Comic Book Review: Empress #1

Synopsis:

Imagine you’re married to the worst bad guy from your favorite sci-fi movie. An alien dictator feared throughout the universe, who will kill you if you leave — but you need to escape for the sake of your three children. All you have are your wits, your bodyguard, and three guns.

What I First Thought:

I found this comic one day when I went with my boyfriend and his family to their local comic book store. They had the first four issues and it looked interesting enough, so I grabbed it. I’m still new to comic books, I still haven’t quite figured out how to judge whether or not I’ll like it before buying it. This time I went with my gut, so hopefully that was enough!

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

I loved Stuart Immonen’s art! Not going to lie, but at first I was a little leery about the heroine’s character design because from the cover it looked like she would be an unrealistic “space babe”. After seeing the artwork, time and again Emporia was portrayed with realistic body proportions that weren’t too over the top. I think what I liked most about the artwork is that it already appears pretty smooth, some of the past comics I’ve read were a little rough in the beginning. Every line has a purpose, the scenes aren’t cluttered with too much detail, there’s just enough to give the readers all the information they need. The action sequences weren’t overcrowded or overpowered, just enough explosions when needed.

Story: 4/5

This was a pretty good beginning to the series. I’m really intrigued with the setting of this story. The story is set 65 million years ago with dinosaurs, aliens, and space travel; to date I don’t think I’ve ever read a story (outside of watching those few episodes of Doctor Who) in which those three are combined. I’m excited to see where Millar will do with this setting. Already I’ve seen a T-Rex fighting in an arena and a ship having to avoid a flock (?) of pterodactyls, but will there be more to it and will the dinosaurs actually play some sort of role in the story.

This story had just enough information to keep me from getting lost, but still left me with questions. I would’ve liked for a little more background, but I think that’s more my speed. I’m still curious to see what happens next!

Overall: 4.5

Details:

Title: Empress

Issue: 1

Publisher: Icon

Writer: Mark Millar

Illustrator: Stuart Immonen

Colors: Ive Svorcina

Letters: Peter Doherty

Released Date: April 6, 2016

Pages: 32

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera

Manga Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (vol.1)

Details:

Title: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Vol. 1)

Chapters: 1-4

Written by: Magica Quartet 

Artist: Hanokage

Translation/Adaptation: William Flanagan

Lettering: Alexis Eckerman

Publisher:  Yen Press

Published: February 12, 2011

Pages: 144

Genre: Manga, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Young Adult

Synopsis:

            When a new girl joins her class, Madoka Kaname thinks she recognize the mysterious, dark-haired transfer student from one of her dreams…a dream where she is approached by a catlike creature who offers Madoka an opportunity to change destiny. Madoka had always thought magic was stuff of fantasy…until she sees the transfer student fighting with the very cat being from her dream! And just like in Madoka’s dream, the cat gives her a choice. Will Madoka become a magical girl in exchange for her dearest desire? What will be the cost of having her wish come true?

What I First Thought:

            Last year my roommate convinced me to watch this show with her. The anime was fascinating and it broke me. When I found it on a shelf at my local Barnes & Noble I decided to read the manga, just to see how it compared to the anime.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

5/5

            I thought I was prepared enough when I read volume 1, because I had watched the anime, I thought that the big plot points wouldn’t affect me as much the second time. Oh, boy was I wrong! Nothing really changed, this volume is a pretty good adaptation of the first few episodes of the anime. With that said, I still squirmed at the same spots as the anime, and some of the emotional scenes actually affected me more than when I viewed it the first time. There were little changes between anime and manga, mostly in little character designs such as added weapons and minions.

I’m a little on the fence about the magical girl genre, mostly because if it’s not done just right then I end up hating the idea all together. I was drawn into this idea, however, because I heard it was a different, darker take on the genre, and they weren’t kidding either. Don’t let the cover fool you, this isn’t some cutesy story that’ll make you feel all good at the end of the day. It’s a story that will burrow in your head and remake you think about somethings that you might’ve thought were pretty solid.

I really enjoyed reading this volume and seeing the characters again. It has a really cutesy art style that may be a turn off for some, but it serves a purpose. Again, it’s not a super cute story like a lot of the magical girl stories are, it may look the part but beyond that it’s vastly different. I found it interesting how the artist took the scenes from the anime, because in the anime there’s a lot of psychedelic animation that was really trippy to look at. A lot of that feeling I think was lost from screen to page, but I loved how the artist still brought a lot of creativity from those scenes to life.

I don’t recommend this manga to the faint of heart. It’s gory with a lot of false hope and questions that aren’t answered until later. Some of the characters may seem a little cliché now, which may be a turn off for some people, but by the end they won’t be. If you want something different, and don’t mind a dark, hopeless story, then this manga may be for you!

Manga Review: The Seven Deadly Sins vol. 5

the-seven-deadly-sins-vol5Details:

Title: The Seven Deadly Sins (Vol. 5)

Chapters: 30-37, plus a bonus storie!

Written by: Nakaba Suzuki

Artist: Nakaba Suzuki

Translation/Adaptation: Christine Dashiell

Lettering: James Dashiell

Publisher:  Kodansha Comics

Published: November 11, 2014

Pages: 192

Genre: Manga, Historical-Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Young Adult, Romance

Synopsis:

It’s A Showdown!

Four of the Sins have been reunited and it feels almost so good. Entering a fighting tournament where the grand prize is Diane’s weapon, the unthinkable happens when the Sins and Holy Knights clash on stage! But who is the other faction of Holy Knights, dubbed the “New Generation”, and what could this monstrous group of demon-like knights be planning?

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

This volume is centered on a tournament with a few flashbacks that add depth to our characters. As tournaments go, this one isn’t really different, especially when it comes to manga. There are some really over powered players and some that are in really far over their heads. Still, the tournament is rather fun to read, mostly for the various commentary between the contestants. We get to see some new and old Holy Knights with this volume shedding some more light on some of the older ones. The one thing that really bugged me was Griamore’s ever changing body size; I swear, every time we see him in a new panel his body gets larger and he has more ripped muscles that don’t actually exist on the human body. Don’t get me wrong, I love the character, but the inconsistency kept drawing me away from the action, especially when his head looked so tiny compared to the rest of him. In this volume we also get to see more of Elizabeth and her relationships with the people around her, especially more development between her and Meliodas. I do have to warn some people though, if you’re uncomfortable with fan service this volume may be a bit tough for you to read because there is a lot more of it. There’s also a bit more gore, so this is not a read for the faint of heart.

(Audio)Book Review: Rebel of the Sands

rebel-of-the-sands

Details:

Title: Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)

Author:  Alwyn Hamilton

Narrator:  Soneela Nankani

Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc.

Release Date: March 8th 2016

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Romance

Play time: 9 hr and 31 min

Synopsis:

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

My First Thoughts:

I’ve been looking for a good book to listen to on my way to campus and on my long walks to my classes. I haven’t read very many books, fantasy or otherwise, with a Middle Eastern tone, so I was excited to give this book a try.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

For a debut novel, Rebel of the Sands was pretty good. It wasn’t squeaky clean and shiny, but it was a good start to a series for a first time author. And for one of the first stories that I’ve read with a heavy Middle Eastern theme, it has given me a taste for more.

I think my favorite part about this book was the journey. Looking back on some of the other review for this book people found the first part to e rather boring. Honestly, it was really refreshing to listen to a story about an unfortunate heroine that isn’t rushing at the chance to save the world, like so many popular YA do. People complained that there was no plot to this story and I have to argue against that. Rebel of the Sands reads like the classic hero’s journey. In fact, while I listened to the story progress I often had thoughts about Luke Skywalker and his hero’s journey.

Yes, the first part of the book can be very long to some readers who don’t care much for build. There’s a lot of action and character development in the first half of the story, but sometimes you just have to sit back and let the story wash over you. I found the ‘boring’ part of the story to be very interesting because the author took this time to try and introduce the larger world that she created for her characters. I promise that there is plot from beginning to end, it’s just a lot of the beginning of the plot is to subtly (and realistically) change the heroine into someone who looks out for herself only to someone who looks out for others. I found Amani’s journey to be quite interesting and I enjoyed listening to how she changed throughout the story.

For those willing to sift through the first part of the book (I promise, it’s not that bad but a lot of “big” reviewers have said otherwise) the second part of the story picks up the pace pretty quickly. Honestly, I got through that half a lot more quickly than the first, but mostly because I was not aware of how much time would pass when I listened. The change in pace wasn’t sudden, there was a nice easy transition that didn’t give you whiplash. However, one it really starts to pick up it’s really hard to put it down. Several times I had to remind myself that I had to get out of the car to go inside or that I needed to get homework done.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the characters and their development. Each character was just a little bit different and the author didn’t have to spend a lot of time showing us their personalities. Even the minor characters were easily discernable and could be imagined easily, which was nice because you meet a lot of them in rapid succession in the second half. Yes, our main character are a little bit cliché, but they were extremely enjoyable to follow!

Speaking of clichés, another gripe other reviewers had with this book was that it was riddled with overused themes in YA books. Honestly, it’s really hard to write a YA book without working in clichés into the story, it’s nearly impossible because every good idea has been used in thousands of books across the genres. With that said, this book actually didn’t have very many glaring clichés you might find in a debut novel. Yes, some of the things about the characters were a little cliché, but honestly they only appeared that way and the author slowly revealed why she wrote her characters that way. Could it have been written a little better? Yes, but for a first attempt at a bestselling novel, the author did a pretty good job of it.

The last thing I’ll talk about is the world building. One thing I love more than character development is world building, especially in fantasy or sci-fi where an author has the most range. While this book reads very much like it has a Middle Eastern setting, it is nothing like I’ve ever read. I really enjoyed being submersed in the sand with the characters, hearing stories about the county’s mythos along with them, it made my walks onto campus and to class seem almost mystical. The author’s world is more than just sand and sun, it was so much more and I loved seeing through my mind’s eye what it must’ve looked like. I can’t wait to see how the author expands her fantastical world in the rest of the series, especially as she grows as a writer!

 

Final Thoughts:

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to travel to a different place all together. I’ve read a lot of fantasies, but they normally spend a majority of the time in a very European-like setting where the characters visit ‘exotic’ places or deserts briefly, so it’s refreshing to read one set within the desert. The magic and mythos of the land is also different from what I’ve read before, so it could be a lot of fun if you’re looking for something fresh, something new.

I will have to say that this story does have some Western themes, which was a little odd for me at first because it didn’t seem to fit quite right in my mind. However, as the story plans out those themes add to the story and really help develop some of the characters. It does make some sequences in the story seem unbearably why, and some of you might ask why these scenes are needed. Trust me, the long sequences are very much needed but they dominate a lot of the first half of the story so it may be a little hard to get through that first bit.

Rating(s):

Story: 4/5

This story was pretty solid, definitely an excellent first attempt for a new author! I loved the settling, the overarching world, the characters, and even some of the clichés. I also enjoyed being surprised from time to time. There were some major reveals that I didn’t see coming or saw almost a little too late, which is always exciting for me. This book won’t be for everyone, but I bet that those who do enjoy it will have a lot of fun reading it. I can’t wait for the next installment!

Narration: 4/5

I really enjoyed Ms. Nankani’s narration of this story. I felt like Amani and her journey really came alive as she spoke. Sometimes her male voices were a little rough, especially when they were conveying certain strong emotions. However, I do understand that it can be hard for women to variate male voices. Overall, she was fantastic and can’t wait to hear her read the sequel!

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

3Details:

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Author: J. K. Rowling

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date:  October 1998 (American Edition)

Genre: Fantasy, Childrens-Middle Grade, Novel

Pages: 309

Synopsis:

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a room far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to harch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable.

For it’s there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him… if Harry can survive the encounter.

My First Thoughts:

When I was about to read this book for the very first time, I was seven years old and bullied constantly at my Catholic school for being too smart—especially when it came to reading. My second-grade teacher had also already deducted points from a book report I had written because the book I read was “too advanced.” My mom gave it to me time and time again, but I refused to read it. I remember saying that it was going to be too hard to read, but I knew that I just didn’t want to be seen at school carrying such a large book when I was already being bullied and getting marked down for reading things that were above my grade level. Eventually, on a trip to Ocean City with my family, my mom wore me down and I read the first page.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I will forever be thankful my mom was so adamant I read this book. As a bullied little girl with a single friend and a lot of insecurities, I connected with Harry and his friends almost immediately. I remember the writing being a little hard for me to read at the time, but it was accessible enough for me to enjoy and understand. I started reading the book and I couldn’t put it down. I spent the next three or four weeks (I was seven and reading a book several years above my reading level, so it took me a while to read) taking this book with me everywhere. I went from being so concerned to starting this book because someone I knew may see my reading it and make fun of me to not caring in the slightest because I had to know what was going to happen when Draco challenge Harry and Ron to a duel, or when Hagrid got his hands on a dragon’s egg, or what was going to happen when the trio went down the trap-door in the forbidden corridor. Being “too smart” for my teachers and peers… not fitting in—it didn’t matter anymore—not when I had Hogwarts just a page turn away. Now, as an adult, I still find Hogwarts is my favorite place to go when I’m bored, or stressed, or just needing to refocus.

I do not praise Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone so highly only because of sentimentality. One of the most important things an author can do with their words is show their readers everything that is happening in the story rather than simply telling them. It is a difficult, subtle skill that too few authors possess. J. K. Rowling, however, has done an amazing job showing me everything in the story, from the spiders lining the roof of Harry’s cupboard under the stairs, to the majesty of Hogwarts castle through the seasons, to the bushy curls of Hermione’s hair, to the freckles on each of the Weasleys’ noses. Every character has life, every setting has scale, and every season has breath through Rowling’s descriptions. This book has so much detail in it that every time I read it I discover something new, but I’ve never felt overwhelmed by it. Over the years, it has felt like every time I gain new information from the book it isn’t because I missed it before, it is because I’ve reached a different point in my life and it matters more to me now.

The most important thing to me, however, is an author’s characters and their development. I’ve already stated in this article how I quickly connected with Harry, but his development over the book is remarkable. Taken from an abusive home and thrust into fame, he handles it with confusion, humility, and some incredulity. He is sarcastic but caring, hard working and kind. Harry isn’t perfect, though. He seeks revenge and slacks off in some of his classes. He breaks rules and makes many poor choices. He isn’t even my favorite character of the book! My favorite character is Hermione, the know-it-all bookworm. The girl who had issues relating to her peers, but had an answer for everything, and always had her nose in a book… with the situation that I was in personally, how could I not relate? Especially since that wasn’t all she was, and as much as being smart and studious was a good character trait, being a know-it-all caused her relationships with peers and certain teachers to suffer. The highest praise that I feel I can give characters and character relationships in books is that they feel as real as the people and relationships I experience in the real world.

All this praise does not mean that this book is without its flaws. It does take a while for the story to feel like it has gotten started. Hagrid doesn’t even show up until chapter 4, and we don’t get to Hogwarts until chapter 7. The very end of the book is quite exposition heavy in a “let’s sum up everything that happened because you were comatose” way. But these flaws are minor in the grand scheme of the book.

Final Thoughts:

A sign of truly good children’s literature is that it can be read and enjoyed thoroughly by adults, and I feel that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a prime example of that. I will whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it. I know that it has been a source of controversy since its release, but I have found that everyone I have ever talked to that held the negative opinions about Harry Potter and its devotion to witchcraft had never actually read the book. Harry does not go to Hogwarts so Rowling can teach children how to follow the occult, he exists in a world of magic that makes impossible situations suddenly probable.

Rating(s):

5/5

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone will always hold a special place in my heart as the book that helped me to accept myself and embrace my love of reading. It’s helped me to stay true to who I am and to discover who I am. I will forever love this book.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Kyle Evans and the Key to the Universe

kyle-evans-is-shitNOTICE: I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Kyle Evans and the Key to the Universe

Author: Rob H Hunt

Illustrator: James Chapman

Publisher: self-published

Release Date:  March 2nd 2016 

Genre: Action/Adventure,  Science fiction, Middle Reader

Pages: 166

Synopsis:

Some kids love adventure, and dream of being a hero. Ten-year-old Kyle Evans is not one of those kids, but when a giant hole appears in his bedroom and swallows his mom, a hero is what Kyle must become. Kyle sets out on the journey of a lifetime, and discovers along the way that Battle Droids are scarier than Search Droids, Kranken are more terrifying than either of these, and you should never stand still near a Burgly Bug. But more important than any of this, Kyle learns that sometimes a cat is not just a cat. Kyle Evans and The Key to The Universe is the first book in an exciting adventure trilogy that takes a boy, his cat and his friend Sofia across the universe, gradually revealing their amazing destiny

My First Thoughts:

I’m always looking for a good science fiction book, especially one that is geared toward children, so I was rather excited to read and review another children’s book.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. The story held promise, and I really did want to see how everything panned out. However, it took me more time than I want to admit to finish this book. After almost every chapter I put the book down to briefly do something else, and the chapters weren’t very long. The writing couldn’t hold my interest long, I wanted to read more of the story, but I felt like the writing was constantly pulling me out.

The dialogue was stiff. I felt no chemistry between the characters, and even less so when they were speaking to each other. None of the conversations flowed naturally and it was a bit painful to read sometimes. Now, I understand that most children in upper elementary school or lower middle school won’t care about the dialogue, but that shouldn’t stop an author from writing good, or even decent, conversations between characters.

I found the main character Kyle to be rather annoying by the end of the story. At first he was interesting because he was a young kid how didn’t like adventures, like a less proper and very young Bilbo Baggins. However, you don’t really see a clear transition out of that phase for his character. Instead, he is constantly being thrown into these actin roles with very little thought except for helping his cat. Cool, that’s great. I love cats and characters who protect their cats are awesome in my book, but the author missed some great opportunities for good character development for Kyle. Again, how many kids are looking very closely at character development? Not very many, but kids do pick up on the subtle messages in what they hear and read, so things like good character development that makes sense is always needed, no matter what the age group is. He annoyed me because no matter how many times he encountered something strange or out-of-this-world he always had a major freak out about it or had a hard time grasping the issue at hand.

Sophia was a little better. She is his supposed best friend that shows up early in the book but doesn’t actually have a real role until about three quarter of the way through. But she’s on the cover, right? Yes, she’s the girl on the cover but most of the story is over with by the time she’s really apart of the action. She  handled the weirdness a lot better than Kyle, unfortunately, she handled it a little too well for a 10 year old. My one big complaint was that you don’t find out a lot about Sophia, you just pick up that she speaks Spanish and are told that she’s Kyle’s best friend, but I don’t really see it.

The one character that I enjoyed the most was Bootles. To me, he read like the cat version of David Tennant’s Doctor Who. He was highly intelligent, spoke a lot and went of on odd tangents that somehow made it back to the main idea. However, he still bothered me because he spoke of things that no average 10 year old would have a real concept of and constantly confused Kyle, which got real old real fast. One example is that he spoke of endothermic and exothermic reactions and how metals react to acetic acid. Not very many children would know about acetic acid, let alone it’s reactions to metal. He is an interesting character, but I feel like this isn’t the book for this character. In fact, I believe that Bootles would be better suited for a Young Adult novel instead of a Middle Reader.

My main problems were the about the dialogue and the chemistry between the characters. I enjoyed the concept of the story and the action was entertaining and flowed rather smoothly for the most part.  Honestly, I believe that this story is fine for young readers but it isn’t the best. The greatest kids books are able to capture and hold the attention of adults, and this book had a hard time holding my attention.

Ratings:

2/5

Overall I believe that this book would be an interesting read for young readers. There’s a lot of action and fun illustrations to go along with the story that would entertain them for a while. This may prove to be a good gift to any child, though probably those ten or younger. It would be especially good for any young reader that may be interested in Sci-fi literature, because I believe that it serves as a great gateway book to other science fiction novels. There’s no overall message with this story, not even a minor lesson. This is just basically a way to keep kids quiet for a few hours or more.

For anyone older than ten, this may prove to be a difficult read. The dialogue is unnatural and the characters don’t really fit together as well as they should. There are other story elements that are a bit subpar that older readers would pick up on rather quickly. For people with experience with page layout and design, don’t pick this book up because it will drive you insane just looking at it.

Book Review: Trampling in the Land of Woe

NOTICE: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

trampling-in-the-land-of-woeDetails:

Title: Trampling in the Land of Woe (The Patron Saints of Hell #1)

Author: William L.J. Galaini

Publisher: Scarlet River Press

Release Date: September 14, 2015

Genre(s): Fantasy, Steampunk, Horror, Adventure

Pages: 204 (eBook)

Synopsis:

As World War I rages on Earth, Hephaestion, lauded general and soul mate of Alexander the Great—and now a citizen of Purgatory—embarks on the darkest, most challenging journey of his existence: descending into The Pit of Hell to rescue his king. Chased by Hellbeasts, hunted by Jesuits, and aided by unexpected allies, Hephaestion tests the bounds of loyalty, dedication, and even death as he faces the greatest demon of all: himself. A blend of steampunk and Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, Trampling in the Land of Woe drives through the cobblestoned streets of New Dis, soars above The Pit in airships, and then stumbles down into the terror-ridden rings themselves. Steam-powered trains, zeppelins, and ornithopters zoom by in a mash-up of literary proportions, all to answer one question: What will one man do to understand the meaning of love and truth?

What I First Thought:

I’m always up for reading any story that deals with historical events and characters, especially ones that I know and love learning about. I have read stories before with queer characters and I’ve read stories that mentions or briefly show the love between two characters of the same sex. However, I have yet to read a story that focuses solely on a queer main character and their love for another. I’ve been interested in a while, and I’ve really wanted to broaden my personal library with queer fiction, especially after reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and getting interested in her other book Carry On. However, I have yet to find the latter and I haven’t had the time (or money) really to comb through the shelves for those kinds of books. So I was rather excited when I was offered a chance to read and review Trampling in the Land of Woe. It was an added bonus that it was about Alexander the Great and his famed lover, and dearest friend, Hespaestion!

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

The first thing I want to say is daaaaaaaaaamn! This story is overflowing with creativity and imagination that outshines almost everything that I have ever read. The author’s depiction of Hell and how it changed with the times on Earth was absolutely fascinating. I loved how the author mixed old and new technologies together so effortlessly, creating wonderful images of blimps and old fashion naval ships with steel parts.

Galaini’s depiction of Hell and ascension was fascinating to read and  definitely made me think. It was nice to see that characters from any religion could make it into Heaven, really outlining the idea the importance of people’s good deeds in life and not their core beliefs. It was also refreshing to read of people who ascended to Heaven after they spent time in Purgatory or Hell, that where you end up in death doesn’t have to be the eternal. All of these things, while appearing in a work of fiction, are definitely interesting food for thought.

I believe my favorite part of this story was meeting all the various characters that appeared in Heph’s journey. You meet Vikings, Jews, Celts, old Christian abbots, characters from fallen empires, and characters who predate the Egyptians. The minor characters were always fun to read and interesting to read about, especially the female characters. Out of the entire cast of characters, almost all of the female characters that were mentioned were totally over-powered and badass in their own way, with magic, great weaponry, and fantastical tools. I can’t really tell you who my favorite character was without giving any spoilers, but they’re all pretty fantastic and they each had an interesting role to play in the story and Heph’s overall journey through Hell.

Heph’s journey through the story was rather interesting to read, even though his main goal seems to be doomed to fail, even from the start. It was a rather bumpy ride from start to finish, mostly because our Hero has decided to take on a nearly impossible task and everyone keeps telling him that he won’t succeed. Almost everyone he meets tries to persuade him to move on from his love for Alexander, to dissuade him from descending into Hell to find him, but they always help him out in some way. I find that to be rather interesting, because in most books those kinds of characters only serve one purpose and it’s to distract the Hero from their journey. However, most of these characters in Trampling in the Land of Woe are also Heph’s greatest allies and friends, helping him in whatever way they could. Heph’s journey into the deepest parts of Hell was interesting to read because of the characters he met, the people who helped or opposed him, and the wonderfully imaginative depictions of the Rings of Hell. Heph’s personal odyssey to find Alexander the Great was one that I had mixed feelings about, and I’m still not sure whether I cared for it. His travels were rather exciting and wonderful to read, especially with the author’s unique voice and descriptions. However, there was so much build up, build up, build up that when you think you got to the final conflict and it’s over within a few pages, you’re suffering from whiplash, and there’s still more to read. All of the last twenty pages pretty much left me feeling unsettled, which may or may not have been the author’s purpose.

While the resolution of the story was unsettling and still leaving me to wonder how I actually feel about it, I still liked reading about the progress that Heph’s character made. It was interesting to see how his character transformed from being single-mindedly driven to thinking beyond his love and loyalty to Alexander. And while I couldn’t really connect with Hespaestion, his overall character journey was nice to read about.

Final Thoughts:

As my first queer fiction, I enjoyed it and felt that it was rather tame. Overall there’s no romance in this story, just in the flashbacks that Hespaestion has to when he was alive. Those memories were actually rather sweet, for the most part, and I really enjoyed reading about their loving actions and adventures. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, who like me, wants to broaden their shelves and read something out of the norm for them. It is rather tame in the queer romance, so I believe can serve as a nice stepping stone into harder queer fiction.

The story is rather gory in some places, and I actually squirmed at some of the descriptions. This may be a turn off for some readers, while other may like it. For those sensitive to gore, I would definitely not try to read this before bed if you decide to give this book a try. For those who love gore, this book probably won’t phase you and may prove to be rather fun.

This book is a fantastic read for anyone who wants to get into the Halloween mood. There’s hideous monsters, torture, and grotesque scenes that all really fit with the Hell scenery.

I would also recommend this book to anyone who wants a good, imaginative story. The author’s imagination is spectacular and his writing ability really helps flesh out that imagination. The characters are very unique and come from all walks of life, lending interesting advise and beautiful quotes. Really, this could be a great read for anyone that isn’t squeamish about gore or queer main characters.

Rating:

4/5

Overall this story was fantastic. I loved reading the book, for the most part, and enjoyed all of the minor characters, and the work and creativity that went with it. Galaini had a wonderful writing style and his descriptions of everything were breath taking, making it easy for my brain to paint the story. I would have given Trampling in the Land of Woe full marks, but the conclusion left me unsettled and I just couldn’t relate to Hespaestion. Some of the minor characters I really liked and I related to them more, but their time in the story was too brief for my taste. However, I feel like this story was still pretty good and was definitely not your typical Hero’s Journey. I think I’ll be sticking around and seeing what other books in this series will bring.