Audiobook Reviews: The Natural Order by R.J. Vickers

 

Introduction:

A troubled teen goes off to magic school and finds trouble of a different sort.

Summary:

Tristan Fairholm gets a second chance at an extraordinary school where not everything is as it seems.

Additional Comments:

Neutral:

– There are a lot of plot threads being juggled here. Overall, this is done well, but a few seem to have petered off. (ie. Evie and the twins)

– There are 15 students gathered from all over the US (presumably), but the story focuses only on 5-6 of them. (I believe that’s for the best, but the number of overall students seems small. If the others don’t matter, then why bring them up at all?)

– Content warnings: rampant casual cursing

– There’s not much explanation for the vast wealth of the school.

– Tristan makes some gains in many aspects but not the driving force presented at the beginning.

– Passage of time was sporadic. It was almost like a survey of the holidays.

What I didn’t like:

*disclaimer – I am a teacher, so my perspectives on how schools are run might be different than the average reader.*

– The idea of rewarding students by letting them out of an assigned homework is terrible. Homework’s not supposed to be busy work. Either it has value or it doesn’t. If nobody “needs” to do it, then why assign it? If it’s vital, then letting some students skip it is kind of counter productive.

– There’s a strong emphasis on hours of punishments and students working them off. The dolling out of such seemed a mite capricious. Keeping discipline and order is important in school settings, and I imagine that’s magnified in a boarding school setting. However, when handing out discipline, it’s important not to punish oneself at the same time. Are the teachers working 90+ hrs a week?

– Some of the cardinal rules of the school seemed to matter one minute and not so much the next. (ie. can the students leave or not? Can anybody leave or not?)

– The vandal’s methods and logic are fundamentally flawed.

– The first practical exam was a terrible idea. The teachers admit this later, but it’s not really an exam if nothing’s taught first.

– Tristan’s acceptance of the end twists seemed way too easy. The mystery built up some good momentum then sort of fizzled.

What I liked:

– There’s a unique premise here and some nice twists in the end.

– The character development is pretty decent at least in the main character.

– I liked Amber and wish her role were expanded. She was left as the “little miss perfect student” instead of becoming a foil for the hero.

– Side characters were decent, although the Zeke/ Leila thing got old very quickly. The relationship has an interesting turn at the end, but nothing’s settled. They seem very antagonistic for no good reason.

– The book as a whole has a summer camp bonding experience vibe to it.

– The narrator’s performance was good.

– End twist is built on a very intriguing premise.

Conclusion:

I don’t think the things that bothered me about the running of the school will affect the general public. Overall, this is a decent coming-of-age fantasy with its own brand of magic.

 

 

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Julie C. Gilbert

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Audiobook Reviews: Shadow Grove by Lacey Edward

 

Introduction:

This is a case where the book probably makes more sense in context of it being part of a series. It took quite a bit of time and didn’t have that much of a bang in the end, but there is still potential for the series.

Summary:

Around her 18th birthday, Ariel finds out she’s a witch. The rest of the story’s pretty much about her training to use those powers and avoiding the people trying to kill her because of those powers.

Additional Comments:

Content warning: a few mild curses

Neutral:

– The plots pretty slow moving. I get that there’s a lot of setup, but really, I could only think of 2 pts in the book that had any sort of action.

– Some of the bad guys’ motives seem weak.

– Ethan kind of seems along for the ride. He doesn’t add or detract much. Wish he’d done more as Ariel’s father.

– I wish Ariel had done more. She’s learning a lot, but it seems a lot of other things/people are protecting her. I want to see her become the in control witch ready to take on the forces of darkness.

What I didn’t like:

– A lot of the training scenes involved inane questions that seemed designed solely to move the conversation on so the other character could continue his/her lecture. For some reason, in the audio, that drove me nuts. (Really? I’m a witch? A book? Etc)

– Unresolved questions: – Why does Oren offer to help her if he’s just a collector? Who is the queen? What the heck happened to James? The queen shows up at the beginning and the end, but we’re specifically not told anything about her.

– Lack of closure in the end. There would have been better closure without the very last scene. We already know it’s book 1 and the story continues, but the last scene sort of stamps a “to be continued” sign on the story. I find those annoying.

What I liked:

– I enjoyed Ariel as a character. The tried and true girl-has-special-powers trope is always a fun one, and Ariel’s pretty likable.

– Oddly enough, I enjoyed the Vampire. He was a nice addition.

– I think the series as a whole has merit. There’s a lot of setup in this book.

– I loved the narrator’s voice for Dione. (British accents rock.)

Conclusion:

It’s a slow start, but there’s a ton of potential for the series.

 

 

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Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Julie C. Gilbert

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