Bridge to an End

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Third and final in the Paladins of Shannara trilogy of short stories by Terry Brooks, The Black Irix takes place in between the events of The Sword of Shannara and The Elfstones of Shannara.

This one lies right in the middle of the trilogy personally. I liked Black Irix better than Weapon Master’s Choice, but not as much as Allanon’s Quest.

We come to Shea and Flick Ohmsford, two years after the events in the Sword of Shannara. Shea is dying from the contact with the darkness that was the Warlock Lord, and in desperation Flick goes to a medicine woman (witch?) who gives him a potion for Shea to drink and warns of one more adventure for the brothers, despite Shea’s constant vows otherwise.

So Flick feeds Shea the potion, he gets better, and lo and behold a few months later who should ride on into town? The sly, charismatic theif Panamon Creel, an old friend and comrade with a proposition: help him reclaim the Black Irix.

The Black Irix is the highest award within the Troll nation, one not lightly given out and one that essentially give the wearer political power to sway most any discussion. Their rock troll comrade Keltset was a bearer of one such award, and sadly he did not survive the adventure for the sword, being crushed in a rockslide/avalanche. It was assumed his Irix was buried with him, but a mercenary collector Kestra Chule has it, and Panama wants to steal it back to return it to Keltset’s people.  But he needs Shea and the Elfstones to do it.

So after much avowing and swearing to never go on any other adventure ever again, Shea goes on this one last one in honor and memory of their fallen comrade. And of course Flick goes with him.

So where Allanon’s Quest was like a prequel/prologue to Sword of Shannara, Black Irix is like a sequel/epilogue to the same and overall it was pretty good. My only thing is that even though it is listed as the third in the series (mostly likely due to when it was published) it’s technically the second if you consider the timeline of the world itself.

As for me, I’m on a bit of a short story kick now. We’re looking at the anthology Outtakes from the Grave next.

Indulge your love of paranormal super couple Cat and Bones with this ultimate “director’s cut” collection of deleted scenes and alternate versions from the first four novels in the Night Huntress series, complete with author commentary on each selection. Includes: the original beginnings of Halfway to the Grave, One Foot in the Grave, At Grave’s End, and Destined for an Early Grave: a chapter written in Bones’s point of view; alternate versions of sections of Halfway to the Grave, One Foot in the Grave, and Destined for an Early Grave; the “white wedding” scene between Cat and Bones that never made it into the final books…and much more!



Who Fights For the Lost?

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Second in the Paladins of Shannara, a trilogy of short stories but Terry Brooks, The Weapon Master’s Choice takes place in between the stories of The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara.

This one I did not enjoy as much as Allanon’s Quest. I think it’s partly because it’s been so long since I read either Elfstones or Wishsong I had completely forgotten who the main character Garet Jax was. I seriously was like ‘who the hell is this?!?’ for the first like two chapters of the book before I gave in a googled him and he’s just a companion to Jair Ohmsford on his in Wishsong.

But it was still good. Garet is discovered by a mysterious woman who wants his help to save her people against a warlock vampire (yeah yeah I know) and after being attacked by six men whom Garet easily kills, he is convinced to follow along and see what he can do to help her people who just so happen to live in one of the most remote and inhospitable places within the Four Lands.

But there’s always this air of mystery about her. She hides herself in her cloak, she doesn’t speak much of her people like who they are or why they have chosen to live in such a remote location.  Obviously something is up, but thankfully it’s nothing too nefarious.

I honestly skipped a lot of it because I wanted to learn her secrets and what all she was hiding. One thought was that she was a druid, or at least druid trained since she was able to do some interesting healing and combat things most other people would not be able to do but that’s never confirmed so it was a bit frustrating for me.

I liked it in that it gave a bit more into Garet Jax’s overall character (would have affected me more if I had actually remembered the dude), but there were too many things left unexplored or unexplained here that made it a bit wanting for me.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep going and finish off this particular trilogy with the Black Irix next.

An old friend urges Shea Ohmsford to take a dangerous risk in the concluding story of this gripping Shannara eBook series by New York Times bestselling fantasy master Terry Brooks.

Shea Ohmsford has had quite enough of quests. A year after surviving a harrowing odyssey, he is still plagued by troubling memories and dreams. A mysterious trafficker in spells and potions provides a restorative nostrum for the stricken Shea . . . along with a warning: Shea will break his vow to never again leave Shady Vale. And then the potion-maker’s prophecy comes to pass.

A thief, adventurer, and notoriously charismatic rogue, Panamon Creel unexpectedly appears in the Vale with a request for his long-time friend, Shea—journey into the untamed Northland, infiltrate the stronghold of a sinister dealer in stolen goods, and capture a precious artifact: the sacred Black Irix. Creel wishes to return this treasure to its rightful owners. Shea cannot refuse such a just cause. But what lies behind the black castle walls they must breach? And will this quest truly be their last?


Bridge to a Beginning

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First in the Paladins of Shannara a trilogy of short stories by Terry Brooks, Allanon’s quest takes place in between First King and Sword of Shannara.

I was so excited to read this one, it’s been a while since I have read any Shannara, let alone been excited to do so.

Allanon’s quest is…well…a story about Allanon. Right at the beginning, when he first learns that the Warlock Lord is/has returned to threaten the Four Lands again, Allanon searches for a living heir to the Shannara legacy, one who would be able to weild the sword and defeat the Warlock Lord once and for all.

We actually come into his quest for the heir almost at the end. He’s been searching a while for any living decendants of Jerle Shannara, and it’s been a good news/bad news situation.  Good news: he finds them.  Bad news: the Skull Bearers, minions of the Warlock Lord, have found them all first and killed them.

So Allanon is at the end of his rope, and it comes in the form of an old elf who once was the historian/librarian of the royal archives in Arborlon. One who has no love for his people or the world for that matter.  But kind of thankfully circumstances lead to him actually being helpful after first betraying Allanon to a Skull Bearer (not mad though since we saw some pretty cool druid abilities during that battle) before telling Allanon of one last descendant.  The last to be exact.

This story ends as Allanon rides off to find Shea, and if this was a full length novel or if it had been included with Sword of Shannara, turning the page would have had him arriving on Shea’s doorstep.

So all in all a good read. I liked this little side story focusing on my favorite druid throughout the saga, and I think it melded very well with the rest of the overall story.  Seemed almost more like a prequel than anything else.

And with that I think I’ll just rip right along and read the second one, The Weapon Master’s Choice next.

His extraordinary—and deadly—skills have earned Garet Jax renown and infamy as the man called the Weapons Master. Rootless, solitary, and endlessly sought after, he roams the Four Lands, loyal to none but himself . . . and whomever can afford his services as warrior, assassin, and avenger for hire. But Lyriana is unlike any who have come to him before: as beautiful as she is bold, as enigmatic as the distant city she is desperate to save, and possessed of an intangible, irresistible allure that entices even the hardened Garet Jax more than any amount of gold or silver ever could.
But the challenge she comes bearing may give even the celebrated Weapons Master pause. The remote city of Tajarin, Lyriana’s home, is being laid to waste by an immensely powerful and boundlessly evil warlock of the deadliest order. With the populace enslaved and no champion to stand against the invader, Tajarin will soon be wiped from the map—perhaps only the first city to fall. Whatever hope exists rests in the deft hands, lethal blades, and unerring instincts of Garet Jax. With righteous fury in his blood, and feelings he has never before known in his heart, he will face the most dire of enemies, and dare the blackest of fates, for the mysterious woman at his side—whose deepest secrets have yet to be revealed

Three in One

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So this was not what I expected it to be.  Marti Talbott’s Highlander Series Book 1 is actually a collection of three short stories focused on the lives of three different women tied together in different ways.

Anna is the abused daughter of an English nobleman who is married off against her will to a highlander lord who vows to protect her but must first get past the barriers she has erected to protect herself.

Rachael is Anna’s little sister, rescued from a house of horrors and now grown enough to begin her own search for a mate, although she is more interested in sneaking around and putting her life on the line to save her clan than she is in settling down.

Charlet is wanted by English and Highlander alike, famed across the land for her beauty.  As an adopted member of Anna and Rachael’s clan, it is up to them to keep her safe from those who would use thy mysterious circumstances of her birth to further their own ends.

Anna’s story I LOVED. I was so excited to read about Rachael and Charlet, but they really let me down.  For whatever reason I was not engaging with them as well as I did with Anna, and I would up skimming most of their tales.

I think part of the disconnect is the fact that they all followed the same formula.  Independent female, female abused and left helpless, male comes along to help, gets protective, they fight over it, she falls for him, he puffs his chest.

Like all three of them followed that exact pattern.  Maybe if the plots had varied a wee bit I might have been more interested, but as it was this is another one I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for as it was one of the free books I got off the Kobo site.

I’ll get to finish Maestro eventually, but before that I found a few Shannara short stories in ebook form so I want to get through those real quick.  Allanon’s Quest, first in the Paladin’s of Shannara series is next.

The history is thus: The once-Druid Brona, seduced by his pursuit of dark magic, was forever transformed into the Warlock Lord—whose evil would be the downfall of the Four Lands and the death of the Races. Against him, the Elven King Jerle Shannara wielded the fabled sword that bore his surname and triumphed. Or so it was believed. But though the Dark Lord was driven out . . . he was not destroyed.
The Druid Allanon knows only too well the prophecy passed down to him by his late master: that eventually the Warlock Lord will return. Now, after hundreds of years, that day seems imminent. And the time is at hand for the Sword of Shannara to once more be brought forth from its sanctuary to serve its ancient purpose. All that remains is for a blood descendent of the Elven house of Shannara to carry the blade into battle.
With ever more portents of doom on the horizon, Allanon must seek out the last remaining Shannara heir, who alone will bear the burden of defending the Four Lands’ destiny. But with agents of darkness closing in from behind, unexpected enemies lying in wait ahead, and treachery encroaching on every side, there can be no certainty of success. Nor any assurance that this desperate quest will not be the Druid’s last.

Squire by Day Thief by Night

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Ok I promise this is the last one for Ja No Read Mo this year.

Knight Errant is the latest in the Dragon Age graphic novel franchise. I can’t really say which one as there seems to be like 3 different series out there, so I’ll just leave it there as the newest one.

Vaea is a young elven squire to a human knight of Fereldan. A knight who as he puts it ‘served two kings and tells tales for a third’ and owes no fealty to any lord.  Rather he just goes around telling tales and doing his best to make the world a little bit better.

Vaea and her knight crossed paths when humans cut down the tree of her alienage and attempted to slaughter all within when her friends and neighbours took umbrage with the desecration of their sacred traditions.

It would have worked too if her knight had not come along and talked the bloodshed down, taking her on as a squire when he saw her heartbroken at the loss of her uncle, the only family member she had left in the world.

So now Vaea and her knight travel and tell stories, and where they travel Vaea does a little light thievery from those who can afford it and gives it to those who need it. They travel first to Kirkwall to see Varric appointed Viscount (OMG I HOPE THAT HAPPENS FOR DA4!!!!) before the Inquisition steps in and send them off to Starkhaven (I HOPE THAT HAPPENS TOO!!!) to save some agents and some information from falling into the wrong hands.

I really liked this one, but then again it’s Dragon Age so that was pretty much guaranteed. What I liked MOST was the mix of game history and fan hopes, it would be interesting to see what if any of this comes through for the next game installment.

Alright! That’s all she wrote for this year folks!  Thanks for hanging in there and we’ll see ya next time!

An Orchid By Any Other Name…

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Yeah this one was not for me. It has zero interest in this book, I just flipped and skimmed right through until the end.

First in the Passport to Romance series by Anthea Lawson, we are introduced to Lily Strathmore, a daughter of London wealth and power. Her mother is determined to make a great match for her against her will, and Lily decides to go along with it rather than be forced to care for her parents as they age. But she wants one more adventure before she settles down, so being an accomplished artist and botanical illustrator, she followers her uncle, a botanist, to Africa I think? As he in turns follows one James Huntington as young James follows in HIS turn his botanist grandfather’s footsteps to locate a brand new species of flower the grandfather discovered but was never able to bring back before he died.

Bling leading blind leading blind.

It was just a boring, drawn out tale. And I think the biggest peeve for me was the capitalization on words that did not make sense. Like when talking about London society, it was ‘Society’ with a capital S, stuff like that which did not need that kind of emphasis and would have been caught out with a better editor at publication.

Oh well, it’s over and done and I’m glad for it.

One more for Jan No Read Mo and I swear that’s it. I almost forget I read this one the other week, the latest in the Dragon Age graphic novel franchise Knight Errant is next.

Elven squire Vaea and her knight arrive in Kirkwall for Varric Tethras’s appointment as viscount. A talented thief, Vaea takes on an easy job . . . but when she chooses to change the terms of the deal midheist, she is entangled in a dangerous mission that is surely above her pay grade.

West Coast Bound

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I should have known better for this one. Sadly I did not realize until after reading that this is the same author that wrote Silver Storm and I didn’t enjoy that one much either in the end.

Brighter than Gold, first in the Rogues Go West series by Cynthia Wright was pretty good at first, just like Silver Storm. Thankfully I enjoyed this one more since the featured couple weren’t ‘I’m going to slit your throat in your sleep’ hostile with each other, and even then the hostility that was there was one sided.  Our heroine Katie Mackenzie does not much care for our gold digging hero Jack Adams, a point she makes blatantly clear to him but is also equally clear to us that it’s more of a defense mechanism than anything else.

Jack Adams meanwhile, is hiding like 3 lives. One as the editor (owner?) of a highly successful paper in San Francisco, one as the infamous outlaw The Griffon, and one as lowly western country boy Jack Adams. My what tangled webs this one weaves, and how he gets trapped in his own threads when he tries to untangle himself.

And he almost loses the woman he loves when he marries her, brings her back to San Francisco and expects his wild desert flower to play the part of the dutiful society wife. At first the two fight over this, but I love the revenge she gets.  Instead of throwing hissy fits, she is determined to be the best societal wife ever, to the point where she does not have time for him and he’s forced to come crawling back to her all ‘ok…yeah…I effed up.  My bad.’

SUCH a better ending than Silver Storm. Yeah the man was an ass, but in the end she stood up for herself, he apologized, and they began working on their relationship together.  THAT is the kind of ending I like.

Well one more to go and I think it’s the end of Ja No Read Mo 2018. Fortune’s Flower, book 1 in the Passport to Romance series by Anthea Lawson next.

Before she must wed, Lily Strathmore decides upon one final adventure – a botanical expedition through the wilds of North Africa with her uncle and his family. In search of a fabled bloom, James Huntington soon joins them. Handsome to a fault and rakish to boot, he has the maddening habit of catching Lily at her most improper. And his sensual kisses are only the beginning of their passionate intimacy…Huntington finds the beautiful Miss Strathmore impossible to resist. With each passing day, their desire for each other grows. And in his wildest dreams, Lily is his – and his alone. Forever…

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