Review of “Dagmar of the Northlands” by John C. Adams

An epic-length book, this story is filled with fantastical lands, intriguing characters, and a complex history of kingdoms and gods. I really enjoyed the vivid imagery and excellent characterization of both the heroes and villains. The plot itself builds and draws you in as you begin to understand how everything might come together. The scenes where the gods are watching the events of man add a cool mystical element. The various tensions in various relationships also keep you interested.

I found the title and blurb a bit odd, considering Dagmar isn’t necessarily the main character. The overall story certainly doesn’t revolve around her by any means. She’s important and a dynamic character, but I thought it was a little strange that the title suggested her story line was the focus.

Also, there were a LOT of characters to keep track of. I like multiple points of view, especially in a book that covers this much ground, but I think there were something like 10+ POV characters. Eventually you figure it out, but it’s really confusing at first because the book jumps from one to another quickly before you’ve gotten to know anyone. I think any experienced reader can handle it, but it’s something to be aware of as you dive in. And along with this, there was a LOT of “son of” and “daughter of” and explanation of who had married who over generations – that might be great in moderation to give a historical depth to these kingdoms, but it was a LOT and added to the confusion from the get-go.

The writing itself is great. I was never distracted by any editorial goofs. There’s plenty of description to give you a picture of each scene without being overly flowery. The dialogue sounds natural and fits in well amid all the action. Also, the author does an excellent job of making you sympathize with each character, good or bad, and even the heroes are shown to have problems, which makes them believably human.

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Flight of the Spark” by Evelyn Puerto

Dystopian YA fiction often has something to say about our current society or mankind in general, and this book did a great job of illustrating several different evils. The leaders in this dystopia rule by keeping the populace ignorant and afraid, and it was easy to believe that that could happen, even to this extreme. The common villagers’ infighting and betrayals are a product of this. The abuse is as well. Through young Iskra’s eyes, we see what it would be like to be brainwashed into believing that semi-enslavement is for their own protection. It was incredibly frustrating at times, and often you want to shake Iskra and tell her not to be so stupid, but at the same time you get why she is the way she is.

The plot of the book is pretty straightforward, and suspense builds and builds as you follow Iskra through her discoveries and decisions. There’s a constant sense of impending doom, but there’s also hope as she learns from the Riskers and begins to find confidence in herself. I really liked that we got to see the perspective of the “bad guy” to learn more about what was really going on, and this also worked to build tension as he suspects her of rebellion. The first part of the book drags a little bit but has plenty going on to hold your attention. The last part of the book skips forward as things come together, and it’s in this part that you definitely begin to understand how this is going to be part of a series.

The writing itself is quite descriptive and easy to read. There’s enough description to give you a great picture of what this world and people are like. The dialogue feels natural. The action scenes pull you in.

I’d definitely recommend this for anyone who enjoys YA dystopia that doesn’t feel like it’s aimed only at teenagers. Because Iskra is fifteen, some of the situations she gets into might make some readers uncomfortable, but nothing is gratuitous.

See it on Amazon!

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