James Islington's debut novel, The Shadow of What Was Lost, begins as a deceptively stereotypical coming-of-age fantasy. However, it doesn't take long for the story to develop, and breathe fresh life into well-used tropes of the genre. Even with a slightly unsatisfying climax, I deeply enjoyed this book as a whole. It's a good fantasy, and a great adventure. 8/10.
The Immortal Throne is the strong and satisfying sequel to The City (2013) which substantially improves upon the original, adding greater depth and answering many questions and loose threads left behind at the end of previous book. Together, the two books contain a broad and sweeping narrative telling the tale of the City and the Serafim, its otherworldly overlords. 8/10.
Trial of Intentions (Book Two of the Vault of Heaven) is a long, complicated novel. There is a lot to enjoy, but also may be a lot which frustrates some readers. The villains are very well written, and the setting is excellent, but I found that the heroes often felt lackluster. Trial of Intentions is a fantasy in the grand saga style, but which is likely to only interest readers of its own genre. 6/10.
Five years after we thought that the Harry Potter films were over, Fantastic Beasts has arrived - and it's a delight. This action-packed spectacle is filled with period music, engaging character interactions, and a well-paced story. I believe both veterans and muggles alike will find something to love. 9/10.
Peter Orullian's debut novel is a gem in the rough. Marred by substantial structural similarities to The Eye of the World, the details of the world's lore and magic combined with a tight focus on the choices made lead this novel to life of its own. The Unremembered is a good book for anyone who enjoys Quest fantasy, but probably ought to be left aside by those who don't. 7/10
The Cave and the Light (by Arthur Herman) delivers an engaging and nuanced history of Western thought from its roots in Classical Greece up through the wars of the 20th century. While I in disagreement with some of the author's stylistic choices and interpretations of ancient works, overall Herman's unfolding of our intellectual history is an informative and delightful journey.
Doctor Strange is a visual masterpiece which nonetheless leaves something to be desired. The writing follows the “Marvel” formula of charismatic lead making sarcastic quips with a smooth rhythm. The climax is very well thought-out and planned, but Doctor Strange lacks an emotionally satisfying story. 7/10