Raven’s Shadow

raven's shadow

The Faith is the dominant religion of the Unified Realms, and the various orders are clergy having various roles in furthering the Faith. The Sixth Order is the one dedicated to battle, it’s soldiers being known as some of the best in the world. Boys are brought there and raised as warriors from a young age, completely cut off from their families, with their new family being their brothers in the Order. And it is here that after the death of his mother, Vaelin Al Sorna is left by his father, the Battle Lord to the king. While apprehensive at first, he fully embraces his place in the order, and does quite well for himself. However, that is only the first step. Upon completing his training, he’s thrown into a number of affairs throughout the world, ranging from politics, religion, strategy, dealing with hostile nations with vile customs, to even dealing with a being that may well bring about the end of the world itself. However, even beyond his top class combat training, Vaelin possesses a special advantage, an inner guide so to speak, known as the Blood Song, that keeps him on the right path forward.

***

This trilogy was very solid. It created a pretty interesting world with different countries, different religions, different peoples, etc. that was interesting enough on its own due to the politics, war, etc. but it then also added in some high leveled super natural elements that added another layer on top of all that, which ultimately resulted in something that changed quite a bit throughout and was hence quite interesting from beginning to end. The structure of the trilogy involves focusing solely on Vaelin in the first book, Blood Song, adding the perspectives of Reva, Lyra, and Frentin in the second book, Tower Lord, and continuing with that with the third book, Queen of Fire. Vaelin was a really strong character that was likable and grew tremendously over the course of the series. Reva took some time to develop, but by around half way through the second book she really established herself and was amazing from that point. Frentin was a complete mess, but that was in part due to the role he was given which didn’t particularly give him much room to maneuver as soon as he becomes a main character. Lyra was completely disappointing. She has a lot of good moments, and definitely shows growth, but also a lot of really bad moments. I also thought she and Vaelin made a good match, so I was somewhat disappointed it never happened, especially as how the relationship was handled from beginning to end was quite strange. All in all, I would have to say that the ending overall was disappointing as well, in that it felt more like it ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, where things got resolved too easily too quickly. Still, leading up to that, the world building, the intrigue, the politics, the battles and strategic build up to them, and everything else was very well done.

A fantasy series featuring an interesting world full of intrigue as well as an amazing primary main character, but some lack luster secondary main characters and a weak ending.

8/10

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Horns

horns

Ignatius Perrish’s girlfriend Merrin was brutally murdered one day, and Ig becomes the prime suspect. If the evidence collected had actually been examined, it would have clearly exonerated him from the crime, but all of it disappeared in a mysterious fire at the police station. Hence, without any evidence, he wasn’t prosecuted. However, that doesn’t change that everyone thinks that he’s guilty, and that his father, a rich former musician had pulled strings to get him out of doing time. And hence with the world against him, Ig’s life turns to hell. His brother strongly defends him, which actually surprised him, considering he was one his way to becoming a celebrity as well and definitely didn’t need a scandal, but in the end he has his own places to be and leaves their little town of Gideon for LA. His former closest friend Lee isn’t as open, as he’s an aid to a moral high ground touting congressman, and doesn’t need to be lumped with someone understood to be a murderer, which Ig can understand. Ultimately, all that he’s left with is his family and Glenna, a girl as desperate for company as he is. And hence he continues his crappy existence.

But one day Ignatius Perrish wakes up after an especially hard night of drinking and who knows what. He doesn’t remember anything about what happened to him the previous night, but he suddenly has horns poking out of his skin. And not just that, these horns seem to have the strange power of drawing out others deepest darkest desires and having them act upon them. It’s a very difficult power to deal with, and hearing the darkness in those close to him is more than he can bare, but in time this ends up putting him on the path to discovering what truly happened to Merrin many years ago.

***

This novel has a very interesting premise to start off. The mechanics of being able to hear everyone’s darkest thoughts and desires and have them act on it, or not, is very interesting, and applying it to random bystanders results in a number of interesting situations and manifests Ig as the devil very strongly. Him learning about what his family and other people that know him think of him in the aftermath of the murder is also interesting. Him piecing together what actually occurred back then, and how Lee isn’t anything like what he appears to be was also interesting enough. But once that’s over, things get a lot more dull. Firstly, it drags on too long without adding much more. Ig’s growth in becoming a devil doesn’t increase his psychological powers at all, which are what are interesting, but rather increases a random set of physical traits, such as the ability to command snakes or breath fire, which I suppose are somewhat interesting, but in the end the scenes that utilized them are pretty weak. Hill’s ability to write action pales in comparison to his writing of the emotion focused conflicts earlier on, and hence with the latter portions of the book heavily being focused on action with little of the actual interesting powers from earlier on, the writing all around seems rather lacking. It’s at this point that he also tries to hound in his anti-religious points too hard as opposed to the more subtle but better way he started the novel off. Furthermore, while his mental powers seem relatively consistent at first when they’re just used as looks into others minds and souls, when he begins using them intentionally to influence others and have things happen, they seem to become completely arbitrary, working sometimes, and failing sometimes. All of this peaks towards the ending, where the powers and their mechanics matter far too much for how randomly they seem to work, a bunch of metaphors and motifs are used far too quickly with none of them really having much value and just convoluting the thing far too much, and ending on a note with not much answered nor any feeling of continuity with why certain characters are doing what they’re doing based on their established characters.

An interesting premise and well written beginning that changes tremendously as it goes forward into something far less good.

7/10

The Magicians Trilogy

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Quentin has essentially been a test taker all his life. That’s not to say hes been especially smart or curious necessarily, but rather he went at things with tremendous dedication and was good at monotonous practice. It’s also what made him good at magic tricks, as really all they take is a tremendous amount of dull repetition. Still, he’s always felt the world to be tremendously lacking and far too boring. He grew up reading ‘Fillory and Further’, books about kids disappearing to another far more interesting world, and while logically he very well knew that it was just fiction, somewhere deep down inside, he still felt that there had to be something more to the world. Hence, when things get strange during his Princeton interview and he ends up getting whisked away to a mysterious place where he was asked to simply take a written test as various laws of physics and causation were defied around him, it was as if he had just reached what he had been waiting for his entire life.

And of course he passed. Instead of going to an Ivy school he would now go to Brakebills, school of magic. Though ultimately, it turned out that magic wasn’t quite as magic as he thought. It too required tremendous amounts of learning and repetitive practice. Being good at these seemed to be what tied magicians together. Together with his peers he managed to push his way through all five years of college, tackling a number of ridiculous challenges, facing incredibly dangerous situations, and making a good amount of friends, together with those in his specialization, the ‘physical kids’, and even going out with a girl named Alice.

But once he graduated, things were tremendously boring. Life felt pointless. And some major mistakes were made. Just having the ability to do magic didn’t seem to make the world that much more interesting. It was still certainly very dull. However, just when it looked like things would fall apart catastrophically, an old classmate, Penny, bursts into the lives of him and his friends telling him he’s found a way to get to Fillory. Everyone calls it absolute nonsense at first, but eventually they get there. Fillory is every bit as strange as it was described in the books. But there’s always more to stories than what gets written down, and Fillory has quite the sharp edge too. Their journeys through Fillory began, along which the various members of this groups save gods, defeat Beasts, stop wars, become royalty, find old friends who eventually become divine, prevent all of magic from collapsing, get exiled, steal suitcases, do their best to stop the world from ending, and in the end learn that not just Fillory, but all of life is more magical and amazing than they expected, and not because of the actual magic.

***

The Magicians Trilogy is ultimately a parody and extension of an entire genre. The two most prominent works that it is derivative of are Harry Potter with the magical school aspect, and Narnia, with the magical land that people can be pulled into to go on quests. But this is hardly all this series takes from, and furthermore it doesn’t try to hide that it’s taking quite a lot from other works. Rather, it is quite blatant about it. But because it is so obvious in being derivative in its foundation, it does incredibly well and taking the common aspects of the genre that are so well known and taking them in completely new directions. For example, the system of magic is a lot more mathematical, scientific, and for lack of a better word rigorous than say Harry Potter, and the fact that it involves a tremendous amount of dull repetition and rote memorization is pounded in, as well as the fact that Quentin does quite well at it due to being a good standardized test taker, which takes quite a bit of the magic away from the magic and making it mundane, but by the end seem to be making the opposite true, and that even the mundane can have a good bit of magic to it.

The core theme of the novel is that fantasy is just another facet of the world and not something entirely different, that fantasy isn’t all that fantastical. It is still quite amazing, don’t get me wrong. The magic that exists in our world as well as the entire magical world of Fillory are developed immensely well with a great deal of depth to the systems, settings, and fantastical events. And going in search of such fantasy is truly a worthwhile endeavor. But in the end, its not the magic itself that makes something fantastical, as even the magical world of Fillory in darker circumstances can completely lose it’s luster, rather the journey that people take, people they interact with, and mentality therein is what makes it worthwhile.

The novel very much is a coming of age story. Quentin very much is looking forward to their being more to the world, and upon finding it, discovers it still doesn’t make him happy, and searching for more, which continues somewhat endlessly till the cycle is broken by the incredibly long journey he goes through, and he discovers that he needs to take things much more slowly and in stride, and begins to see things less as fantastical and real, and just see the world as it is, what is seen as a key aspect of growing up. A fantastical series having lessons relating to fantasy in general is quite meta, and really a description of meta may well be the best way to describe the entire series. It uses tropes as plot devices themselves, with characters even utilizing them, but often with very different perspectives then what is generally used.

And even beyond this, there was a tremendous amount of character development, not just in Quentin, but in the many other characters as well. Quentin, Alice, Julia, Elliot, Janet, Josh, Poppy, and Penny all come out of the series incredibly different than they were going in, which is expected considering this series shows more than a decade of their life, but even with that caveat, there was still tremendous growth. Fantastical worlds have a habit of doing that, though the directions that their growth went in was very much down to Earth, which is pretty unique for a fantasy novel honestly. There was also a very good deal of relationship drama between them, though to be frank I wasn’t very appreciative of it and it all seemed to be a bit hollow and lackluster, which may well have been intentional to show how fantasy doesn’t automatically make every relationship more romantic or even interesting, but at that point we’d have to be taking this meta thing way too far for my tastes and hence I’m not going to be thinking in that direction too deeply.

 I also enjoyed Grossman’s style of writing very much. He didn’t get too gritty with details or descriptions, leaving most things to the imagination, except for the utterly fantastical which was described in such a way as to convey how ridiculous it was. This was definitely for the best, as it didn’t get bogged down too much and kept up a really fast pace. For example, it breezes through five years of schooling in the first two third approximately of the first novel.

Lots of different themes: Growing up. Fantasy not being quite fantastical, but still fantastical. Not always waiting for the next thing as where you’ll find happiness. Different paths to the same thing. Relationships being complicated as hell. People wanting different things. Too much of a good thing can be bad.

A series about growing up set to a background of a meta commentary on the genre of fantasy that does really well all things considered.

8/10

Riyria Revelations

riyriarevelations

Hadrian and Royce compose Ryria. Named after the elven word for two, they are a pair of exceptionally good thieves. One of their jobs leads them to to steal a sword from the castle of the King of Melengar. Except when they get there, they find no sword, and instead find a dead king, for whom the murder is blamed on them. They are locked in the dungeon, awaiting their execution, when the princess Arista comes and tells them that she believes in their innocence, that a conspiracy is afoot, and that she’ll let them go if they agree to kidnap her brother, Alric, and take him to go see the wizard Esrahaddon. They promptly do so, and Hadrian being the honorable thief he is, despite complaints by Royce, sets them on their journey to Esrahaddon. Along the way they stop to rest where a monastery should be, only to find that it had burned down, and only a single monk named Myron, who has an exceptionally good memory, remained. They bring him along as well, and eventually arrive at Esrahaddon’s prison, where they promptly set him free, and he gives them clues about the conspiracy. They discover that Alric and Arista’s uncle had taken over, with Arista scheduled for execution, so Alric rouses the forces loyal to him to take back his castle. Hadrian and Royce are given the mission of rescuing Arista, or at least holding off her execution. Things get messy, but they pull it off, and things go back to how they should be.

Or at least they do for a while. It turns out this was part of a much larger conspiracy by the Church of Nyphron to put those loyal to them at the helm of the nations of Averyn to begin a new Empire. This is supposed to be kicked off by a competition by the Church claiming that only the heir of Novron can defeat a beast prowling the countryside, and hence the own who defeats it will be crowned Emperor. This is a complete myth, with the beast actually being a mystical being that can be defeated only by a single blade, which is locked in the elven tower Avempartha that hasn’t been accessed in centuries. Riyria are called upon in this regard when a girl from the village named Thrace comes to ask them to steal this sword from its resting place. The competition ends up a mess, and Hadrian and Royce fail more than they succeed, but the monster is slain, and an Empress decided, though not who the Church originally wanted.

The church official Saldur comes up with a plan to use the girl crowned Empress, now dubbed Modina, to begin creating the empire, with the plan to force her to marry someone more capable and kill her off eventually. The girl is essentially broken, so a maid named Amilia is given the task of essentially stringing her along into doing what’s necessary. And hence with the capital city of Aquesta at its center, the formation of the new Empire begins. Melengar, being the only country where the plot to replace the King failed, is the only one resisting this. Without allies in other kingdoms, the now Ambassador of Melengar looks to the nationalist rebellion for allies. Hiring Royce and Hadrian to take her, they go on a journey to meet their leader, Degan Gaunt. After a number of betrayals, things begin to take form, and Arista manages to establish some sort of alliance and take control of the city of Ratibor.

Her presence there is short lived as she discovers who the true heir of Novron is, and sneaks into Aquesta to save him or at least get enough information so that Hadrian and Royce can, but things don’t exactly go well. Riyria are busy aboard the Emerald Storm, a ship heading to the forsaken lands of Calis, where Melengar received intelligence that the empire’s forces would achieve a feat that would bring the war with Melengar to a close. They travel over seas, through jungles, fight in a coliseum, and even spend hours climbing up a ridiculously large building, but even with success things don’t quite go as hoped either.

At this point, the creation of an Empire is coming to a close, and the Empress is to be married at the Wintertide festival. Hadrian in a last ditch effort at saving the true heir of Novron as well as Arista ends up making a deal with Saldur where he must act a Knight at the games and kill Sir Breckton who was being a thorn in his side. Things go very badly for both of them, and ultimately everyone ends up in a dungeon, but Modina isn’t as broken as she once seemed to be, and she has her own plans for the Empire.

Just when it looks like things were going well, the elven army suddenly invades, leaving nothing but destruction in their wake. While the human forces are completely incapable of halting their advance, a plan based on century old agreements to ensure humanities survival comes to be. It involves Hadrian, Royce, Arista, Alric, as well as various others going on a perilous journey to the long lost city of Percepliquis, the buried capital of the old empire, where they are to search for a horn. This journey has them grappling down lofty tunnels, sailing over underground oceans, fighting armies of goblins, and getting past massive beasts, but they pull it off, and save humanity. In doing so a tremendous number of revelations occur, the truth behind everything comes to light and ties everything from the beginning all together, the world and is changes forever, and while people die, overall it comes pretty close to a happily ever after.

***

Riyria Revelations is incredibly plot oriented. That is to say, the focus is completely on telling a good story. There isn’t much to say about larger themes that are supposed to be metaphors for real life, major life lessons that are supposed to be gained, or any type of depth along those lines. It’s a story that exists for the sake of being a story and does a good job being so. This also means that the lore and world building is also very much tied to the story itself. This is in contrast to other works where they try to build a large coherent and interesting world and spend a good amount of time slowly developing it through info dumping and the like. The world here isn’t especially interesting, rather its very cliche, nor does the author attempt to really create a base for it before beginning the tale, but rather only reveals whats necessary to reveal about the world as needed for the sake of the story. This leads to a very different style to the writing as compared to other works, where there is far less extraneous detail. It feels like each sentence is used much more efficiently, and hence an equal page count with this style ends up pushing a lot more story than other comparable works. This makes the entire novel very fast paced regardless of whats happening, and keeps the reader firmly engrossed in the tale itself as it progresses.

This works out very well because the story itself is what makes this series of novels amazing. Everyone expects a good story, with standouts having something like an especially god atmosphere, world building, etc. to put it above the rest. In these regards the series doesn’t do extremely well, as in a general manner for these aspects it isn’t terribly interesting, seemingly being very generic, and very traditional. But that’s fine, or possibly even good as it doesn’t serve as distraction, because Riyria Revelations excels purely on the basis of its plot.  The plot spans the equivalent of six novels, each that are somewhat self contained tales, but what makes the series incredible is how all of these are tied together so well, with everything from the smallest details seemingly being impactful in some way later on, and despite seeming to be becoming somewhat convoluted, it wraps things up amazingly tying up all the details with a number of relatively simple twists and major revelations. How there are so many conspiracies and connections, large and small, with a large amount of depth overall, but everything still stays completely consistent is what makes the plot so extraordinary.

The last point of note, is the strength of the characters. The main characters are clearly the pair of thieves Hadrian and Royce, though there are a number of other important semi-main characters, mainly the princess wizardess Arista, the King of Melengar Alric, and the Empress Modina. Each of these characters goes through a good amount of character development over the course of the series, especially Arista, as well as major development in character relations. The romance was weak, but other than that it was incredibly solid. There are a whole bunch of side characters as well, and while they don’t really go through that much development, what makes them so interesting is how much they’re used and reused. There are a lot of character that feel like they’ve been used at some point, and will not really be seen from again, but are used again. They could easily be filled by different characters. Or rather, it would have been easier to have them filled by different characters, as they’re reused in a way that is consistent and connected to their previous appearances, which makes these side characters a lot more interesting than otherwise.

Riyria Revelations is a very fast paced fantasy series series with little fluff that focuses on the meat of the intricate plot and the great characters.

9/10

There is also a prequel series called Riyria Chronicles that was released after Revelations. I personally don’t like prequels in general as you already have a good idea of what’s going to happen and the answer to many mysteries. Here especially I feel this is an issue as I feel it’ll never reach the same scale, nor will things be as mysterious as most of the revelations have occurred. Nor will the romance be as good, as the Gwen stuff will be bitter due to obvious reasons, as would anything with Hadrian due to him not meeting Arista until Revelations, which would make any romance with him at all annoying. Still, they’ve gotten good reviews, so I’m at least somewhat optimistic. I’ll take a break before diving into them though.

Year Zero

yearzero

This is the tale of an intellectual property lawyer named Nick Carter who gets thrown into an alien conspiracy that could conclude with the destruction of humanity… due to copyright law. It turns out that aliens are terrible at making music, and hence ever since humanity was discovered, they have been listening to exclusively human music. Only later did they realize that what they were doing was copyright infringement. It also turns out that aliens have a very strong respect for the customs related to each individual races culture and always obey them, and they view the fines associated with pirating music as part of those customs. Hence, based on how their economics work and the level of pirating that occurred, humanity now owns everything in the universe that has been, is, and will ever be.

Lots of aliens, particularly an organization known as the Guild, are quite angry about this. To that end, their goal is to make sure humanity destroys itself before they rise to the point that they can actual claim everything. Hence, Nick’s job, with the help of the human looking aliens Frampton and Carly, his romantic interest neighbor Mandy, his selfish and egotistical cousin Pugwash, and his sweet talking boss Judy, is to find someway around humanities system of copyright laws, so that the alien races have no reason to destroy humanity. Its an interesting tale involving strange alien technology and races (such as a race so unworthy of note that grammatical rules are altered to prevent highlighting their name) , unexpected aliens (such as Bill Gates), as well as weird alien cultural elements (such as reality TV), but ultimately Nick figures out a way to get them out of that mess (involving mass manipulation of human DNA), and he lives happily ever after with Mandy.

***

This novel was incredibly strange all the way through. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. The first half seemed to focus more on law and the somewhat grounded weird aspects of humanity, with bizarre alien content sprinkles around in light doses. The self deprecating humor I especially found hilarious, though that may be because I already have an interest in copyright law. The second half was far more focused on the aliens, and the human side itself got completely ridiculous. There was actually a good amount of world building, but this novel really did not need world building as it took away from the humor. Hence, ultimately I liked the first half more than the second. The writing style itself was good all the way through due to being from the first person perspective of a highly interesting character. The romance aspects were really half-assed, but it worked out well enough so I guess I can’t complain too much.

Overall a strangely funny book with a better first half than second, but that is decent overall.

7/10

Also, what the hell was the Korean game they were talking about?

The Rosie Project

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The Rosie Project is a novel about a genetics researcher named Don that lives life completely logically. He eats the same things every week, precisely calculated for nutrition and efficiency. He follows a strict exercise schedule. He obeys the rules in almost all cases and takes most things quite literally. Most importantly, he decides that the best way to find someone to be his wife is to use a survey. That’s what he tries to do at least. His ‘in an open marriage’ friend Gene ends up sending one of his students, Rosie, to Don’s office to ask a question. He ends up misunderstanding it as someone whom Gene had sent him based on the surveys for the ‘Wife Project’ and asks her out on a date. When he later discovers that she doesn’t meet any of the requirements he had written out for a wife, so he ends up abandoning that train of thought. But he discovers that she was on a search of her own, to find her real father, whom her mother had said was part of her graduating class but had never given her a name on. Hence, despite not knowing why he’s doing so, he ends up putting the ‘Wife Project’ on the back burner in order to focus on the ‘Father Project’. It ends up being a wild ride that involves a lot from both of them, as they must secretly steal the DNA from everyone in her mothers class. This involves acting as bartenders, learning to dance, and even going on a trip to New York. The end result is that they do find out who the father is, but most importantly, as expected, they end up growing much closer, Don ends ups growing an emotional side, and as expected finds love.

***

Don was an interesting character. What was most interesting about this book was his character and how he interacted with the world. It was in first person, so Rosie, the projects, and everything else as focused on the book was around their connection to him, and ultimately around him changing. The wrap up was ridiculous to the point that it was Incredible. But I’m glad he got a happy ending, though to be frank I feel the Don in the beginning was more interesting than that one at the end, but whatever makes him happy. Despite being a romantic novel, and while it had its sweet moments, the romance was only a moderate part of the story. The romance as a motivation for him to grow and change was how it was key, not the romance itself.

7/10

Ashfall

Ashfall begins with Yellowstone erupting and slowly throwing America into a pro-apocalyptic wasteland. The protagonist Alex had decided to stay home while the rest of his family had gone to see his uncle a pretty far ways away. Hence, with the world falling apart around him, he decides to make the trek to find his family. Along the way he discovers that the most dangerous aspect of the new world he wasn’t the disaster itself, but instead was the people who had seemingly lost their humanity. He ends up being attacked, and finds himself collapsed and dying on a farm occupied by a slightly older girl named Darla and her mother. They nurse him back to health, but are attacked by the same thugs that hurt Alex. They end up killing Darla’s mother and forcing both of them out into the world, and they both end up going on the journey to find Alex’s family. It’s a long trek, where they slowly grow closer, and eventually become a couple. They eventually arrive close to Alex’s uncle’s farm, but are captured by the government contractor Black Lake, who is making sure refugees don’t spill out of the red zones. They are imprisoned and discover horrific conditions in the camp, but ultimately make their escape, arriving at Alex’s uncle’s home. There they find his cousins Anna and Max as well as his sister Rebecca, but discover that Alex’s parents had gone out in search of him.

Following that, Alex and Darla retrace their path and go to search for his parents again. Due to various circumstances, Darla ends up captured by a nearby gang. Alex tries to save her, but ends up saving someone that looks similar, Alyssa, and her genius but lacking common sense brother Ben. He then ends up captured by Black Lake again and put into another camp. There he not only finds his parents, but finds that they are the representatives of the refugees in the camp, and are essentially running things on the inside with what little power Black Lake allows them to have. He wants to go out in search of Darla yet again, but his parents can’t leave as they have a duty to the refugees in the camp, especially in light of recent events with kidnappings attempted by outside gangs that some Black Lake guards seem to allow in exchange for bribes. However, Ben comes up with a plan for defeating the gang in their strong hold, which he provides to a Black Lake commander in exchange for their freedom. The plan works and the gang is mostly defeated, however Darla had already been sold to another gang. They come up with a plan for saving her that involves deception and pretending to be trading Alyssa as a slave, that manages to succeed somewhat, though they all (Alex, his parents, Alyssa, Ben, and Darla) end up in a car chase, that Alex’s father ultimately gives his life to end, saving everyone else. They return to their uncles farm, and find an entire tent city had popped up, as the nearby cities inhabitants had been kicked out.

This ultimately results in a battle to take back control of the town. However, the mayor of the town is grossly incompetent, and ultimately, Alex is the one that leads them into the battle that takes back the town. However, even afterwards, the mayor continues to lead incompetently, which leads to tension between him and Alex. Ultimately, elections for the position of mayor are called, which the mayor through political maneuvering wins completely, and Alex is essentially exiled. Furthermore, afterwards, Alex’s uncles farm burns down, and hence they begin to create a new home for themselves under and powered by a windmill farm a bit away. However, Alex’s mother begins to drift apart, and chooses to stay in the town rather than follow, and Rebecca chooses to follow her. Building up the town, they encounter a series of new challenges. But they survive, and prosper. Many other towns and groups of people, including the town that they had been thrown out of, ultimately unite under him. However, this leads to many conflicts within the seperate groups, that somtimes have dark but necessary solutions. They are also brought into conflict with outside gangs once again, which through ingenuity they manage to win, but just barely. But surviving everything and coming out stronger, Alex and Darla get married, hopeful for the future.

***

The first book was incredibly boring, as was the first half of second book. The second book got much better. The reasons for this is that the writing style wasn’t all that great. It works well enough when just describing the plot and what was happening, but for things like action scenes where having good prose is crucially important and that can easily get repetitive otherwise, it wasn’t enough. The first half of the series is good for establishing the world that the second half uses, but it didn’t feel like much progression happened, and it felt repetitive and ultimately very slow. Alex and Darla went through a number of very different situations but ultimately all of them felt like the same thing in how they were ultimately dealt with. It was all very predictable. For some the development of the relationship between Alex and Darla may be enough to redeem the first half, but for me that too didn’t become interesting until the second half. The relationship development between Darla and Alex in the first half was too cliche for the amount of time spent on it.

It started getting much better from the point that Alex and Darla were separated. It got a lot less predictable. There was much less of a linear single goal story going on. Darla was obviously the final goal, but there were a series of other goals along that line. And a number of interesting characters other than Alex and Darla were introduced that were actually important and felt that way right off the bat. Alyssa and her relationship with Ben was interesting as soon as Alex found them. Ben was actually one of my favorite characters throughout, as he was awkward in a charming way but a genius and incredibly competent when it mattered. Alex’s parents were instantly shown tackling responsibility, and that became a strong theme after their introduction, which made the plot far more interesting. The third book continues along this line. Alex got a ridiculous amount of development in becoming a competent leader and taking on the burden of responsibility. Darla actually got some development from that, as well as through the conflicts with Alex’s mom and Alyssa. Doc, Belinda, Rebecca, Max, Ben, Rita, etc. all of them got strong development. A lot of relationships bloomed that I wished the best for. I wish Alyssa found happiness in some way by the end, but that was not to be I guess. Ben and Rebecca seemed to be doing better at least. A lot of strong adversarial relationships developed too, all centered around keeping power. And while they all may have been about power, the conflicts with the mayor, the reverend, and Red were all very different, handled in different ways and with very different consequences but were all similar in being incredibly suspenseful.

Politics, conflicts, and more nuanced human relations during an apocalypse were the interesting parts of this series, and the second half of the series did very well in that regard. Surviving in the wild without modern luxury were not, and hence the first half was a bit boring. The entire series is worth reading for the third book alone, and overall is a decent series.

7/10