The Stone In The Skull

Now this was another word which I really enjoyed and felt that it was well explored even.

Although I didn’t really like any particular character at all, bit the writing was smooth and the characters quite well fleshed out. Along with some motivations too, which I greatly enjoy and like about this book.

Although I didn’t expect it to be a sequel, but I found it to be inventive and rather unique. It didn’t just drop back, but it merely eased me into this new world.

Well, it is inspired rather heavily by Indian culture, but in a way that I liked and even loved it. It had its own charm in the sense of the mythology with a hint of intrigue.

But I didn’t feel anything for any of the characters, although the world and plot was well executed. But there just wasn’t someone whom I could relate to and even like.

Well, this was rather interesting in the sense that the world was really really interesting. Just that I never liked a character here.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Toru: Wayfarer Returns

Now to me, this was what I hoped to read about and it’s representation. Setting it in the Edo era as an alternate history, during the times when Japan is indeed struggling to modernize itself or keep to their ideals.

And I do really like how it handles female characters here. Masuyo is just more than the love interest, I do feel her strength and also her love for her family. Besides, she outsmarts her father but still will try to abide by his wishes when he insists. As well as being truthfully loyal, and never wavering from her beliefs. And her favourite moments were with the Lady Tomatsu as she is a woman who thinks survival is above all, and her ask to just have her denounce her own father. Although it does show her tenacity, but I find Lady Tomatsu to be a more sensible character than anyone else.

As for Toru, he was indeed middle ground. He dreams and wishes to see, and doesn’t like people taking advantage of his country. Strong patriotism, nice personality. But to me, he doesn’t really have much of an arc and his identity is just there and under utilized when it could have added more tension and is it just me but it does seem that he has no noticeable flaws. The one who I did feel was stuck a little more in between and still someone who will dream is Masuyo. And that he doesn’t seem to have much of any character arc apart from that.

The setting is basically perfect, I mean who wants to be overthrown in their lives. Their fear was real, and unless the whole bakufu power really weakened until the Meiji restoration which allowed it implant changes. Otherwise, I can see why almost anyone who was rich back then really wanted to keep their power. Same thing with the need to keep up with them, since they were facing plenty of threats from outside. And I do like the way that it does, although the Meiji restoration is still far away but nonetheless a step to the Japan we know of today. Although the other complaint is that it doesn’t make sense how industrialization can happen over the span of a couple months, not really believable if you ask me.

So, overall I just like this book due to the Japanese culture which was authentic. The way that it generally was for Masuyo did feel real, but she still overcame those boundaries. And last but not least, that this tale was satisfying overall, as my complaints was as above. But otherwise, it was pretty much enjoyable.

Rating: 3 out of 5

The Wolf Of Oren-Yaro

This was a strangely enticing book. It isn’t about a young Queen or a king. It is a middle aged woman who had a son, and well frankly I really liked how the author portrayed her.

She wasn’t portrayed as perfect, but full of flaws and weaknesses. And she constantly ran into all sorts of obstacles because she was stubborn or didn’t know how thing worked there. I really enjoyed how her personal character is rather interesting, uncompromising but never brutal. All the while she has many personal flaws which takes her to interesting places.

The intrigue to me was the best of this all. It was how conspiracies, every country looking to her as some sort of stepping stone to ruling Oren-Yaro. Even when she already has an heir. This takes the intrigue of it to a really dark level, with plenty of villains here turn out to be fascinating people, and the machinations all well done.

It is between Rayyel, who has some reasons why he wanted to know about and is opposing Taleyian. And the Prince Yueback, who is an intriguing villain nonetheless.

I will also fall in love with Khine, who is a mix of con artist and semi good person. Again, I just cannot turn back but become enamoured by him and I completely understand why Taleyian will fall in love with him. I will too, if you ask me.

Overall, this was just enjoyable to this extent. The intrigue, the setting which I say is very Asian inspired given the names. And last but not least, the main character who is a queen, but has her own flaws, struggles to control her court. I really enjoyed reading this tale for all it gave me, and I will recommend it to those who have a love of intrigue with characters who are likely to put power first.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Champion Standing

This is an insult to my culture, the Han dynasty and history. That’s all that you need to know. And that I gave up at 11% into the book, because I cannot stand it any further. If they claimed this as alternate world, okay whatever but no, they said it was historical fiction and they basically threw it all out of the window.

Where do I start telling how wrong this entire book is? Let’s start with the names shall we?

Why is there a princess with the name Ayana in Han dynasty? Even if it can be created, I can tell you that it would end in a three syllable name at best(that only comes in in Tang Dynasty where it was much looser on the names). But it had its roots in Japan, and in 1st century Japan this name didn’t even exist.

And that princesses were never called by name, give her a title please, they were either named after counties(Princess Guantao and Princess Pingyang(although it was an adoption of her husband’s title and fiefdom.) No princess were ever referred to by name, even at best their surnames, and you don’t really see their names being recorded at all, and their titles is more than enough to distinguish them.

Names wise, if it was a little weird I could accept. Roman names here did make sense and had its roots before the first century.

There were some mentions of Wang Mang, and his eventual plot development and possible usurpation of the throne to create the Xin dynasty. However, why is the Chancellor called Gengshi. I can tell you no one called a Chancellor that, they were often referred to by their surnames and even here, it is an actual title held by an Emperor (although some histories suggest that he wasn’t, and his rule short.) But why is he called Gengshi, it makes no sense. And the era of the Warring States where this may or may not be given as a title to a Lord is long over.

But really, this is just scratching the surface of all this problems. Although the Roman Empire and China may have some interactions together and the Han saw the beginning of the silk road and that at this point in time, Han dynasty was at its lowest point but it makes no sense why they would be accepting foreign people inside or hosting tournaments. And also, how is there even a clan which goes by the name Tai Yang inside there? Even for dual surnames there is none which is Tai Yang.

But then, there are just simply so many things wrong that I can’t read it. It isn’t a respectful way of dealing with my culture not when it gets even its basics wrong, even someone who watches Chinese dramas know that no princess in any dynasty borne the name Ayana, or were called by that. And I doubt there were any prefectures or counties which were named like that too.

I would have been fine if this book was shelved in Asian inspired or alternate world, but once it took on the name historical fiction, this isn’t all that okay with me anymore. Not when it is giving a rather false impression of my culture. Just the names alone is enough to make me cringe, I don’t want to suffer through such a book since I can’t even get over my dislike of the way he named the characters which to me tells a lot about his effort to try and learn out culture he does get some things right, but if the author can’t differentiate Chinese names and Japanese names, I doubt he would really know Han dynasty culture. And I’m incredibly nitpicky with them, so yeah, I’m dropping this book within the 11% of it.

Rating: 1 out of 5

The After War

Something about this just worked for me. The world indeed did feel rather like a post apocalyptic world, with plenty of moments which did attract me.

I did have some fondness for the main character, who is rather relatable and the writing was easy for me to get into and read. As well as figure out the world, which had changed. All the whole following two people who are in a rather unique situation

I just really didn’t connect with almost any character in the book itself. Although there is plenty of action, I just didn’t feel that connection with the characters and also really didn’t find a reason to be with them. Strangely, the writing was entertaining and the world fascinating to be reading about.

However, I really didn’t connect with the characters much at all which I consider quite a big flaw since it does get in the way of enjoying the novel. But nonetheless, I do recommend it to those who do enjoy such works set in post apocalypse world.

Rating: 3 out of 5

The Warrior Princess

Unlike the title which promises a warrior princess which doesn’t happen till the end. And well, frankly this bored me till the end.

Not even one of them have any personality that drew me to this. Especially the moments where they should have simply focused on Gwenilian, she barely has any role earlier and doesn’t do anything powerful until the end. And well, that is a lot of time and a lot of wasted pages on the intrigue and bunch of other characters, who apparently are mostly her villains. What happened to developing her personality as the main character.

Do I care about unknown warlords? I would have very much preferred if it focused on our main character first before going to develop the others, since I was very well confused why was it that we ended up only knowing her very late into the book.

And history without a character I can focus on, is what that bores me. Although that the prose was very well written and even developed, but I barely could not enjoy the atmosphere. Not when most of the book is spent just building it and nothing is really done or making me excited until the last few pages.

And well, that’s where I give up too. My verdict: will not recommend.

Rating: 2 out of 5