The Lure of The Ring by Alan James Strachen and Janet Coster

This book is different than what I usually review, but as a Tolkien fan I was drawn into the exploration of who Tom Bombadil truly is.

This book is a theoretical idea speculating about who Tom Bombadil is and how Sauron’s desire for the ring was like an addiction. I can tell that a lot of research went into this publication and I found it fascinating.

The first point that I found interesting was their comparison of Sauron to a Hungry Ghost in Bhuddism. He is like an emaciated creature who’s only desire is possession of the ring but his appetite can never be quenched. I found this to be a good comparison because it really delves into who Sauron is at the core. Tolkien leaves a lot to speculation and I think it is important for Tolkien enthusiasts to dig into the motivations and habits of each character. It gave me a different view of Sauron and sort of makes me pity him.

Creeping past Sauron we entered what I was truly curious about, Tom Bombadil. If you don’t know who he is it’s probably because he isn’t in the Peter Jackson movie. He is a mysterious being in the books, and no one can really define who he is. But this book speculates, and the hypothesis makes a lot of sense. The authors wrote that we can envision Tom Bombadil as the antithesis to Sauron, and I thought that was clever.

They also offer up two different definitions for who Tom Bombadil could be. They state,

“Tom has answered Frodo’s “Who are you?” question in two ways: In terms of identity, Tom’s true name is silence. Simultaneously, in relationship to Frodo – and , indeed , to all others – we shall see that he is called Eldest.”

This is a good representation of his character because it is not an easy answer, if that makes sense. Tom Bombadil is complex and one answer would never work. He is the silence you experience when you are just being, and he is the Eldest because he watched Middle Earth become what it is. He takes two forms and only one being corporeal. We can’t fathom who he is because he is unfathomable.

My issue with this particular book is that it is extremely repetitive and unnecessarily wordy. It’s already a short read but could be quite shorter. Old points are brought up again and again, then sentences are reworded three different ways. Not only was that kind of annoying but it caused me to lose interest. It took me a little over an hour to read and probably could take less if points weren’t constantly reiterated.

All in all, the speculation is great, but the execution could be better. I give The Lure of The Ring 3/5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for allowing me to access this content. An extra thank you to BooksGoSocial for giving me my first Auto Approval!

Crown Of Coral And Pearl by Mara Rutherford

In Varenia beauty is everything. Beauty is honor, esteem, and escape. Or at least Nor believed it was for her entire childhood, until a series of unexpected events lead her to the land of Ilara to marry Prince Ceren.

In Crown of Coral and Pearl we are introduced to twin sisters Zadie and Nor, their entire lives have revolved around an archaic ceremony where the most beautiful girl in Varenia is chosen to be the wife of the Prince of Ilara. Nor, the main character, was left with a scar on her cheek due to an accident when she was younger leaving her identical twin sister to be chosen as the next Ilarean Princess, but tragedy strikes and Nor is forced to take Zadie’s place in secret. But, there are secrets lurking below the surface of the Ilarean castle and Nor is determined to uncover them for the sake of the starving Varenian people.

Crown of Coral and Pearl nails its characters. The good guys are people you want to root for and the bad guys will fill you with rage. I was particularly intrigued by the antagonists, specifically Nor’s mother and Prince Ceren. Nor’s mother hurt me to my core, her mother is so obsessed with the idea of her daughters being chosen that she dictates their entire lives and even goes so far as to call Nor damaged. One quote really got me, her mother tells her, “Without your beauty, you are nothing.” I found that line to be so unforgivable that I just wanted the mom to die. Such a terrible thing to say to your own child. Mara Rutherford’s character building is so convincing, I really hated the antagonists. Prince Ceren is also just the worst. He gets off on making people uncomfortable and is abusive in every way imaginable. I couldn’t stand the idea of a character like him existing.

The world building is also enjoyable while relatively small scale. This is not Westeros, so it does not contain the overly complex map that you never want to look at, it’s easy to follow and I liked that. While simple, it does not come off as under developed. The land is rich with a history to follow. The contrast of tropical Varenia and the Ilarean castle embedded in the mountain makes an interesting plot point. Nor’s constant yearning to be by the ocean and in the sun really makes you feel for her. Watching her descent into an entirely different landscape is suffocating and you suffer alongside her.

The magical elements in this book are subtle. You will find magic used in very strategic ways, for me it was a pleasant surprise. Traditional aspects of fantasy are buried in this novel, such as monsters and special gifts, but they don’t steal the spotlight from the storyline. The backseat approach to magic was a refreshing change in my opinion.

The book has a lot of good lessons to teach. It focuses on the beauty within and one section really embraces that idea, “I felt the eyes of every woman as I passed, and I reminded myself that I was doing this for them, and for every young girl in Varenia who would spend her life wondering if she was beautiful enough.” This quote stuck with me, most girls go through a self conscious phase wondering if they are beautiful enough to be loved. This idea really added a layer to Nor that made her relatable, she is so different from the girls in our world, but still very much the same. Nor is tough and she fights for those who have been stepped all over, I love that about this character. She is rough in all the right places but she isn’t annoyingly tough. She knows her strengths and limitation and will use them to make a difference in the world.

Another point that really hit home is that, above all else, family and love are what matter most in this world. “Home was not a house, or a village, or a sea. It was family, and love, and the space where your soul could roost, like a seabird safe from a storm.”

If you ask me this book has a well rounded story and complexities to make it unique within th YA genre. It truly stood out to me and I think Crown of Coral and Pearl will make an impact on its readers. 5/5 stars for this one.

Crown of Coral and Pearl will be released on August 27th, 2019. Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for allowing me access to this book.

Kingdom Cold by Brittni Chenelle

Love, war, and tragedy are the three words that come to mind when I think about Kingdom Cold. I felt so much while reading this book and I was surprised by its ability to captivate me. I’m a sucker for a good romance and I was not disappointed, Chenelle crafts a reluctant but beautiful love story that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

It starts with a simple desire: freedom to choose. ““I won’t say ‘I do’,” I said, locking my knees to keep them from shaking . Marriage? Even the word repulsed me. It sat at the back of my throat and I choked on it.” Charlotte, the princess of Besmium and main protagonist, is a rebellious girl with the simple wish to get married on her own terms. Besmium is facing a brutal war and the promise of a marriage between Princess Charlotte and Prince Young could unite the East and West to save the kingdom of Besmium. But through tangle after tangle the love story deepens winding in and out of characters until they must face an even more powerful enemy than they ever imagined. Death lurks at their doorstep and they must think quickly to save everything they love.

What I love about this book is the depth of each character. Everyone has wants and their own motives that make them unique. There is a rich history, that while it doesn’t delve super deep it feels well rounded and complete. Every single character down to the smallest of servant has their own special personality, there are no cardboard cutout characters. My all-time favorite is Charlotte herself, she reminds me of Celaena from Throne of Glass. She takes her fate into her own hands and makes the absolute best of each situation. She’s analytical and blossoms into a full blown badass who isn’t afraid to get blood on her royal hands. She is not a damsel, she is a warrior in her own rite. She is not afraid to speak her mind and no man is her master. Her fate is her fate alone.

The antagonists are done so authentically, even minor antagonists like Charlotte’s mother. While not intending to be evil and cruel, the queen is brutal and horrible to her daughter. Charlotte’s hatred for her mother feels real and justified. Charlotte is not just a silly teen girl that is irritated with her mother, she is full on verbally abused by the queen. It’s so satisfying watching Charlotte defy her mother at every turn. While the queen isn’t the main antagonist, I felt so empowered everytime her plans were foiled.

This story has so many layers and felt like a roller coaster ride. My only quarrel with this book is that it felt like it was written as a standalone and changed towards the end to make it span a few more books. The plot would heighten and dip making me feel like it had three different stopping points. I will say that I am glad that this series is going to be three parts because I really enjoyed the story and characters. I was angry when I read the ending but with a promise of continuation in the acknowledgements my anger was quelled. I need to know more and I refuse to be left with the ending presented.

I give Kingdom Cold a 4/5 stars. This book surprised me and has a love story that I won’t soon forget. I will be looking forward to reading the next installment.

The Phantom Forest – Liz Kerin

What would happen if we got a glimpse of the afterlife? In this story, “Discovery of the afterlife had had irreparable consequences, so the Coalition abolished the notion of gods, fate, and prayer, worldwide.” Liz Kerin gives us a fresh take on what the world may look like if we saw beyond our realm in her book The Phantom Forest. Kerin intertwines her version of the afterlife and a fantastical twist on the modern day in such a way that captivates you and forces you to keep reading.
We follow Seycia, her brother Miko, and the demon Haben on their separate but entwined journeys for freedom and justice. Miko leads a revolution to overthrow the corrupt powers controlling the world, while Seycia learns how to navigate the underworld and destroy her own demons as well. Haben is a messenger between worlds bestowed with a sick punishment by the devil-like figure Dohv. Haben is tasked with consuming the flesh of sacrifices made in the living world, regardless of age. In the passage where we meet Haben we see him after the sacrifice of a young boy, “He cried as he gorged himself on the entrails, choking back sobs as he swallowed mouthful after mouthful. There was nothing lower than this. This— this was hell.” He fills his belly with the flesh of the sacrifice and starves the rest of the time. But, this is not the only dark secret he possesses, his destructive past is the key to the present. He joins Seycia on her quest to avenge not only herself but her parents.
On occasion, Haben’s character loses some of the tortured mentality and seems not to suffer as much as originally let on. I found that bothersome in a few ways, the first being that he doesn’t behave like someone who is constantly starving, secondly his pain seems downplayed, and lastly, this characteristic mostly disappears in the second half of the book.
Through The Phantom Forest, we see how changes in the afterlife have an impact on the world of the living, altering people’s fates and the outcome of a revolution. My only critique on this is that I wish I could have seen more. We see Seycia’s decisions change the trajectory of Miko, they flow together beautifully and I would have loved to see this expand. The author is the strongest when she is tangling and untangling the two storylines, her ability to connect character arcs left me satisfied.
At first, I had a hard time connecting to Miko. I didn’t see his relevance to the plot until later in the book. I kept asking myself, why is this character important? This question was eventually made clear, but I would have liked to felt a connection to him earlier in the book so that he was a well-rounded character.
Kerin does imagery very well, she will paint fantastic settings in your mind. I could see so much color and life in her story that it was hard to put down, I wanted to see where we would end up next. She creates her own lore that isn’t overpowering or hard to keep straight and puts you at the center of her beautiful world. The plot is easy to follow, unlike a lot of fantasy stories, you will not veer off in a thousand different directions. Overall the story is enjoyable and you will fall in love with Seycia’s all or nothing attitude and Haben’s heart wrenching back story.
This story is a fresh take on how government and religion clash. Kerin creates this world that seems like it’s going to be your typical fantasy style novel and it turns out to be something entirely different. It tackles the problems that arise when a government decides to eradicate religion, we see how it affects the people, and how it can change entire societal structures. One glimpse of the afterlife leads to war, poverty, and the destruction of history. This all plays out in this twisting tale of adventure, redemption, and vengeance.

I give The Phantom Forest a 4/5 stars. This is a solid 4 out of 5 because it exceeded my expectation but there were some aspects that could have been better.

You’re not going to want to miss The Phantom Forest releasing July 16th, 2019.