Goodreads Monday – Beyond Sanctuary

goodreads-mondayGoodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. To participate, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners and add your own links!

My Random Pick

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Beyond Sanctuary (Beyond Series #1)
By Janet Morris
Publisher: Perseid Press
ISBN13: 9780985166809
Pages: 398
Genre: Fantasy

Blurb: 

THE SACRED BAND GOES NORTH – TO WAR!
Here is the new, revised and expanded Author’s Cut edition of BEYOND SANCTUARY, the first ever full-length novel to take you BEYOND the notorious Thieves World™ fantasy universe, where gods still stalk the land, warring with demons and human sorcerers and trampling unfortunate humanity underfoot.
If you like stories of bold brave knights employed in meritorious duty, or tales of ladies delicate and fair, be warned. Beyond Sanctuary, set at the foot of notorious Wizardwall, may be too much for your sensibilities. There wizards, bards, and maidens mingle with murderers and thieves, and the fight breaking out at the next table may be the one that ends your life.
The hero of BEYOND SANCTUARY is Tempus, leader of mercenaries and warrior-servant of Vashanka, god of storm and war. With Niko, Cime, and the Froth Daughter Jihan, Tempus faces the archmage Datan and his unholy followers – in a battle for the Rankan Empire’s survival and that of his very soul. BEYOND SANCTUARY is the first novel in Janet Morris’ BEYOND series, followed by BEYOND THE VEIL and BEYOND WIZARDWALL.

This is a title I actually received recently courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. I am excited about this but hoping it is an acceptable introduction to the author’s work as I have no prior knowledge of Thieve’s World or any pre-existing series. Have you read Janet Morris or this particular book? The synopsis certainly reads as fantasy, but I am seeing some adding this to science fiction as well. So I am curios. What is on your TBR that you plan on tackling soon?

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The Fourth Paladin by Maria Mercurio

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The Fourth Paladin
By Maria Mercurio
ISBN13: 9780692797686
Pages: 446
Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:

More than anything, Maya wants to experience the life of a normal teenage girl, instead, she’s forced to live by a strict code of ethics and purity. Her family’s bloodline makes her one of very few candidates eligible to become a Paladin; a woman capable of splitting her soul to bring forth and join with a being of immense power. Being picked to become a Paladin is rare, yet she must follow her family’s strict rules until her twentieth birthday when she will finally be free of the burden. As her freshmen year of college is coming to an end the possibility of first dates, parties, and being able to act her age is within reach.

That is, of course, when the call comes.

The literal man of her dreams is ripped from her soul to become flesh and blood. Maya believes her fantasy of eternal love will be made into reality, and being a Paladin is frightening but has major heart palpitating benefits. Sadly, Chay is all business. Smoking hot on the outside, but no warmth on the inside. The world needs saving, and he is hell bent on doing the job, no matter how battered and bruised they get, inside and out.

The worst part for Maya isn’t having to fend off demon attacks or even accepting her death will most probably be a violent one. Nope! The worst part is, she’s falling in love with Chay, even though he expressly told her not to.


my-thought

 

The Fourth Paladin was not what I was expecting, so I am struggling to write this review. There is a small dose of religion occurring within its pages. I am not completely surprised by this, after all we have Paladins and demons. What I was not expecting was the addition of two main characters Samson and Delilah. Sound familiar?

In older biblical tales we would learn that Samson was a man of tremendous strength. He soon met and fell in love with Delilah who was ultimately his undoing. She betrayed his secrets to the Philistines in exchange for payment. Very condensed version. To my surprise The Fourth Paladin was somewhat of a retelling of Samson and Delilah. And I do say surprise because there is nothing in the blurb that would have led me to this conclusion. The pleasant part of this surprise is that the author managed to reimagine this in a truly unique and refreshing way.

This is actually two stories the eventually merge to form one. We are introduced to Maya who has spent her life sheltered in attempts to remain “pure” due to her inherited bloodline that makes her a candidate for being chosen as a Paladin. In order to become a Paladin, the chosen one must be pure of mind and body and offer themselves as a sacrifice. They must give a part of their soul to another being, conjuring them forth to share their life with battling the demonic invasion that is occurring on Earth. They will be bonded together for life as part of one another. However, Paladins must be selected before their twentieth birthday. So Maya lives each day awaiting the big 2-0 so that she can finally proceed with a normal life.

Much to her disbelief and dismay, Delilah arrives one night to take Maya from the only life and family she has ever known. She has been chosen and must decided whether she is prepared to sacrifice and fight. Maya soon discovers that Delilah made the very same sacrifice many years ago and gave part of her own soul to bring forth her life partner Samson. Together they will guide and train Maya.

The plot was a love/hate relationship for me. I struggled continually with just exactly how I felt about the events unfolding. I am not a fan of the “chosen” scenario. It has been done more times than one could ever possibly count. But I also am unable to write it off as some very amazing stories have started with being “chosen”. And while perhaps it is a trope that is over utilized, it always has potential for great character development. When we take a protagonist who has been forced into a situation and handed the unexpected, the possibilities are endless. There is unlimited growth and emotional development that can occur.

So why did I struggle with this plot? For one simple reason, it was full of original ideas but I only enjoyed one side of a two-sided story. To understand, we have to look at the narration. The Fourth Paladin as mentioned is not only Maya’s story, but Delilah’s. Each story is told in alternating point of view broken down easily by paragraph. Maya’s story unfolds in current time and Delilah’s begins in 1100 BC.  The author has done a wonderful job of tackling these transitions in an effortless manner that assures the entire timeline ultimately merges with ease.

Delilah’s tale fascinated me. I anticipated each chapter that revealed more of this history as seen through her very eyes.  Her growth and development was rewarding to follow. As a female protagonist, I appreciated seeing her weakness and strengths revealed and overcome with the passing of time. Samson was infuriating at times. He was new to being a human and did not fully understand how to appropriately act on the desire he held for Delilah after being joined with part of her soul. She was relentless though, always questioning and pushing back to establish her place and find her way in a time where the roles of women was significantly different. She was full of depth and added tremendous value to the book.

I struggled with Maya however. While clearly overwhelmed and confused by her new life, she just lacked any credible emotion. I expected some young angst and heartache. I wanted to see the raw core of her. Her entire life was stripped away and yet she felt devoid of so much. She was also too strong too soon. I found myself lacking any connection with her character. I was continually rushing to read more about Delilah. Maya was lost on me.

While this was technically the story of two women, Maya’s almost felt unwarranted. Aside from the brief introduction into how she becomes a Paladin, the remainder of her tale consist of nothing more than training and her complicated feelings for her new partner. At times I felt as though I were reading two different stories entirely. While the author managed to eventually connect the two lives in a way that made sense, the character development and world building that took place within Delilah’s tale far outweighed what we were provided in Maya’s.

There were some unique elements that are not to be overlooked. The connections that were shared between the Paladins as a result of their sacrifice to summon their partners was original and full of promise. We are also provided with some rich and well-developed history that I thoroughly enjoyed. The strengths and weakness of the Paladins along with their healing abilities and other properties all fit very well.

While I feel that the story could have benefited from the omission of Maya entirely, all was not lost. This was a fun and fast paced read that still managed to entertain. The narration is fluid and the author managed to uphold the time transitions through dialogue and accurate descriptions and world construction. I really enjoyed her smooth style of writing. While, the conclusion was a bit vague and opened ended, there is still a large amount of promise and possible potential to be built upon.

*I would like to thank the author for providing me with this copy. The above review is my own, unbiased opinion.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository 

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Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

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Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1)
By Mark Lawrence
Publisher: Ace
ISBN13: 9781101988855
Expected 4/4/17
Pages: 423
Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…


my-thought

Let me just air my shame right now, this is my very first title by Mark Lawrence. Yes, I know. I am just now popping the Lawrence cherry. There will be no comparisons to previous work. I am actually thankful for this embarrassing  fact (although I was about 100 pages when I immediately ran out and bought the entire Broken Empire series) <– Spoiler, this book is flipping good! As I excitedly dove into this 400 page beauty, I discovered the an unbiased approach was going to work in my favor because this is going to be a tough review minus any previous conceptions or comparisons.

“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient skill.”

The sun is dying and in a world encapsulated and limited by ice. One young girl has been bought and sold. Nona Grey has been labeled a monster and cast aside. When she finds herself staring through the noose of her finality, rescue comes in the unlikely form of a nun.

Taken to the Convent of Sweet Mercy, she begins the arduous task of training and transformation. She is to become a Red Sister. Devoting her life to the Ancestor, she enters a journey of self discovery and metamorphosis that will challenge her to face her inner demons  head on and learn to hone the very skills that have terrified and haunted her throughout her short existence.

But why have the nuns chosen to spare Nona and take her in? Why is she still sought after? During her transition and time at the convent, Nona Grey will uncover answers and a world she never knew existed. Is she prepared to accept her fate and fight?

“The Path had filled her and in doing so had woken her to the understanding that for all her life she had been hollow.  It turned her flesh to gold, her mind to crystal. She wanted more. Even as the power of it terrified her and she felt her body shaking beyond her control, she wanted more.”

Instead of concentrating on the plot of a story you should be reading, I want to discuss the elements to make this worth the time of any fantasy fan. Red Sister is a slower but steady and rewarding read. At times I felt mentally tapped after pouring through the pages, but in the greatest of ways.  I was heavily invested and there is a lot to digest. Nona Grey is complex and consuming. She is delivered to us as so much more than one could expect to comprehend at 8 years old. Her sheer rawness and brutality draw you in immediately, refusing to release. Walking in her footsteps, we soon realize that the fact that she is a child is often lost because she instantly becomes so much more.

This is a highly character driven account that presents a tale of the fight for survival through an amazing ensemble of individuals and lavish world construction. Lawrence has created a cast of children, Sisters and adversaries that manage to deliver on the grandest of scales.  While the gore and action are very much present, I found all emotions being fully accessed and tapped into to create a truly unique and provoking experience.

The plot manages to go beyond engaging as I found myself almost exhausted at times. I was completely immersed and committed to Nona and her personal battle. And it did feel very  personal. There are many things occurring within the Convent and out, but Nona’s internal struggle is a pilgrimage.

“Those that burn short burn bright. The shortest lives can cast the longest shadows.”

The world that Lawrence has constructed is elegant. The fluid transition of flawless narration between past memories and the present solidify this beautiful composition, adding a real sense of  depth and vastness that I have come to expect from true epic fantasies. An innovative magical system is set in place that is not only refined and well thought out, but captivating while carefully avoiding any unnecessary complexities.

I found myself in great admiration of the Lawrence’s ability to develop an amazingly strong yet imperfect world of female protagonists. The writing carries throughout each page with such ease, almost poetic at times, inviting your further. For all of the bleakness and dark, there is an amount of sophistication and poise present that make this a deeply gratifying and beautiful read.

“A single flame in the dark. A single note hanging in an empty place. A single sparkle upon a wind-rippled lake.”

Well polished and seductive, this is a story best left for the reader to discover and devour on their own accord. Red Sister tempts with many promises and delivers and caters to even the greatest of expectations. A gripping, yet open conclusion has left me yearning for more. I have fallen for Nona Grey in the most spectacular of ways.

*I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for this opportunity. The above review is my own, unbiased opinion.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Pre-Order Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

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