Book: Death Weavers (Five Kingdoms, Book 4)

"Death Weavers"

Cole is about to face his biggest peril yet.

Since arriving in the Outskirts, Cole and his friends have fought monsters, challenged knights, and battled rampaging robots. But none of that has prepared them Necronum.

In this haunting kingdom, it’s hard to tell the living from the dead, and secret pacts carry terrifying dangers. Within Necronum lies the echolands, a way station for the departed, where the living seldom venture.

Still separated from his power, Cole must cross to the echolands and rely on his instincts to help rescue his friends. With enemies closing in, Cole risks losing everything to find the one thing that might save them.

Before I begin, I must warn whoever is reading this that I’m not going to hold back on spoilers. So if you’re planning on picking the book up, I suggest clicking away and coming back once you’ve finished the fourth installment off Brandon Mull’s Five Kingdoms series. Now, with that out of the way–

I actually don’t know if I liked Mull’s penultimate book to his current series. I mean, leading up to the finale, Death Weavers definitely ups the stakes and does a good job at building the tension. But at the same time, it feels a bit… much.

Now, I praised Crystal Keepers for breaking out of the Mull mold. It didn’t feel like it was a part of the Fablehaven series, and it was very different from the Beyonders trilogy. And the best part? It continued the Five Kingdoms story without being a carbon copy of the two books that preceded it–whilst standing out as its own story. Unfortunately, in Death Weavers, Mull zags again by doubling down on the fantastical countryside capers.

And not only is the fourth book back on fantasy ground, Mull actually brings back a lot of characters from earlier books–and even a couple from the Beyonders trilogy.

The thing here is: when Drake and Ferrin, both well-loved characters from the Beyonders books, first popped up? I thought it was a great way of establishing where and what the Outskirts was. And then they joined the adventure. Which would’ve been great had it been necessary for them to be part of the adventure. It wasn’t. Mull could’ve created new characters to join them, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Their inclusion, by book’s end, felt more like fan service than a story necessity.

Then there’s the cop out with Destiny.

See, in each book, Cole Randolph is saving one princess at a time. In this book, he’s supposed to save and protect the youngest princess, Destiny, from the bad guys who want to take her power. When Cole finally finds Destiny, they immediately get cornered by bad guys. Which was a good plot development, I thought. Then Destiny jumped into the river where no one comes out off, and I was floored. It was a risky move. Especially for a Young Adult adventure book. I loved it because it presents new problems, and it will definitely develop the characters as they confront an important death–in the book that has the theme of death hovering over everyone!

And then Cole saves her.

This is when I started disliking the character of Cole. I know he’s supposed to be the all-powerful savior, and the hero to the entire series–but, it’s hard to root for a guy you know will end up winning in the end. Sure he makes mistakes, but he doesn’t really experience loss. And that makes for a pretty crappy hero’s journey.

Of course, with this being the second-to-last book off the series, I’m still definitely picking the next book up to see how it all gets wrapped up; but I must say that the Five Kingdoms isn’t living up to the legacy of the Beyonders trilogy. The world feels half-formed, and the characters don’t feel like real people most of the time. The villains are still vague, and we’re already four books in–and although they’re all said to be scary, none of them feels threatening because of how powerful our main protagonist is.

I guess I have made my mind up about Death Weavers after all.

It’s a pretty disappointing book overall, even if it does do its job of building up the finale.

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Book: The Blood of Olympus

"The Blood of Olympus"

Nico had warned them. Going through the House of Hades would stir the demigods’ worst memories. Their ghosts would become restless. Nico may actually become a ghost if he has to shadow-travel with Reyna and Coach Hedge one more time. But that might be better than the alternative: allowing someone else to die, as Hades foretold.

Jason’s ghost is his mother, who abandoned him when he was little. He may not know how he is going to prove himself as a leader, but he does know that he will not break promises like she did. He will complete his line of the prophecy: To storm or fire the world must fall.

Reyna fears the ghosts of her ancestors, who radiate anger. But she can’t allow them to distract her from getting the Athena Parthenos to Camp Half-Blood before war breaks out between the Romans and Greeks. Will she have enough strength to succeed, especially with a deadly hunter on her trail?

Leo fears that his plan won’t work, that his friends might interfere. But there is no other way. All of them know that one of the Seven has to die in order to defeat Gaea, the Earth Mother.

Piper must learn to give herself over to fear. Only then will she be able to do her part at the end: utter a single word.

Heroes, gods, and monsters all have a role to play in the climactic fulfillment of the prophecy in The Blood of Olympus, the electrifying finale of the best-selling Heroes of Olympus series.

I had no expectations coming in to this last book off the Heroes of Olympus series. Mostly because I didn’t like the book that preceded it. House of Hades felt cluttered and all over the place. And honestly? I feared the same would happen in the last book with so many loose ends needed to be tied up still.

Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. Rick Riordan manages to give proper spotlight to all the characters without short-changing anyone. Yes, I would have preferred more time for Percy, Annabeth, and especially Grover, but that’s mostly because I came into Heroes of Olympus wanting to catch up with their characters. I’ve grown accustomed to Jason and the new host of characters, and I actually do like some of the new ones as much as I do the old ones. So much so that I wouldn’t mind if author Riordan releases another series featuring the whole gang. Or maybe just a one-off.

Going back to The Blood of Olympus, what I liked most about it was the palpable tension you feel as events unravel. It’s pretty much common knowledge by now that Riordan prefers his chapters to be brimming with action, to the point that a scene of introspection surprises when it pops up. But this last book has a good balance of the action and the introspection, and I feel like Riordan has realized that his readership is growing up. Which is a good thing, because while an action-packed book is thrilling when you read it, it’s character development that keeps you going back. It’s character growth that makes you want to stay with a series.

I mean, look at Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin. The action is repetitive, as a book about the zombie apocalypse is wont to be, but because our characters are growing every chapter, every book, you want to keep moving forward with them. You want to stick with them. And whenever something bad happens, you hope that they survive whatever it is they have to go through. And then there’s James Dashner’s Mortality Doctrine series. Everything is new, but the characters feel like retreads. They don’t grow, they just flow with the plot. And suddenly you’re justifying to yourself why you have to finish the book. And you shouldn’t have to justify when you’re immersed. When you’re involved.

And that’s what Riordan has done in the final book off the Heroes of Olympus series. He makes the readers involved. There is something at stake, and as the characters reach the end of the prophecy they’ve received, you can see them growing up to become better people–you see them making decisions that you know doesn’t come from the author’s desire to make a book action-packed. The decisions come from characters whose previous adventures have molded them to become who they are in the final pages.

That’s what’s makes a book series satisfying. The realization that you have gone somewhere, that you have learned something, and that you did not waste your time.

Rick Riordan, although I still do not like House of Hades, I thank you for not wasting my time.

Book: The Filipino Heroes League, Book One

"The Filipino Heroes League, Book One" by Paolo FabregasUndermanned and under-funded, the Filipino Heroes League does what it can to fight against injustice.

It’s tough being a superhero but it’s even tougher being a third-world superhero.

I have to admit, if it weren’t for the pedicab chase depicted at the back cover, I wouldn’t have picked this title up. Heck, if I hadn’t been waiting for an event to start last May 21, I wouldn’t have picked this title up. The book cover was nice enough, and the title was intriguing enough—but when a book is placed on the bottom part of a display table, along a line of display tables, it’s going to have a hard time attracting attention. So I thank the browser who picked the book up, left it with back cover facing up, in a more visible place than where it was displayed.

With that out of the way, let’s dig into Book One: Stick and Stones.

Book One: Sticks and Stones plays out a bit like an origins story. Which makes sense, seeing as this is the first book of the series. Here we meet the heroes Flashlight, Invisiboy and Kidlat Kid–our three main protagonist who we’ll follow throughout the series. Or at least, that’s my guess. There’s only the first book out. But that’s how I read it, so moving on–

Okay, so the main heroes of the story are set up. Where are the bad guys? Where’s the apocalyptic threat that would force the heroes to band together to save the entire human race? There’s none! Well, we don’t see one in the beginning of the story anyway–because the villains have all been defeated. Heroes have become a moot point. And that’s their main dilemma.

Except, somewhere else in the metro, government officials who are calling for the impeachment of the President are being killed one by one. And the Filipino Heroes League members are being framed for masterminding the assassinations!

By the time the story reached this point, I was completely hooked.

I’m not going to say any more about the story, or the characters, as I feel I might spoil what happens in the book. It’s not a very thick book, and it’s comics, so there’s a huge risk of me saying something that might ruin a few surprises. But the book does boast of three well-developed characters, and a host of others that are full of potential.

If you’re a big fan of comic heroes, and you’re looking for something new to read, then do pick up a copy of The Filipino Heroes League. It’s got heroes, femme fatales, and twists that would make soap operas proud–but with enough heft and plausibility that non-soap fans wouldn’t call it out; it’s also got robots made of trash. Seriously. Robots made of trash. It’s one hell of a cool book.

I got my copy from National Bookstore, but it might also be available in other bookstores. I just haven’t seen them.

Edited to add: You can also get copies from Fully Booked.

Check out an actual review at One More Page!

Or, give it a test read online through this Filipino Heroes League blog link provided by the author and artist.