In spite of the dark aspects, there’s lots of charming moments between friends, and funny bits. In spite of the violence and distrust going on around them, the five dragonets staunchly keep asserting their goal- to find a way to peacefully end the war. To help the other dragon tribes get along, not solve everything by killing each other. Their ideas seem odd or misguided to most other dragons, but some of them are starting to come around to this new viewpoint.

And I’m getting more intrigued by the glimpses we have of “scavengers” or the humans in this world. I suspect they’re going to have a role in what happens with the dragons at some future point. Every now and then one of our main characters will come across a few scavengers and take pity on them (because the eyes look so intelligent) and carry them to safety or simply refrain from eating them. Then they move on without another thought. I wonder if this is starting to affect the humans- do they notice that some of the dragons have mercy, will it influence their behavior, perhaps they’ll turn a hand to help the dragons out (unexpectedly, because they’re so puny!) hm. Just me speculating here.

Rating: 3/5
295 pages, 2013

More opinions: Charlotte’s Library
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Wings of Fire Book 3

by Tui T. Sutherland

Note there are probably some SPOILERS if you haven’t read so far in the series.

This book is from Glory’s viewpoint. Now the dragonets head into the rainforest kingdom. Again, nothing is as they expected. Really, there weren’t many expectations as nobody knows much about the Rainwing dragons, but Glory was hoping to find that the slanders she’s heard all her life about Rainwings being lazy were untrue. Unfortunately, it seems there was a reason for that stereotype. The rainforest dragons certainly are different, and have a very relaxed, unconcerned attitude about almost everything. They reminded me of the futuristic humans in H.G. Well’s Time Machine, and in some ways also a certain rabbit warren in Watership Down where everyone enjoyed the plenty and ignored the dark side of things. Because although the Rainwing dragons are beautiful and life in their kingdom seems easy, some of them have been disappearing- and nobody cares to find out why or look for them. Glory and her friends are appalled at this attitude, and take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and rescue the missing dragons. In the course of their investigation, they find hidden magic passages to other parts of the world, sneak into a Sandwing fortress in disguise, meet an assassin who has the most unlikely personality for that job ever, become acquainted with the third Sandwing queen Blaze (who is just as shallow and unintelligent as the rumors always said). Another big surprise in this book is that the Nightwing dragons don’t appear to be as all-knowing and dangerous as they’ve led others to believe. Some of the dragonets end up in the Nightwing kingdom, which is a dark and dismal place. Also conspiracies are coming to light- apparently the Nightwings and the Talons of Peace each have “replacement” dragonets they’d rather use to fulfill the prophecy, and some of our gallant young five are wanted dead.

No surprise, there’s continued violence and threats in this book. Some of the dragons are downright cruel to each other. Then there are absolutely silly scenes, like when Blaze is going on about throwing a party for the dragonets, totally oblivious to the reality of the situation she’s in. Or when Glory, frustrated at the Rainwing’s lack of action regarding the missing dragons, decides to challenge the current queen, and finds herself in a series of competitions to win the position. Full of squabbles and cheating, just like a bunch of children. It was at turns amusing and intriguing. I did really like reading Glory’s perspective- she realizes that some of her difficulties come from having grown up shut away in a cave, when Rainwing dragons thrive on sunshine (literally, they need to soak up sun to recharge their energy). She’s glad to finally experience the life she was supposed to have lived, but also unsettled by how, well, lazy and unproductive it seems. Among other things. This story kind of barrels through everything and pitches the reader into a cliffhanger, so I’m on to the next soon.

Two other details I found really interesting: the Nightwing dragons appear to have some similarities to komodo monitors, in how they feed. And the sloths in the Rainwing kingdom annoyed me. Not that the dragons kept them as pets, or the constant reference to their cuteness, or their muffled unintelligible noises, but that they were described as scampering or otherwise reacting at normal speed. Maybe in this made-up world sloths aren’t so very slow? Minor thing, but it just kind of threw me off because it was so unlikely, that part of their behavior.

 

Rating: 3/5
336 pages, 2014

More opinions: Charlotte’s Library
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Wings of Fire Book 2

by Tui T. Sutherland

Second book in this series. I didn’t find it quite as good as the first one, but I’m willing to continue and see where this goes. The five young dragons who are supposed to fulfill a prophecy and end the dragon war, are on their way into the undersea kingdom of the Seawings tribe. This book is narrated by Tsunami, who feels certain that her mother the Seawing queen will gladly welcome her home. (They should have realized from Clay’s reception by the Mudwings not to expect too much). Of course it doesn’t go smoothly. Tsunami can’t communicate with the other Seawing dragons, who have their own language to use underwater. Misunderstandings abound. Everyone is suspicious of her companions, because some of them are from rival tribes. The customs and manners of the palace dragons are unfamiliar, and Tsunami quickly gets separated from her friends. She tries to fit in and please her mother, but something’s not quite right. The story quickly dives into a mess of court intrigue and a long-standing murder mystery. I have to say the ending reveal was quite clever. I was getting a tad tiresome of it all by that point, though. Some things were totally unexpected (like the sea queen being a writer who foisted her stories on everyone) and made me laugh, other plot twists I saw coming from far off.

It still bugged me a bit that the dragons talk a lot like people but oh well. And there continues to be random sudden violence. Again, didn’t bother me in this story about dragons in warring tribes, but kind of surprising seeing that the books are aimed at kids? at least the bright covers make you think so. One of the dragonets discovers she had unknowingly killed her own father in the past, and has to deal with that horrible guilt. There’s also flippant, casual mention of suicide that makes me uncomfortable. I did like how Tsunami showed some character development through the story. She starts off very brash and headstrong, but by the end has learned to curb some of her impulsiveness and take her friends’ opinions more into consideration. Sadly the other characters felt a little flat to me- but I suppose it makes sense that a story narrated by an adolescent would be completely wrapped up in that one individual. In the end, the hidden palace is attacked and our five dragonets barely escape with their lives. They do make it out, leaving the sea kingdom a bit wiser- and with an unexpected new companion.

Rating: 3/5
296 pages, 2012

More opinions: Charlotte’s Library

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by James Thurber

I’ve had this little book (a novella really) on my TBR for ages, don’t even recall why I first put it there. Today I read it in the bath. It was funny and quirky and tongue-in-cheek but also thoughtful between the lines (if that makes sense). It’s like a fairy tale turned halfway inside out, if you will. There’s a king with three sons, two love to hunt and the third is a bit quieter (he always lets the hunted animals escape). One day they’re chasing a mystical white deer through the forest, but when they bring the quarry to bay, instead there’s a lovely maiden standing there. Convinced she is a princess, they take her back to the castle. She’s supposed to set a series of near-impossible tasks for the brother princes to complete, whoever brings her the requested trophy first, will win her hand. But does she even want that? She has a quiet, gentle shy manner, and cannot recall her name. She starts to wonder if she’s just a commoner and won’t be allowed to stay with the prince who marries her, but worst yet is rumor of a story, that she might just be a common deer turned into a woman by a magic trick. Her character reminded me in many ways of Amalthea in The Last Unicorn, and the odd conversations that go in circles with senseless (but delightful) wordplay made me think of Alice in Wonderland. But this story has a character all its own. It gets a little silly and repetitive in places, but I didn’t mind. I liked the ending.

Rating: 3/5
115 pages, 1945

Volume Ten

by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

– – – – – – – – – Warning for HUGE SPOILERS – – – – – – – – –

I put aside my reluctance and read the latest Saga volume online. I really don’t care for reading a lot on screens- but this one wasn’t available at my library in paper copy, so I accessed it on Hoopla. That’s a different kind of experience. I spent several days on it instead of reading it in one sitting, but mostly because I’d stop after one chapter, ready to get off the screen and do something else. I didn’t spend the usual time lingering over the artwork, which is part of what I enjoy about a copy in hand. So didn’t quite feel as immersed in this one.

It continues the story of Hazel’s patched-together family. Her father is dead now. She hasn’t really dealt with the loss, shutting off her emotions. It gives her more common ground with Squire, son of the TV-head robot prince who lives with them. He’s quit talking entirely. Alana finds counseling for Squire, but struggles to keep up with payments. Living on yet another new alien planet, she’s fallen into shady lines of work (peddling dubious formula products on the streets and handling drug deals in other arenas) to support her family, and has a new business partner- a guy who’s also hiding his past. They all fall in with a new group of odd ones. Alana is standoffish towards their leader, a guy with moose antlers and a casual atittude masking his real intentions. Hazel is really taken by the band they have as a side gig, starts learning to play an instrument. Lots of mundane stuff in here about the music, the kids’ interactions (Squire admits he has a crush on Hazel, she doesn’t take that well), the generation gap. Alana’s parenting skills (or lack thereof) get called into question.

Other scenes on other worlds keep us in the loop about what’s happening with Gwen and the Will (who’s accompanied by Lying Cat again). I really could have done without the explicit scenes there. The sexual joke was so obviously set up it was cringe-worthy. There’s more politicking too, with hired hitmen from the Wings who now not only want to find Hazel, but do in everybody she knows, to completely wipe out the idea of peaceful relations her very existence personifies. And of course I loved the references to the fictional novelist Oswald, a running thread that links together some otherwise completely opposite characters. I hope that turns into something bigger.

Borrowed from the public library. Previous book in the series.

Rating: 3/5
160 pages, 2022

Volume Nine

by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

There are SPOILERS.

This book gutted me at the end. It starts out okay- still following all the disparate storylines which are coalescing into a vortex around Marko’s family. The tabloid reporters have discovered some crucial info about the war they want to publish, in return for getting Marko’s family into a safe haven- but nobody’s sure if they really want to do that. Hazel is asking tough questions of people. There’s poignant scenes showing the strength of family, and also how it can break down. Rebuilding is the struggle. The Will’s continued torment now includes physical trials, which do get him somewhat back into shape again- and then he finally confronts Marko. Who resorts to violence yet again. There’s a bunch of politicking to-and-fro also, in other scenes on other worlds. And TV-head Prince Robot is together with Petrichor now, but man, that guy. Just when you start to feel a bit sympathetic towards him, and think he’s maybe turning over a new leaf, he turns out to be scum after all. His kid tries to run away, and gets into a bad situation, which throws Marko and everybody else into it too. Of course more violence ensues. But- I was REALLY UPSET to read the last page. And I won’t say why here, but if I get to read Volume Ten someday (my library doesn’t have), I’ll tell there. Way to wreck this endearing family. Just when you thought there was going to be some closure, some peace happening (I mean look at the cover! all happy family!) the author throws it all in your face: NO. It’s not over yet.

Borrowed from the public library. Previous book in the series. Next book.

Rating: 4/5
152 pages, 2018

More opinions: Rhapsody in Books Weblog
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Volume Eight

by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Somehow, I didn’t feel this one quite as keenly. Couldn’t put my finger on why, because it deals with some very emotional topics again . . . . Alert there are SPOILERS if you haven’t read this far yet.

This volume opens with Hazel’s family facing some tough choices. Alana’s infant died in the womb, but she can’t get treatment on either her home planet or her husband’s moon, due to their continued outlaw status. Instead, they have to seek help from a disreputable planet where people go for abortions. All kinds of social commentary about women’s freedoms (or lack therof) in there. But Hazel and Marko are just desperate to save Alana’s life, before the unborn child makes her critically ill. Alana finds a new source of strength. Hazel meets her unborn brother as a kind of ghost- a projection of future possibilities. (Maybe this is what felt flat to me. The scenes with Hazel and her little brother-who-would-have-been were very touching, but I just don’t care for ghosts in stories). Also I could have done without the monsters made from fecal matter- that just seemed absurdly juvenile, some potty-training kids’ nightmare. Oh well. Meanwhile, the tabloid writer/photographer team is trapped on another planet and facing starvation along with seal boy and the robot prince’s son. Petrichor- the trans woman- faces some adversaries on her own, and then finds -friendship?- from an unexpected side. Meanwhile, the Will (failed bounty hunter) has been taken captive and is being tortured by an alien entity, who wants revenge for their family’s suffering. Whom the Will doesn’t even remember encountering- mere side casualties of the war. Said torture involves making the Will relive a lot of memories, so we get flashbacks that explain some things. Very little of Gwen and Lying Cat in this volume. More about how the disparate characters are gathering together, into the circle of Marko’s family. Tender moments, but I’m ready to move on.

Borrowed from the public library. Previous book in the series. Next book.

Rating: 3/5
152 pages, 2017

More opinions: Rhapsody in Books Weblog
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Volume Seven

by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Warning again for possible SPOILERS.

What’s happening now: the family is all back together again, with odd additions that you might have thought were their enemies in the past. TV-head robot prince is there, and kid Hazel sneaks into his room to see his dreams at night (um, never appropriate!) The pink ghost babysitter makes a reappearance, and then disappears for good (Hazel’s drawing of her made me so sad). Alana is expecting another child, and Hazel struggles both with the idea of soon having a younger sibling- but also that she might be expected to help care for it. The trans twisty-horned ex prisoner is a somewhat reluctant new family member too. They all end up on this hurtling asteroid, where a bunch of little meerkat-like people live. Who are cute, but overly religious. The younger critters’ interactions with Hazel are priceless. They’re trying to get their tree spaceship fixed and leave. Lots of scenes here hilariously made me think of Star Trek in that regard. But so many innocents in the crossfire of the ongoing war. Meanwhile elsewhere on another world, Sophie is still helping Gwen, but now has aspirations to complete vengeance on her own. It’s sad. Lying Cat has to choose between her and the bounty hunter, who’s lost his job and nobody knows what to make of him anymore. Including readers. Oh and now TV-head guy is reading the fictional novelist. That book is going to end up inflencing everything, just like people keep protesting! I don’t know what else to say. This one seemed to have more about the mindless violence and prejudice the different aliens have against each other, than the family building. The ending is abrupt and bleak.

Borrowed from the public library. Previous book in this series. Next book.

Rating: 3/5
152 pages, 2017

More opinions: Rhapsody in Books Weblog
anyone else?

Volume Six

by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Warning for possible SPOILERS. Really, you should go read Volume One.

This one hit the great mark for me again. I think I liked everything about it- yes, in spite of the frequent bloody altercations, and nudity that sometimes seems to have no purpose other than to make these graphic novels adult-audience-only. While I still really dislike the spider people, now there’s another character I’m assuming of the same alien species- a mantis woman who was just drawn perfectly. She’s a teacher, and Hazel is in her class- which is held in a prison. Hazel and her grandmother were taken captive by the enemy side, now residing in a detention center. Hazel adjusts to this new disruption to her life, making friends with the other prisoners’ kids, confiding in her teacher, and discovering that one of the adult inmates is trans. Really, I shouldn’t have been surprised that this series which depicts odd aliens in situations that appear totally normal and mundane even while there’s interplanetary warfare and magic going on, should also have gender queer characters. But it did. And it was great how innocently Hazel asked questions, and how easily accepted the differences. The gay photographer/writer couple that reports for a tabloid made a reappearance in this volume- not my favorite characters, but still interesting. The bounty hunter is on his feet again but in bad shape, and hallucinating (seeing and talking to his dead lover) which throws all kinds of things awry. The fictional writer’s book becomes a key item again, this time Hazel is sharing a copy with her mantis-lady teacher and the prisoners in the detainment center are reading it (which made me laugh). I loved the sanctity of the library – although the other one, delightfully full of scrolls, became a scene of violence. Marko ends up using weapons against opponents again, even though he doesn’t want to. The robot prince becomes an actual character, the family is finally all reunited and wait, where those giant tardigrades somebody battled at one point? Some panels in this book I just had no idea what was going on, but I enjoyed it regardless. On to the next!

Borrowed from the public library. Previous book in this series.

Rating: 4/5
152 pages, 2016

More opinions:  Rhapsody in Books Weblog
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All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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