Realm of Tah’afajien Series

Hey there, my bookworms! Well, this is it! This is the last post and book review I’ll be bringing you guys until after vacation. Don’t worry, I have plenty of books lined up and lots of reviews and literary posts to bring you once I get back. To hold you over in the mean time, I figured I’d bring you not one, but two reviews from the latest series I recently finished.

Not Gods but Monsters and A Prison of Flesh are an interesting adventure that came to me via author Joshua Banker a few weeks back. These were the first books I’ve read by this author and they took me on a hell of a journey. My head is still kind of spinning from these epic reads.

The adventure begins with book one, Not Gods but Monsters, which is a pretty hefty read. I didn’t actually notice the size of this novel until I was about to tackle it for my review requests. Knowing that I was in for a hell of a read, I dove right in.

When Vertegarte, her village is destroyed by an incoming military force, Jehn is forced to flee her rather quiet life to search for help. She finds that in one of her old mentors, O’Mas.

Encountering him, she knows he senses something ominous is coming and they team up to find some of his old colleagues, all capable of mystical talents with military training to join them in a fight against evil.

Zane Grymore is an industrialist hellbent on rebellion. O’Mas and his group of fighters suspect Grymore is up to no good and is hiding plans to throw their world into destruction. Jehn and O’Mas know they have to do what they can to stop the madness threatening to take over and destroy everything they hold dear.

Unbeknownst to them, Grymore has more tricks up his sleeve than O’Mas, Jehn, or anyone in their company can predict or understand. When their mission leads them to the Stairwell of Bryael, they encounter forces and powers they seemed to have underestimated and all their worst fears become very real.

This first installment was a little slow to start, but once it gets going, there is a lot happening in this novel. I mean.. a LOT. I was not kidding about those seven hundred plus pages. Banker is meticulous in his attention to detail and fully envelopes his readers into this mystical universe he created.

Reading this series reminded me of aspects of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Lord of the Rings, plus a handful of those classic Greek myths I remember studying during my time in school. There’s a fair amount of magic, fantasy, science fiction, and the supernatural all intertwined to create powerful characters and a world you get so lost in, that you sometimes have to back track and remind yourself of where you are and what’s going on in the story.

I was really impressed with this story, but due to some of the items I mentioned in the above paragraph, I felt myself adrift in this text. I wanted to love it, and parts of it I did. I enjoyed the concept of the ores and the mythical creatures and people who made cameo appearances, but when they were added into an already detailed plot and a full cast of characters with some complicated names, I felt lost and slightly distracted. That might have been my fault and how I went through the process of reading this book. When I felt like I was losing my way, I’d have to stop, flip back through pages, and re-read words I had just finished because there was just so much going on that I felt like I couldn’t keep up the entire time.

I commend the author on writing such an interesting and intricate story, but getting lost among the pages added a level of distraction and disconnect on my end so while I wanted to love this story, I couldn’t give it my full heart.

My Final Rating: three out of five stars

A Prison of Flesh is the second book in the series, and it reminded me much of the first. That could be a mixture of good and bad. I still enjoyed the adventure, but it felt like such a similar concept to Monsters, that during portions of the story, it seemed like book one was on repeat just a little.

After what happened at Bryael, Jehn and the surviving few return to life as it was and must adapt to seemingly mundane activities. She remembers those she lost, but does what she can to survive and go back to being a student. When she gets a break from her schooling, she decides to visit Zoe, one of the only people around who can relate to what she’s been going through since they were at the Stairwell.

The girls talk and commiserate and generally enjoy being around one another, and it’s during their visit that they are paid a visit by a man named Bryce. He’s a first mate who has just been on a tumultuous mission on the Great Sea and he’s discovered something. Desperately in need of help, he tells the girls of his situation and the island of Valkenistri he’s encountered, essentially recruiting them to join him.

In their latest journey, Jehn and Zoe discover the ruins that the island is built upon, and stumble upon more mystery and danger than either have imagined.

Once again, I was impressed and enthralled by Banker’s writing. I almost want to pick his brain and find out where he received such inspiration for such a creative tale. I admired the magic, drama, terror, and aspects of the religious and spiritual all interwoven throughout the text. It wasn’t just a story  of pure fantasy, but it made you turn the pages with some deep thoughts in your head.

My hangup with this story and overall series have come from more of an issue with my reading style. When books are almost overly detailed in setting the scene and describing the characters, sometimes I tend to lose focus as to where the plot is going. As I mentioned in my above review of the first book, there’s a lot of development and a whole cast of characters to try and keep pace with. Throw in some unique and funky names and mythical places and my head starts swimming.

Personal issues like what I experienced in no way reflect the story other than what I tell you my time consisted of with these stories. I was intrigued by the concept and blown away by the creativity written into a lot of pages, but because I found myself backtracking often in order to make sure I was on track with what I was reading wound up affecting my encounter with this fictional world. Banker’s style is thorough and beautifully built to give you quite the picture as you go on an adventure with Jehn her friends, and I wanted to really swoon over these books, but since I kept pausing and taking breaks from the material, it sort of dulled my emotions and connection to the tale being told.

If you’re a fantasy or sci-fi fan, or have a thing for magical and mystical realms, please give these stories a go. They were quite the journey and I wish so much that I could love and lose myself in them, but as I said throughout this combo review, that’s my fault, not the author’s or the stories.

Well, guys, before I blab on and on about my reading flaws, I’m going to sign off here. I’m officially burned out and I have about five hours until I have to be awake for the airport. Until I’m back from vacation, happy reading!

My Final Rating: three out of five stars

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