The Land was my first foray into LitRPG, and I have discovered something that I absolutely love! I think listening to the story in audio format made the experience even better. As we walk through the adventure with Richter - we experience his "dings" as he levels, as well as a few other sound effects that are NOT part of the general narration - just a few select areas that PC or console games will recognize and smile. However, if you are not a gamer of some sort, then many of the fun aspects of this book may not be as enjoyable to you.
I couldn't pinpoint any one specific game all the elements pulled from, but there were bits and pieces from several I have played over the years - from console, to PC, to tabletop. The story follows Richter - a human Chaos Seed - into a realm where the game has become real. From here we dive into an amazing fantasy story that could stand on its own (although quite a bit shorter) without the gaming references. We meet a fun variety of creatures, both friendly and otherwise, all with some very unique personalities and goals. The world itself is built slowly as Richter discovers it, but there are a few hints that it is incredibly vast and many adventures could be found.
Founding tells the story of the beginning of Richter's journey as he discovers The Land and its people. I feel like this would have been the equivalent of the first book in a campaign box set, and it wraps up rather nicely at the end with many strings closed, but leaves a few hanging out there to be pulled apart in the next book - which I am definitely getting as soon as my Audible credits are here.
I feel like this book is the real beginning of the world known as Shannara. The Legends of Shannara series starts after "our" world has ended and a small enclave of various races and creatures have taken shelter within a magical foggy shield. The world has been kept at bay as it crumbles under countless disasters, but this small group has lived in peace behind their magical walls, forming the beginnings of the kingdoms and regions I've grown to love over the vast Shannara series.
But the walls begin to crumble, and the outside world comes calling in a rather vicious and bloodthirsty way. Having been protected for so long, the people of Shannara are not prepared and don't even really believe the scouts who spotted the intruders - and the invaders. The outside world has been struggling to survive, and the formerly sheltered valley looks like a place they want to call home as well.
I found a lot of those traditional fantasy elements that I love so much. A handful of people slowly becoming a small part of 5 or 6. Different races and regions coming together, trying to save a world that doesn't even know (or want to admit) that it needs saving. Enemies and dangers hiding in plain sight and betrayal always a possibility with each new turn. By the end of the book, the lines have been drawn and many of the sides have been determined, but I haven't even gotten to the big fight yet. Things are still being prepared, and you never know what could happen next.
Inferno was such a satisfying conclusion to The Fourth Talisman series. I'm not entirely sure how she managed it, but Kat Ross wrapped up the loose ends (not always into pretty little bows - but they were wrapped up) and still managed to leave the world open for rediscovery - and I'm hoping she does takes me back there again someday.
The war is on - the world vs the Vatras. Meb was amazing and powerful and somehow still just a kid doing what needed to be done, but she stole the show here. One of the things I loved best was seeing that while she was the most powerful of her kind, she wasn't all-powerful and the shock and violence of everything really seemed to hit her.
Nazarareen needs to learn to fight another way. After her trip to the Dominion and coming back feeling a bit helpless, she struggles to find her place in the battle. Darius is there for here - he was the only character in the whole series that seemed a little too perfect at times. He always seemed to do the right thing.
The ending gave me a nice glimpse into the far future of their lives as well. Seeing how they begin to live out the rest of their days always makes these epic series stick with me a little bit longer. If you haven't read any of the books from Kat Ross - I highly encourage you to go do so now! I will be picking up The Fourth Element and The Dominion series so I can see what happened before the grand adventure of The Fourth Talisman.
**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**
About Kat Ross
Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She's the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day, the Fourth Element fantasy trilogy (The Midnight Sea, Blood of the Prophet, Queen of Chaos), and a new gaslamp mystery series that opens with The Daemoniac and continues with The Thirteenth Gate. She loves myths, monsters and doomsday scenarios. For more information about Kat's books, come visit her at katrossbooks.com.
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Nemesis brings a lot of the Fourth Talisman characters back together again - only to send them off on their own quests once again. I love how Kat Ross keeps her world so large and on such a grand scale but still manages to keep me close to the characters I've grown to love.
In Nemesis, I got to travel deep into the Kiln as Nazafareen hunts the leader of the Vatras, a man from the legends with a tie to the realm of Dominions (the underworld). I found it fascinating that we've made it into the fourth book and I seem to be just now introduced to the real bad guy - very impressive, as there were plenty of plots and plans along the way to keep everyone busy.
There were some rather surprising twists, including Javid's life at the palace under the watch of a royal addicted to spell dust (which, btw, ewww gross, but moving on) that has already gone crazy and is only going to get even more so. But all these scattered storylines are coming together in an amazing way, and I really want to see how all the threads come together.
**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**
Getting to know more about the Marakai and Valkirin was amazing! And I finally found out for sure who these mysterious Talismans are and more about their legacy. I loved the way the various tribes' cultures are so diverse, and while I see their inspirations, they are still very unique and fun to visit.
Events are unfolding rather quickly in both Nocturne and Solis, and the Vatras are breathing down the doors as they continue their hunt for the talismans as well.
One of the things that stands out the most to me is the depth of the characters. Each stands out on the own and they develop and change, adapting to the story as things change around them.
Nazafareen's purpose in the grand scheme of things is becoming more clear. And while she seems to be the "main" character, she could never get anything done without her friends and companions. Even friends that no longer travel with her, like Javid, still have major moments to play and I was really excited to see that they stay as a part of the story.
**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**
The Gypsy Morph wraps up the Genesis of Shannara trilogy quite nicely. As Hawk realizes his powers and accepts what he is and what he need to do, all the moving pieces of the book seem to be drawing together. When the various groups merge there are some missing, some unexpected additions, and a long road ahead of them.
This book was all about journies - physical and emotional. So many strings come together in one giant knot and Terry Brooks manages to unravel and lay them out before you in nice even rows. Logan Tom gets to face off with "his" demon, and I see the bloodlines that appear in so many of books finding their beginnings.
I once again loved seeing how the land of Shannara was created, and while I hated losing some characters, their loss made the saving of so many others mean that much more. As the last pages unfolded, I found myself excited to see the end/beginning and sad to watch it all go and leave it behind. And the end was quite spectacular.
On the downside, there were quite a few little errors in punctuation and a lot in capitalization.
Grainne remains one of my favorite Shannara characters through the end of this series. She has such a dynamic past and is constantly evolving to adapt to her present - trying to predict what she will need to be for her future. But she has found herself in over her head exiled in the Forbidding.
Through Straken we see the resolution of Grainne's story and the beginning of Pen's. For he has the wishsong. Their stories will draw in all of the realms in true epic fantasy style.
The war between the Federation and the Free-born is raging on, with no real win in sight. A false Ard Rhys is leading the order of the druids, and Pen has sacrificed much to help make it right. Terry Brooks somehow manages to weave all these pieces together and once again reach a satisfying - if sometimes surprising - conclusion to this era of the Shannara story.
But the door is open for more - and I know there is because they are sitting on my shelf waiting. However, one of the things I like best about these series within a series is the ability to have that satisfaction of finishing - while still knowing you get to come back for a grand new adventure soon.
I am a big fan of the Shannara world by Terry Brooks. And Grainne Ohmsford is one of the most intriguing characters I've run into in this epic fantasy series. Tanequil continues the story of her involuntarily journey into the Forbidding, a land full of demons and other nasty evil things, and her nephew Penderrin's search for a way to bring her back.
Penderrin finds himself searching for a magical talisman that will allow him to enter the Forbidding, find his aunt, and bring her back. But as any reader of epic fantasy well knows, magical talismans come with a very high price. Terry Brooks does an excellent job of showing that payment isn't always a physical sacrifice, sometimes it's emotional as well. Penderrin's experiences as he obtains the Tanequil were some of my favorite of the book.
Meanwhile, Grainne finds out the same thing in a slightly different way. Not all punishment is physical, and she begins to lose herself to the magic of the Forbidding. Enemies and allies in unexpected places really brought this realm to life. It truly is another world within Shannara, and I can see why the elves first sealed it away. I can't wait to find out if she will be the same person or something completely different by the end of the series.
The seven kingdoms, united under one ruler, have lived a life of peace and comfort since King Robert took the throne. But nothing is ever as it seems. Within the king's court there is murder and treason, with no one aware of what is really going on. Across the seas, the last remnants of the previous royal family gather forces to reclaim their throne. To the north, the unthinkable gathers, the creatures of myth and legend that have been forgotten.
The first book in the series centers around the Stark family, the lords of the northernmost part of the kingdom, and the last Targaryens. The Starks, close friends of King Robert, are quickly drawn into the turmoil at court without realizing it. The Stark children are fascinating. I find it difficult to pick a favorite of the four (five if you count Lord Stark's bastard).
The last of the Targaryens plot revenge and invasion from across the seas to reclaim their throne. Daenarys Targaryen is one of my absolute favorite characters of all time. The Princess is soft and delicate, yet hard and proud when the situation calls for it.
I find it very difficult to describe the story without giving too much away about the characters and the plot. I admire Martin's honest writing. He does not flinch from including practices that were very common in real life medieval kingdoms: murder, execution, brothels, arranged marriages, and abuse. The way he weaves it into the story only enhances the sense of realism. Now, I don't want to scare anyone away. While the times were brutal, Martin is not overly graphic in a way some writers can be. It's there for a reason, not for only for shock effect.
The kingdom sits on the brink...on the brink of war, destruction, and invasion. But no one realizes it yet. The noble families of the kingdom are about to be plunged into a web of lies and intrigue. Even the most honorable among them will find themselves doubting those they trusted the most and doing things would have never considered in the past. The peace has lasted too long and people are growing soft, but as they say, "Winter is coming." And this one promises to be long.