Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

CoverSpoiler Free Summary:  A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is the first book in the Shades of Magic series.  Kell is one of the few people alive who can travel across dimensions, which in this story revolve around alternative versions of London. As an adopted son of the royal family in Red London, he’s a messenger from one king to another. Since Black London was sealed off, strict rules exist about transferring objects from one London to another. That doesn’t stop Kell from doing it. When he accepts something that truly brings danger on not only himself, but also the world, he ends up in Grey London, where is’ promptly robbed by Delilah Bard. Can they work together to not only escape those who are after them, but put right what Kell’s impulsive actions set wrong?

Character:  For me, Delilah steals the show. I didn’t see Kell’s relationships enough to understand his motivations. I also don’t understand his motivation very well. I’m not saying it isn’t explained, but I don’t necessarily feel that connection. Delilah, however, experiences situations that help me connect with her better, and this might be why the book didn’t quite grab me the way it did pretty much the rest of the world.

Exposition: Any time you have a first book in a magic series, you’re going to be a bit heavy on the exposition. The reader needs to learn the magic system, get to know the characters, and understand the world. This book has essentially three worlds to refine. Then there is the culture. Fans who like broad, varied settings will love this (see below). However, all the (pardon the unintended pun) dimensions required explanation. This is the second of two (see above) reasons why I think this book didn’t really hit the home wrong.  If I’m keeping the baseball metaphor,  I’d say this was (for me) a double. But it was hard to get into the story and follow the characters amid the three Londons and magic system and history lesson crammed right in the middle of the plot.

OfficialAuthorPhoto-768x512
Image of V.E. Schwab taken from her website for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

Dialogue: While there’s still a certain amount of thinly veiled exposition in this dialog (normal in any book, especially fantasy), Schwab actually does use dialogue to advance and reveal the character. It’s not as snappy as a Sanderson or Rothfuss, but it’s absolutely  more than spoken lines to progress the plot.

Description:  This book has great description for settings, fight scenes, and even clothes, but I couldn’t tell you what color hair Delilah has or what skin color any of them are. Now, I’m not a very attentive reader to details of that sort, so please understand I’m not making the assertion that character description is absent; I’m simply saying that there weren’t enough descriptive beats to create a clear mental picture of the characters.  The settings were the best. Each time we saw a new London, we were immersed in senses that made each location feel real.

Overall:  This book has a creative magic system with great locations and worldbuilding. It was satisfying and fun to read, but the main character didn’t really grab me. Fans of deep worldbulding and mystery plots will probably love this series. No, I don’t think this holds up against any of my favorites, but I can see why some people love it.

Thanks for reading

Matt

The June Book Cover of the Month Starts Now

The June Book Cover of the Month Starts Now

JUNE_Cover_CollageHappy first everyone! As is now officially tradition here on my blog, it’s time to start a new book cover of the month competition.

The Flipside by Jake Bible  and A Guiding Light by Susan Copperfield join 30 brand new covers this month.

You can vote all the way through the tournament, supporting the covers you like best through each round. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The 2017 M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Round Begins!

The 2017 M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Round Begins!

WildCardGreetings all,

I have to admit, I’m super excited about this project. I love tournaments, and I love book covers. I’m having a lot of fun with it, and I hope you all do as well.

In addition to giving you the link and some guidance, I wanted to give you some insight as to why these eight covers were chosen.  So here we go!

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab: This is one of only two covers to receive more than 1,000 total votes. Unfortunately, it face the OTHER cover. Schwab’s 1,091 votes didn’t carry it through. It was the runner up, but didn’t make on it’s second time up. I still think it’s an amazing cover, and with 1,000 people behind it, I felt it deserved a final try.

The Dragon Rider Vol. 1 by T.J. Weekes: This was November’s runner up, and since I always put the runner up in the next tournament, I felt this time should be no different.

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan: This book was one of only two to finish as runner up in two different brackets. A lot of people liked this book cover. So if this was one of two books to be a runner up twice, it only stands to reason the other would get in too, right?

The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson: Your darn right it stands to reason.

51VhLwOV75LAnaerfell by Joshua Robertson and J.C. Boyd: This doesn’t surprise anyone who follows my blog, but I had to make the announcement. This book was in a downright fight with Bentz Deyo, and it was just fun to watch. The cover also received a total of 574 votes.

The Other One by Amanda Jay: It finished as a runner up and received a total of 433 votes.

To Brave the End by Frank Dorrian: Another runner up to fall just short, it received 348 votes in it’s first try.

Fate of the Big Bad Wolf by Neo Edmund: It also received 348 votes. It was a runner up, and even performed pretty well on its second try.

Three hundred votes is an important benchmark. Since I went to the two-week, total voting style, the winners all received a maximum of 350 votes. So my thinking was people who earned enough votes to win under the old system deserved a chance with the new one.

Now that’s said, let’s go over the basics:

This bracket has eight books. The top four selected will move on to the 2017 M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Year Bracket. Winning is good (and I use vote totals to create the matches in the BCOTY bracket, but all you really want is to finish in the top four.

You can vote all the way through the tournament, supporting the covers you like best through each round. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

 

 

 

Announcing the November Book Cover of the Month!

Announcing the November Book Cover of the Month!

Hello everyone,

It’s kind of cool to know I’ve been doing this for a year. We’ve picked out 12 amazing covers, and we still have some work to do (more on that below).  For now, the November Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. This month had a great surge of voters. Three particular authors came out in force and really got their following involved, and that’s wonderful to me.

We had 4,177 votes this month.

This was honestly one of my favorite months to watch. We had some wonderful matches, and one of those matches has me clicking refresh even as I type this announcement. The Sweet Sixteen match between Prey till the End by S.L. Eaves and Living the Good Death by Scott Baron was back and forth for nearly a week. I don’t remember that match being more than five votes apart, and they both had more than 30 people vote their covers all the way to the winners’ circle.  It’s so close, I actually feel the need to type an announcement for each of those covers, and wait until the bracket closes to edit the winner in.  I had to check back and fourth, but it was fun watching it.

The November Book Cover of the Month is…

 

 

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Living the Good Death by Scott Baron! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

Baron received 268 total votes. He edged Eaves out of the sweet sixteen by two votes.

NOV_Cover_CollageHere’s the part where people may upset. Though Eaves would have one had she beaten Baron, she didn’t. The runner up to this (the author who won her side of the bracket) was  The Dragon Rider Vol. 1 by T.J. Weekes. I did a lot of thinking, but the fact is Weekes earned the right to try again by winning her bracket. Sure, the NCAA may loop Alabama into the playoffs, and I can’t even say I’ve never done it (though that was an extreme even beyond this) before, but the Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Round only has one slot left, and Weekes earned it.  You have to be the runner up.  So Weekes will be the final entry into the aforementioned (and still to be discussed below) wild card round.

For Baron, he doesn’t have to stress over another “tryout” bracket. He’s in the main Book Cover of the Year Bracket.  Let’s look at the summary for his book.

 

 

Amazon:

(START BLURB)

Wearing nothing but psych ward pajamas and fluffy slippers, the odd girl wasn’t really dressed to kill. Being the Grim Reaper, however, she felt confident she could make it work.

Have you ever had one of those days? You know, the kind of day when things just don’t go your way. Like when your botched suicide attempt and claims of supernatural powers get you hauled to the emergency room, placed under observation, then transferred to a locked-down psych facility.

The girl who thought she was Death had failed miserably in her efforts to shed the troublesome human body in which she was trapped. The result? Finding herself surrounded by nutjobs, locked in a mental ward ruled by a humorless doctor with a Napoleon complex and a penchant for sleight of hand. Sure, she did technically bring it on herself, but how was she to know that trying to off herself in public and using her outside voice to proclaim she was Death incarnate would result in a psych ward lockdown?

With that problematic little blunder behind her, the concerns now vexing her were pressing. Escape, both from the mental hospital, as well as from this plane of existence, was vital, but equally so was addressing the other issue haunting her. The big one. The one that could end the world. The issue that with Death missing, people would rather inconveniently no longer die like they were supposed to. Eventually, things would hit critical mass. She just didn’t know when.

The situation was, well, grim, to say the very least. An irony not lost on the girl claiming to be the Death.

(END BLURB)

I’ve added Living the Good Death to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I bought Manning’s first cover, Howard’s cover, Deyo’s coverJones’s CoverHubert’s Cover,  MacNiven’s cover,  Jon del Arroz’sRob J. Hayes’sChris Philbrook’sR.L. Week’s, and Manning’s second winning cover. They are also on my TBR. Manning’s review is here.  Howard’s review is here. Deyo’s review is here. The review for Jones’s book is here.  I’m currently reading Hubert’s book.
Here’s
 Baron’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.

I’ll try to find out who did that cover. I’m frankly behind my interviews, but I’m hopeful my vacation can give me a chance to get caught up.

But wait! There’s more!  Starting Dec. 18, my Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Round begins. Weekes and seven other authors who came up just short of winning a monthly bracket will have five days to duke it out for one last, last chance to get into the Book Cover of the Year bracket. The way it will work is the top four winners (as determined by Brackify) will earn the four remaining slots into the Sweet Sixteen of 2017 (I like the ring of that).

WildCard

V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows.

Michael J. Sullivan’s Age of Myth.

Kara Swanson’s The Girl Who Could See.

Joshua Robertson’s and J.C. Boyd’s Anaerfell (Which I’ve read and reviewed).

Amanda Jay’s The Other One.

Frank Dorrian’s To Brave the End.

And Neo Edmund’s Fate of the Big Bad Wolf.

When the bracket kicks off, I’ll post a summary of why each book made it into the Wild Card Round, but I felt it fair to announce who all eight were so, if they read this, they can start to summon their followers.

Now, that brings up some additional news. My first ever BOOK COVER OF THE YEAR tournament is coming. This will feature all 12 BCTOM winners and four “Wild Card” covers.

The Book Cover of the Year Bracket (for which I’m purchasing an actual trophy to send to the artist) will launch Jan. 1. It will be a two-week tournament. Then, I’ll launch the December Book Cover of the Month, which will start off a new year. Yes, that means I’ve decided to to this at least one more year. It’s exhausting, but matches like this one make it fun, and I’ll do it as long as it’s fun.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading

Matt

April Elite 8!

April Elite 8!

Let’s go over some numbers:

The Closest Contest:

Michael J. Sullivan just won’t go down. His cover for Age of Myth is the only book to have to rematches. It seems like every match he’s in is a close one. This match with The First City by Joe Hart was no different.  Sullivan edged out Hart by 1 vote (51 percent of the 97 votes the match received). The Day the Sky Fell by Adam Dreece also narrowly beat Brimstone by Cherie Priest. (I mean the last vote tipped the tie at 11:54 p.m.).

The Largest Victor:
Neo Edmund’s readers helped the cover for Fate of the Big Bad Wolf earn a decisive 28-vote victory (66 percent of 86 votes) over J.N. Chaney’s Hope Everlasting.

Least Voted On Contest:

We didn’t have quite the same max participation as we did in the last round, but everyone still got plenty of votes.  Chaney and Edmund’s match was the low-vote earner this round.

 

Most Voted On Contest:
The most voted on contest was Gods and Monsters by Janie Marie vs The Bone Tree by T.A. Miles. They both received more than 50 votes, but Marie took the round with 72 out of a total of 123 votes.

51b5obvd2WLMost Votes:
Gods and Monsters has surged to the front of this bracket. Marie’s received the most votes of the round as well as the most votes so far (164). It’s going to take at least 75 votes to beat her.

The Elite Eight lasts until May 10, which is another three days to show your support for the cover you like best!

Head over here and vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

April’s Sweet 16!

April’s Sweet 16!

Let’s go over some numbers:

51h86X6LycLThe Closest Contest:

The above shoutout should have been the hint. Michael J. Sullivan had a late (like 11:30 p.m. late) surge and took the match by three votes (just 51% of the total votes).  That makes Age of Myth vs To Brave the End the closest contest no matter how you slice it. Sullivan just won’t go away. He consistently finds a way to win (except for that pesky final match).

The Largest Victor:
World, meet Neo Edmund and his outstanding cover Fate of the Big Bad Wolf. He beat Malevolent Mind by Misty Harvey by 64 total votes, which is 74 percent of the matches’ 132 total votes (No, it’s not the most voted on contest. Like I said, you all had a TON of support!)

Most Voted On Contest:
For my money, the most voted on match was the most fun match to watch. It had a lot of lead changes and was always close.  Waters of Salt and Sin by Alisha Klapheke managed to beat Restitution by Kristen Martin by just 8 votes (one of the three closest matches). This match dominated in terms of total votes with 188. I saw both authors tweeting and sharing away.  It was great to see their participation and touching to see how many readers showed up to vote for them.

Least Voted On Contest:
For the first time since I started this, I really think we had max participation in that every match had a significant number of votes.  Yes, the above match had some 20 votes more than the others, but everyone got some love.  However, someone usually gets the fewest.  This round, the match between by Darkborn by Carrie Summers  vs The Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski received the fewest votes (120).  Summers took the match pretty handedly though (by 46 votes).

Head over here and vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The April Book Cover of the Month Bracket Begins!

The April Book Cover of the Month Bracket Begins!

APRIL_Cover_CollageApril’s bracket has 30 new covers.  Age of Myth is fighting more than I’ve ever seen a cover fight. Michael J. Sullivan finished with the top most votes in the semifinals, which earned him yet another shot in this month’s bracket. Frank Dorrian’s To Brave the End was last month’s runner up, so he gets another crack at the bracket as well.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, I feel the need to let’s remember some basic guidelines.  1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

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Since we’ve been going, I’ve been evaluating how the participation has been. A few authors mentioned that it can be pretty exhausting having a 22-day-long tournament.  So I’m going to try a few new things.  This month, I’m simply trying to reduce the amount of time in the tournament.  This torment will run from today to the 14th.  I’ll do something different next mont.  I’d like your thoughts and feedback as to which way is best.  My goal is to have a fun, honest, meaningful competition that helps everyone. Your feedback will make that possible.

Round 1 will go from today to May 4.

The Sweet 16 will run from then to the 7th.

The Elite 8 will take it from there until the 10th.

The Final 4 runs from the 18th to the 12.

The Finals will go from the 20th to the 14.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt