The Non-Biased Sister Review

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It’s obvious why friends and family shouldn’t leave reviews. They over complement, they aren’t the target audience, and they’re totally subjective. I like to think this doesn’t apply to me. I’m very objective, and I don’t sugar coat my opinions, especially when I edit. I want my sister’s books to be awesome, which means sometimes I have to be cruel to be kind. Not that I make her cry or anything. If anything, she thinks I could be harsher.


 

In light of today being the start of the Kindle Countdown Deal for The Wizard’s Gambit, I’ve decided to post my totally non-biased sister review.

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Story

I’m not going to give a synopsis. If you want, it’s here on Amazon. What you want is my opinion, so here goes.

To sum it up it’s like if Hunger Games meshed with the Lord of the Rings. Representatives from every race and Kingdom battle to the death in search of a hidden item: an item that will give the champion power over all the other races. The competition is the result of a wizard’s last ditch effort to make everyone get along. However, a solution is only ever as successful as the plan–and considering he didn’t give it much thought …

I like the story, personally. It’s based around just enough fantasy tropes to be familiar, but it’s not overly predictable. You might think it is at first: a man with a mysterious background, a blacksmith, a prophesy, wizards, etc. I know what you’re thinking, a blacksmith with a mysterious past must fight to win the competition. After defeating all of his enemies he is found to be the one true king.

Trust me, it’s not that predictable. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And if you think you have it all figured out by the end of book one, just wait for book two to pull the rug out from under you.


 

Characters

There are a lot of characters in this series. Not quite as many as Game of Thrones, but pretty close. This is not a complaint of mine, as main characters and major supporting, minor supporting, and so forth seem to be clearly identified. Also, there aren’t too many POV’s. Only main and major supporting get POV’s.

Even though they derive from tropes, they are all her own creations and not borrowed from the bookshelf.

For those of you who thought Pig was a funny name, meet Mongrel. Mongrel is the main character. My sister worried he would be annoying and “too nice,” but to be honest, I think he’s dorky and fun, kind of like Chris Pratt. I’m bored of reading about dark, brooding, bad-ass anti-heroes who seek revenge and murder without emotion. This isn’t to say that Mongrel isn’t flawed. He’s not your traditional good guy either. He isn’t noble, wise, and always right. He’s a relate able good guy, the kind that wants to help and do right, but blunders and missteps along the way.

Following Mongrel on his quest are some familiar and like able characters mainly based around your typical trope fantasy quest types.

  • Elves: Instead of the noble, wise, magically gifted archer, we get a cowardly social climber who is inept at fighting and using magic.
  • Dwarf: Little Hammer is almost your standard issue dwarf: she’s stubborn, gold-hungry, elf-hating, and booze-loving. But I can’t imagine a dwarf being any other way. This is what we’ve come to love. Nuances make Little Hammer original. For once we get a woman instead of a man. The name system is interesting too. And she doesn’t carry the standard issue ax. In fact, most of the dwarves carry their own special weapons.
  • Humans: We actually get a variety of humans in this parody, not just Caucasian. The characters skin tones range from the very light to the very dark.
  • Ogres: What can I say? To summarize: Not like an onion. Not like Shrek. More like Ludo.
  • Wizards: Not so much like Gandalf, but more like Radagast or Merlin from The Quest for the Holy Something or Other. They’re in charge of keeping order, but sometimes they need to pull their heads out of their hats.

As far as my favorite character, I’d have to say it’s Margo, the apprehensive wizard in training. She’s shy and unsure, but she is certain of one thing: Mongrel is the only one who can unite the seven kingdoms. What I think I like about her (aside from the fact that she’s my secret ship) is how much I related with her when I was her age. She’s awkward and undecided about her future while the future of the world hangs in the balance. She’s just noticing boys and missing home and worried she’s made the right career choice. Who wouldn’t relate with that … except for maybe that bit about the future of the world hanging in the balance. But to be honest, I related with that part too. I was in my teens when the two towers were attacked. After that, even though the entire world seemed to be at war, I still worried about my own problems: family, college, leaving home, boyfriends. That’s how the mind of a teenager works.

Another thing that I like is that there are multiple villains. The problems aren’t caused by one person, but by at least one rep from every kingdom. Most of the leaders of the kingdoms are pretty villainous, especially Empress Eiko, Lord Lindolyn, and Walder. my favorite villain is probably Gwyndor–or Gwyn for short. He’s pretty determined to win the competition and doesn’t let anything stand in his way.


 

My Favorite Scenes

There isn’t a scene I don’t like. If there was, she would have cut it.

I think one of my favorite scenes is where Mongrel enters the city. It’s told through the viewpoint of Jared the gatekeeper.You truly get an idea about how odd Mongrel is through the eyes of this average Joe. For some reason this scene is just dripping with humor. One of my favorite lines is where he notices Mongrel is barefoot (I told you he was odd) so he decides to “bypass the customary “‘oo goes there” to confront the issue at the forefront of his mind, “Ain’t yer feet cold?”

Another favorite is where the kingdoms introduce their competitors and they all start arguing and bickering about what’s fair and who is breaking the rules. It just really shows how petty they all are and how easily situations involving everyone get out of hand.

I also like many of the battles, especially the show down between Eiko and Walder and the North tribe vs the elves where they start summoning their animals with their amulets. It’s like a pokemon battle gone awry.


 

The Humor

My sister and I have very similar taste in humor, so naturally I’m going to like the humor. Heck, I wrote some of the jokes. I’m even mentioned in the acknowledgement section of the book where she credits me for the “horrible insurance jokes” that either “saved or ruined” her story.

The humor isn’t in your face or slap stick. Most of the humor is situational or from the dialogue. The style is definitely reminiscent of Monty Python or Terry Pratchett though I would say more American and modern.

I like that the humor is often used to make a point or poke fun at a trope. For instance, we’ve all read fantasy books where it seems wizards and other magic users have incredible power, but don’t seem to utilize it to defeat the villain. Margo summarizes it well:

“The problem with wizards is that they never fully utilized their powers, at least not when it came to something important. Levitate a chair, transform an inanimate object, gift human speech to a cat–useless tricks for no purpose whatsoever! What good was magic when it couldn’t be used for something meaningful, like stopping a war, perhaps?”

One of my favorite humorous lines:

“Consider these events: the crowning of a king, the dethroning of a dark lord, and the invention of the fish taco; what do they all have in common? … All of these events occurred, by the will of destiny, with the help of a wizard.”


The Cover

The Wizards Gambit ebook cover

They say never judge a book by its cover, but come on, this cover is awesome. I’m going to take a little credit for this one. I doodled the idea on a piece of paper and gave it to my sister, who explained what she wanted to her cover designer–and BLAMO–she got an awesome cover.


 

Flaws

All books have flaws. The book’s pace might be a little slow, but to be honest, I wouldn’t call it slow. I would call it comfortable.

They say a book should start when the action starts, but you do need to understand the character and their world before it’s threatened by the conflict.

I get that readers are becoming impatient, but I’m sorry. I want some setup. I’ve read too many books where I’ve just been introduced to the main character and by paragraph two–BAM–they’re being attacked, a dog dies, or something explodes . Too much.

This was a concern of ours during the editing phase, but to be honest, I’m not sure what to cut that wouldn’t detract from the story. I’d say, like Quest, the main quest doesn’t get started until about 20-30 percent of the book, but that doesn’t mean the story isn’t moving forward. In all fairness, it does follow the traditional formula: introduce main character, show their world and what’s at stake, introduce conflict, main character refuses the call, something happens to make character follow the call, and action.


 

There you have it. My honest opinion. If it sounds like a story you’d like, now ‘s the time to order your copy. Better hurry, because the countdown has already begun. Just three days!

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Most Romantic Songs in Fantasy and Sci-Fi

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I’m no love expert, but I do consider myself to be a pretty good judge of music. Since Valentine’s Day is this weekend, I thought I’d share my favorite love songs from Fantasy and Sci-Fi.

As the World Falls Down: Labyrinth

Despite what you might think, I didn’t put this song on the list because of Bowie’s recent death. I’ve actually had this post drafted for a while but decided to wait to post it until closer to Valentine’s Day.

For the record, I don’t consider this a romantic movie (unless you count the disturbing attraction that Jareth has for the much younger Sarah or the creepy uncle attraction of Hoggle). Either the song is a wink to the illegal attraction that Jareth has for the MC or–like many of the songs Bowie wrote for the movie–it just has nothing to do with the story and is a complete deviation from the plot altogether. Regardless, listening to this song gives me a similar feeling that I get while listening to Boyz II Men  “I”ll Make Love to You.” It’s the lyrics–the ones Bowie articulates anyway. He can be pretty hard to understand at times.

What girl wouldn’t want a man who promises to place the moon within her heart and the sky in her eyes while painting her mornings of gold and leaving his love in the stars. So many beautiful celestial references–which I’m a sucker for.

I’m not a huge fan of this movie … I’ll just pause a moment and let you get it out of your system.

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As I was saying, I’m not a huge fan, but I thought the scene where she’s in the dream world dancing with Jareth was just fabulously fun to watch with the masks, the costumes, Sarah’s hair, and all that Bowie glitter. I kept thinking what a neat cosplay this would be.

Well, if you love Bowie and 80’s love songs, you’ll just “fall” for this one.

Aniron: Lord of the Rings

This song doesn’t need English lyrics, or maybe it’s the absence of English lyrics that make it so moving. You don’t have to speak elvish to understand the meaning of the words.

It’s just so tear-jerking beautiful. Not a surprise since the song was composed and sung by Enya and conducted by Howard Shore, creators of some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard (says the woman who ran out and bought every Enya cd after hearing this song).

The song is the official love theme of Aragorn and Arwen and can be heard during their love scene, which is a little trite, especially because of their stilted dialogue. However, the romance hardly feels forced because of the song. Omit the music, and you just have two people stiffly facing each other exchanging bad dialogue. Total scene saver.

Tell Me Now: King Arthur

King Arthur is a B movie with an A movie soundtrack. If the screenwriters wrote the movie half as well as Hans Zimmer wrote the music, we’d have a contender for Gladiator or the Lord of the Rings.

To be clear, this is a list of my favorite romantic songs–not romances. The Arthur/Gwen ship was just dreadful and forced to put it kindly, but this song … it just reverberates with feelings and emotions I really don’t think were conveyed by the actors.

What do you think? Tell me, tell me now if you like this song.

That’s All I’ve Got to Say: The Last Unicorn

Poor Prince Leer didn’t know what to say or do to win the love of the Lady Almathea, so that’s what he sang about. What a beautiful, heartfelt song it ends up being for a man who said words were not one with him. Though if he was looking for the right words, he could have borrowed some from Jareth though it sounds like he may have tweaked some lines from Forrest.

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This is just one of those songs that makes me all warm and sappy. If a man ever sang this to me, I’d marry him in a heartbeat.

That’s really all I have to tell you about this song. That’s all I’ve got to say.

As Long as You’re Mine: Wicked

This counts as fantasy right? Anyway, I’ve never seen Wicked, but I don’t have to in order to love, love, love this song. It’s just so sexy. You can tell they want each other badly.

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How can you hear this song without imagining two people locked tightly in each others arms? To be honest, I was a little let down when I finally watched the video. The scene played out a little awkward compared to what I imagined.

This is my favorite song from the Broadway. Yes, even above Defying Gravity. Norbert Leo Butz and Idina Menzel are such a sexy vocal pair–better than when she sang with her husband (cheating bastard–also not as good a singer as Norbert).

Princess Bride: Story Book Love

It would be a crime to exclude Princess Bride from any list having to do with love, considering this movie is all about love, twu wuv, that will fowow you foweva and eva …

This song completely captures the movie’s heart and style. It’s as heartwarming and tender as the film’s happy ending.

It’s one of my favorite love songs of all time. Needless to say, I own it on iTunes, and I will be playing it this Valentine’s Day.

A Love Before Time: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

If this was a list of my top favorite romances, Le Mu-Bi and Yu Shu Lein would definitely make the list; however, this is a list for songs, and as you can see, their song makes the list.

This is a song about love transcending time and death. I dare you to listen to it without being moved. If you aren’t, you have no soul. How can you not be moved by cello music. From the first instrumental note, I was sold. The chords, the lyrics, the instruments. Did I mention the cello? I’m a sucker for cellos.

Then You Look at Me: Bicentennial Man

I’ve never seen this movie, but as a huge fan of Celine Dion, I’ve heard this song–at least a hundred times.

Is it any wonder it’s a romantic song. Written by James Horner and Will Jennings–the writers of Celine Dion’s more memorable hit, “My Heart Will Go On.”

If you haven’t heard of this song, it’s because the movie was a flop, and Celine’s (far inferior song) “That’s the Way it is” was a huge hit on the radio at the time, so sadly, this one was not played on the radio, but included on several of her albums.

If you haven’t heard it, I encourage you to. I think you’ll find it just as memorable as many of Celine’s other hits.

Well, there you have it. Those are my favorites. Which are yours? Any I left off the list?

To all of my friends and followers, have a wonderful Valentine’s day.