The Crimson Crown (Seven Realms #4)

1423144333-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Crimson Crown completes Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series in a wonderful, outstanding fashion that makes the reader not only appreciate the book by itself, but the series overall.  Queen Raisa and Han Alister, friends and both distant descendants of the infamous Demon King and legendary warrior queen Hanalea, try to bring together the peoples of the Fells in their own ways.  Raisa uses politics and her authority as Queen while Han uses his street smarts in an attempt to outmaneuver schemes of several Wizards, however both find themselves stymied or unintentionally ruining the other’s plans.  Then the mysterious deaths of Wizards on Han’s home turf and everything points to him, things start getting really difficult.

As Han attempts to keep his promise to the Clans, gain his revenge on the Bayars, and attempt to win Raisa’s hand in marriage he continues to consult his magical mentor Crow, his ancestor Alger Waterlow and infamous Demon King, to learn his secrets and later the true events of a 1,000 years before.  Even with all his plans falling apart, Han discovers the lost Armory of the Gifted Kings, only to fall into the hands of the Bayars just afterwards at the same time Fells is betrayed and invaded by Arden.  Literally things go from bad to worse for both Raisa and Han, it looks like there will be no happy ending.

However, it was then that Chima showed her talent as a writer as she crafted a believable series of events that resolved the various storylines set up not only in the first half of the book but in the previous three books to a satisfying conclusion not only to the book but the series as well.  Not everyone the reader has met survives, not many “villains” get redeemed or die, betrayal by friends or family occur that result in either deaths or lose of trust, and the external enemies are still a threat.  It is because the Seven Realms series doesn’t end like a fairy tale that makes this book so outstanding, its about how two individuals from different backgrounds were able to confront a 1,000 years of history to be together and start changing their homeland in a lifetime of work.

If you like good fantasy, or good storytelling, or good characters, or all three(!); I recommend this series to readers of all ages.

The Demon King
The Exile Queen
The Gray Wolf Throne

Ruled Britannia

0451460847-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

For those who have ever thought about reading at least one alternate history novel, Harry Turtledove’s Ruled Britannia is the one you should try.  The premise of the novel is the successful invasion of England via the famed Spanish Armada by the Duke of Parma’s army that places Queen Elizabeth in captive within the Tower of London and places Philip II’s daughter Isabella on the throne along side her husband-cousin Albert.  Almost 10 years later, celebrated English playwright Williams Shakespeare is brought into a conspiracy to write and stage a play that will insight London to rise up upon learning of the death of Philip, but then Shakespeare must contend with the occupying Spaniards wanting him to write a play in tribute of Philip to by staged upon news of this death.

The novel is seen from only two point-of-view characters: Shakespeare and Lope de Vega, an officer in the occupying Spanish army fluent in English and an unpublished playwright.  Through their eyes the setting of Spanish-occupied late 16th-century London comes alive as well as the individuals the two encounter without throughout the novel, including those they both interact with.  Obviously it allows the reader to view both sides of Spanish-controlled Catholic England politically speaking, but also religiously.  Although both men are friendly with one another, especially as Shakespeare doesn’t want to upset an officer of the occupying army, there is an unspoken barrier between the two the reader readily recognizes that is present throughout the novel that adds to the story.

The use of late 16th-century English speech patterns by Turtledove brought an authentic feel to the story, though it does take a little time to get use nonetheless by the end of the book its very easy to follow.  Though the story does seem to tread water around the 60-70% mark, in retrospect the events that happen therein really pay off throughout the climax of the story.  With all of this said, if you’ve ever wanted to read an alternate history novel this standalone work by Harry Turtledove is the one you should try.

The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms #3)

1423118251-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third installment of Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series send the reader first on a action-packed harrowing return to the Fells for both the story’s protagonists only to send them into the dangerous atmosphere of the court surrounding The Gray Wolf Throne even while not entirely trusting one another.  Picking up weeks after the end of the previous book, Raisa and Han journey separately back to their home only for their paths to intertwine with them barely alive upon entering Marisa Pines Camp.  Once there Raisa reveals her true identity to Han and the fallout continues to reverberate throughout the rest of the book even as they navigate the politics of the Clans, Nobles, Wizards, and court as Raisa asserts her claim to her birthright.

Throughout the book the magical system hinted at in the previous two books is on full display, with Han and Fire Dancer each showing considerable knowledge and strength in their personal preferences but weaknesses in disliked learning about in Oden’s Ford.  Also throughout the book was the various politics at play that Raisa and frankly Han have to deal with after the former’s armor-clad sudden reappearance.  All the while both Raisa and Han must fine were they stand with one another.

The Gray Wolf Throne not only stands solidly on what the previous two novels built, but creates enough dangling plotlines to set up the finale of the series especially the last few pages in which you start questioning everything you had been expecting.  Just like it’s predecessors this book is great standing alone as well as part of an overall series.

The Demon King
The Exiled Queen
The Crimson Crown

Controversy Creates Cash

141652729x-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Controversy Creates Cash by Eric Bischoff
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

In Controversy Creates Cash, former WCW executive Eric Bischoff gives his side of the story against a decades worth of bad press he received in the “Internet Wrestling Community”.  Bischoff quickly starts off by setting the record straight on some of his early life and how he got into the wrestling business in AWA.  Then goes through his ups and downs in WCW before leading the organization even coming close to quitting and going to Hollywood.  Once in charge of WCW, Bischoff explains his philosophy to make the organization successful and how he implemented it.  Bischoff also discussed how in 3 1/2 years, WCW went from being a multi-million dollar property to being sold for chum change and all the factors that led to it.

From the outset, Bischoff tells he readers he knows they come into reading autobiographies that they expect shameless self-promotion and/or b.s.  While Bischoff tries to avoid this, he’s still guilty of doing this, more so on the self-promotion than on the b.s. though.  Bischoff repeatedly brings up the “dirt sheet” writers and after a while it gets old, but one can tell that he feels they were the one most responsible for giving false information about him.  Throughout the book, Bischoff does discuss some famous situations in which he had been cast as the villain, but instead of going all defensive Bischoff is very balanced.  If in retrospect Bischoff believes he mishandled a situation he lets the reader know, but he never throws a wrestler “under the bus” however if it was a corporate officer Bischoff takes them to task.

My opinion of this book changed throughout my reading of it, the first half of the book I was very positive but the majority of the latter part of the book I felt only so-so especially as Bischoff really let his frustrations show that even his co-author couldn’t improve upon.  But considering that Eric Bischoff is the top five individuals ever in pro wrestler, I recommend this book.

The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms #2)

1423118243-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In The Exiled Queen, Cinda Williams Chima takes her two main protagonists and the readers away from all they had known before and sent to the neutral city of Oden’s Ford.  However, the journeys there and their experiences are not without hazard or excitement which keeps the reader very much engaged.  Chima continues the growth of her main characters as well as several secondary ones which helps develop the story, nor do Raisa (aka Rebecca) and Han really meet once again until over halfway through the book giving their story arcs independence from one another even as they interact.  Through both character’s stories, the world and history of the Seven Realms is further explored without taking away from the narrative flow of the book and putting in building blocks for later in the series.  Although a few things aren’t exactly explained to satisfaction given their importance or revelation in this book, I can’t really complain.  The events of the last 100 pages not only were a pay off of what developed since page 1, but also left me wanting to see what happens in The Gray Wolf Throne.

The Demon King
The Gray Wolf Throne
The Crimson Crown