The Summoner (Chronicles of the Necromancer, #1) by Gail Z. Martin

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It’s hard to find anything to say about these books. They are pretty much a cookie cutter fantasy story from start to finish. I read a lot of fantasy, it is my go to genre alongside Sci-fi, and I feel like I’ve seen everything in this book a hundred times but better.

Martris Drake is a young prince living in a made-up land. One day his life is turned upside down when his family is attacked and only him and his (very obviously evil) brother Jared survive. Jared has aligned himself with a very powerful (also evil) mage and has taken over the kingdom. Tris runs for it accompanied by his closest friends in an attempt to travel to another kingdom for help. Adventures with bad guys and a pretty typical “coming-of-age” story ensues complete with “romance” and “excitement”.

Ok, so maybe it isn’t *that* bad, however i never felt challenged by the writing or story either. Everything went exactly the way I thought it would at every opportunity. Tris barely knows how to use his power and is constantly unsure of himself and fears what the others must think of his, however he is pretty unstoppable and awesome at it every time he tries. There isn’t any point in the story where there is true tension because you (the reader) knows he will be just fine.

There is all the usual cliched characters along as well. The jolly best friend/bard; the gruff Master of Arms; the rogue,Vahanian, who is secretly tortured by his past and has a heart of gold. The ladies are pretty dire as well. The Healer, Carina,is “spunky” and fights with the rogue (hey, I wonder if they will fall in love later?), and the Feisty Princess, Kiara, who is fighting for her country and is also super good at fighting and swordplay.

This is getting long but it was seriously depressing to me how cookie-cutter all the plots and characters were getting. I make jokes but I would like my characters to have a bit of life to them and be less two dimensional. The romance elements are laughable as well. It is all very eye-rollingly insipid. Tris and Kiara fall “in love” faster then it takes to make tea. He sees her fighting off monsters, she notices he is pretty handsome and isn’t totally sexiest about her sword fighting skills MUST BE TRUE LOVE.

This book really disappointed me. I liked the setting and her world-building is fine but everything else was so thinly characterized and cliche i could barely stand it. I read until the end because I promised the friend who recommended them to me I’d read them, but I can tell I’m in for a long slog through blandness.

Indexing by Seanan McGuire

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This was from a recommendation from a friend whose book tastes mirror my own pretty well. This friend has led me to discover some really great books, in fact. It is always a pleasure to try out a new book I might not have picked on my own.

Seanan McGuire is an author I hadn’t heard of before I started reading this book and I’m glad I read her! This story is well written and compelling. It can feel a bit episodic, but this doesn’t detract from the overall story in my opinion.

Indexing tells the story of the fictional ATI Management Bureau whose job it is to stop Fairy Tale Narratives from imposing their, well, narrative on our world. Most of the main cast is made up of people whose own fairy tale was averted, suspended, or successfully dealt with in some way so they come work for the Bureau to stop others. A bit of insanity ensues.

I said earlier that it can feel a bit disjointed, and I think that may be the biggest issue I had with it. It was first written as an Amazon Serial which means a new chapter comes out every couple of weeks/ every month. For the most part the chapters, which each usually contain one new fairy tale case, flow together pretty well. I never had an issue following the main storyline and the cases they deal with are really interesting, I actually want more stories in the world!

I really did like this story and am happy to say I plan on checking out some more of McGuire’s other works (when I get caught up on my TBR pile!)

A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong

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Karen Armstrong is a fascinating individual. In 1962, while still in her teens, she became a member of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus and remained there as a nun until she left the order in 1969 and started studying at Oxford. As an English professor in 1982 she wrote a biography of her time as a nun and soon after embarked on a career as an independent author on Comparative Religions. She  writes mostly books that attempt to investigate the historical foundations of Christianity.

She has also given some pretty amazing TED Talks that I think anyone interested in this subject should seek out as they are pretty interesting.

This book was very informative. I felt like a really learned something about the creation of the three “major” religions.

However, this is an incredibly dense book and you should maybe have at least a passing knowledge about this topic before you start. It took me a really long time to get through because I kept leaving it to read lighter books and coming back to it. I felt, in the end, that I had a clearer understanding of the worlds different religions and how they came to be. Although I don’t attend church I consider myself marginally religious and I am fascinated by religions and their histories.

Both amazing good and terrible bad has been done in the name of “God” around the world, and I find it comforting to know that there are people like Karen Armstrong in the world, arguing for peace and compassion.

I would still recommend this book (or any book by Karen Armstrong) to anyone who would like a more in-depth look at religion.