Book Review: The Shattered Sigil Trilogy by Courtney Schafer

I cross-posted this review over at reddit in case anyone wants to follow the discussion there.

Earlier this month I read The Shattered Sigil Trilogy by Courtney Schafer. I loved it so much, I wanted to share my thoughts on it, but had to wait a bit before doing a proper review so that I could come out of my book hangover the series left me with first.

The three books in this series are The Whitefire Crossing, The Tainted City and The Labyrinth of Flame. To oversimplify the plot, each book focuses on our two main characters, Dev and Kirin, and their struggle against a powerful evil mage.

The first book is where our main characters meet, Dev is a mountain guide and secretly a smuggler who agrees to take a dangerous job and escort Kirin across the border into the neighboring country for a high payout. The Tainted City changes things up a bit and the plot is a bit of a murder mystery. Who is killing all of these powerful mages in the city and why? Forced to work with their enemy in order to solve the mystery, our heroes are never sure who they can trust, who is friend or foe, even each other at times. The third book brings us to solving the overarching story of Kirin’s past, learning how certain magic works, and tying together some threads from earlier books. It’s a flight across the desert, meeting new people, fighting new and old enemies alike.

Thoughts:

I’d wanted to read this series for a while because of several users here giving such high praise for it but I just haven’t ever gotten around to it. I thought I would like it because of what others have said about it, but I also wasn’t 100% sure because a) not everyone loves everything and b) I wasn’t sure I’d get into something that so prominently featured rock climbing (because what do I know or care about rock climbing?). Turns out that I loved the books, and the rock climbing aspects of the story were especially interesting. I think when an author is able to write passionately about something they love, that enthusiasm carries over to the reader so even if it isn’t something I personally am into, it’s still interesting and enjoyable to read about.

The pacing of the plot in this series is fantastic. Each book had me on the edge of my seat wanting to find out what happened next. These were quick reads for me. There were such great twists and turns, reveals that had me gasping aloud and wanting to yell things at the book the way I do when watching tv sometimes. The only time the pace slowed for me was a little bit in the third book near the beginning, but other than that I’d call the pacing ‘relentless’.

Our two main characters and the bond they form, was really the highlight of the story for me. I’m the type of reader that needs to be able to connect with characters and care what happens to them in order for me to enjoy a story. This wasn’t a problem in these books. Dev and Kirin are such well-crafted characters and they both undergo a ton of growth throughout the books. They’re also dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. Magic is almost likened to an addiction at times, and because Dev was able to use it when he was a child, before the effect wore off, when he encounters it again briefly in the series it’s clear that it could easily become an all-consuming struggle for him, the want for more of it. Meanwhile Kirin is involved in a highly abusive relationship with a group of people that are as much his family as his lovers. And it is so well written, too well written, parts of that really hit home for me. The characters are put through the ringer, again and again and again. But it makes the conclusion that much more satisfying.

Honestly, the relationship between Dev and Kirin was my favorite thing about this series. Dev is loyal to a fault. There were times when that became a major source of conflict for him, especially when those loyalties clashed and he had to make certain tough decisions. Sometimes I wanted to shake Kirin because he was so unbelievably stubborn about certain things, but then when you realize the extent of what he’s gone through, well then you just want to give him a hug. Lots of hugs.

Other characters in the books are well written too, although I don’t think some of the other characters start becoming well-developed until the second and third books. Even so, there are a couple that I wish had gotten a little more focus, but because of the way the story is told (alternating POV between Dev and Kirin) I’m mostly fine with the focus remaining on Dev and Kirin. I also wish the villains had been just a tad more fleshed out and multi-faceted as the main characters, but then I probably wouldn’t have loved to hate them as much so there’s that.

The settings felt pretty fresh, and were a good mix of cities and wilderness that all felt distinct and yet cohesive enough that it felt like they existed in the same world. I felt the same way about the rest of the world building; the various cultures and classes encountered throughout the series were well developed. I also appreciated the way the magic was treated in that different cultures utilized it in different ways. There is also an undercurrent of what might seem the right way to do something in one culture might seem atrocious or barbaric in another, and I liked seeing that clash, even though it wasn’t necessarily a main focus of the story.

To sum up, I absolutely loved this series and it’s responsible for me staying up way too late reading into the early hours of the morning and nearly missing work the next day, which is something I haven’t done in a really long time. 🙂

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Tor’s Standalone Fantasy Recs

A while back we dedicated an entire podcast to standalone fantasy novels. Why? I think standalone works are notable in a genre dominated by series. For one thing, standalone novels are great for introducing someone to the fantasy genre because they have far less commitment than a trilogy or an even longer series (Malazan and Wheel of Time–I’m looking at you.) I count some standalones as my favorite works in fantasy; I think it’s true that sometimes less is more.

Today, Tor published an article listing some great standalones. Check them out if you get a chance. A few we mentioned on our podcast, but there are others that we did not get a chance to bring up. It’s a great list, even if it does leave off The Princess Bride.

Do you have any favorite standalone fantasy works? Personally, I’m all about Good Omens. But, really there are so many to choose from, who can pick just one?

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The End. But Not Really.

It’s with mixed emotions that we are announcing today the discontinuation of our webzine. The final issue of Way too Fantasy webzine will be released at the end of October with content that has already submitted.

In the past year and a half, we’ve worked hard on putting together issues, editing content, and reaching out to others in the community to build this webzine up to where it’s been today. Unfortunately, we just no longer have the proper amount of time to commit to putting out the kind of quality issues we have in the past, and it would be unfair to slop something together on the fly. Therefore, for the time being at least, there are no further plans to put out any future issues of the webzine after our final issue is released at the end of this month. We may still post short fiction occasionally, but for now, the webzine is no more.

Now, all that being said, we are still planning on doing things here at the blog. Perhaps more webcasts and more articles–plans are in the works and more info will be coming shortly.

So, this isn’t really The End. Just a fresh start.

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WtF a Fantasy Podcast #30 – Lisa & Jen’s Great Big Book Geek-Out

On the webcast today we geek out about books, recent things we’ve bought and read, and awesome places we get books from. Enjoy!

As always, feel free to download a copy and listen to our cast on the go!

 

To download, right click this link and select ‘save link as’.

Panelists:

June Faramore
Lisa Richardson

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WtF a Fantasy Podcast #29 – Currently Reading and Book Hoarding

On this episode of WtF, we talked about our massive book hoarding issues and some of the books we’re currently reading. Some of the things we talked about–Rothfuss, Sanderson, Martin. Book signings and randomness. The Book Thief. Tam Lin. The Lives of Tao. Outlander. The Ocean at the End of the Lane. A bunch of other stuff.

Enjoy our long ramblings about books.

As always, feel free to download a copy and listen to our cast on the go!

 

To download, right click this link and select ‘save link as’.

Panelists:

June Faramore
Lisa Richardson

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The Rush of Betrayal: Absolution (Book Two)—Free on kindle this weekend!

Hey everyone! Just wanted to let you all know that our friend Shawn Wickersheim’s novel The Rush of Betrayal: Absolution (Book Two) is free this weekend for your kindle. Be sure to pick it up if you haven’t already. I’m currently working my way through the first novel in this series and it’s a great read.

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Underrated Fantasy

There’s a bit of a debate going on right now in the r/fantasy sub over on reddit about what people consider ‘underrated’ novels/authors. After a post talking about how the same few books/authors seem to be discussed frequently in the sub, there’s been a rash of posts (including this great response) trying to make an effort to start discussions around authors and works that the community doesn’t bring up as often. I’m all for variety and can’t wait for this discussion on underrated works to really start, but in the meantime, how does one define ‘underrated’?

You could use a more ‘scientific’ approach and measure data off of various websites (how many ratings a book has on goodreads, how many reviews on amazon, how many people have the book shelved in their collections on librarything, etc). But then you still need someone to make the nomination in the first place. What moves a person to think a book is underrated? There are books that have been on the NYT’s bestseller list that I consider underrated. An example would be Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros Series. She has some very loyal fans, but, even among fans of Urban Fantasy, I’ve rarely seen her name brought up in discussion outside of her fandom. Because she’s one of my favorite authors, I try to recommend her books whenever I get the chance. So I guess my perception of ‘underrated’ is lack of discussion about the author/book.

I think a lot of this is about perception. For example, I think there are many authors and works that were once very popular but now rarely come up in fantasy book discussions, especially on reddit. Authors like Charles de Lint, Tanith Lee, and Mercedes Lackey. Mercedes Lackey especially has been a popular author, and yet I rarely see her mentioned. But because they used to be discussed a lot, at some point (probably years ago) some people may feel like they’ve had their day and not want to include them in an ‘underrated’ discussion. Personally, I think that’s wrong. Often there are younger readers just getting into the fantasy genre and I feel like it’s important to include authors that perhaps aren’t as talked about today as they were ten or twenty years ago in these types of discussions.

Then there are some authors that I’d consider underrated that the community discusses on a regular basis. For example, Joe Abercrombie. I hadn’t heard of him until a little over a year ago. His writing is fantastic, but you don’t often find a lot of his books in stock at the store. And yet, I’d say he’s one of the most popular authors in the r/fantasy sub right now.

So, I think it’s tough to conclude in any way what is and isn’t underrated, simply because taste is subjective and perception has a lot to do with it. That being said, any discussion about underrated books will hopefully bring about some talk of authors that I’ve never heard of and I’m really looking forward to that. (Like I really need to add anything else to my TBR pile though…hah.)

 

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