Review of “Järnulven” by Siri Pettersen

Title: Järnulven (~The Iron Wolf)
Author: Siri Pettersen
Translator (Swedish): Ylva Kempe
Series: Vardari #1
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 500
Published: 2020 (translated 2021), B. Wahlströms
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION (translated to English by me)

A young girl is forced to forget that she has seen the devil. A young man betrays his lover to gain eternal life. A mystical clockwork starts ticking again after 600 years of silence. A secret that’s been guarded for generations is about to be revealed.

Juva hates bloodreaders. They are praised because they can see the future, but in reality, they are swindlers who take advantage of people’s fears. Juva’s heritage is of a bloodreader’s family, but she has sworn to never become one of them. But when her family is threatened, she is forced to join the hunt for the bloodreaders’ legacy; a dark secret that once changed the world and will do it again. To survive, she must confront her childhood memory that she has been struggling her whole life to forget – that time when she saw the devil.

The Iron Wolf is a captivating story about blood, desire and obsession. It is the first book of the Vardari trilogy, which takes place in the same universe as the praised series The Raven Rings.

MY REVIEW

After absolutely loving The Raven Rings trilogy, Siri’s debut trilogy, there was no doubt that I would read this as soon as opportunity arose. I try not to read several books at the same time, and with lots of work and other things going on, my reading has been lacking this past year. But I finally finished it and I, as I expected, CAN’T WAIT FOR THE NEXT. I think I read somewhere that it will be released in spring 2022 in Norway. So maybe fall 2022 in Swedish?

I’m sure authors don’t like it when a reader compare her new book with her old ones. But I’ve also realized that that is what makes readers pick up the next book without even knowing what it is about, because they know what to expect. And this was just like that. A new setting, absolutely, a little bit more modern, but kind of hard to tell exactly when in time as well. It’s set in another dimension of the same universe as Odin’s Child and that is perfectly clear at the end of the book. Without spoiling anything, I feel like there is a strong connection between a character in this book and a race of people in Odin’s Child. I even think they might be the same? It might be clearer in the next installment.

What makes it so brilliant? My gut tells me it’s a solid five. But also, the pacing is good, things are always happening. The story starts a little bit quicker this time. I love it when it is not crystal clear who the antagonist is. I feel like we’ve been led to believe it is one through the whole story, but at the end. I’m still not sure if that’s really the case. It’s hard to put the book down. I unfortunately had to almost every night after only a few pages because I fell asleep with it in my hand after too long days at work. But wow, you always want to find out what’s next. And that leaves me to the ending. Yes, it was an ending to this story. But it left so many questions! An ending done right. A new series done right!

I can’t wait for the second book, which hasn’t even gotten a name yet. And I highly recommend people to read this very original fantasy book with roots in the North. I would also recommend reading The Raven Rings before. Even if they are completely stand alone, it’s great to understand certain words and expressions that aren’t explained here, but are in her other series. A solid 5 out of 5 possible.

Review of “The Eye of the World” by Robert Jordan

Title: The Eye of the World
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: Wheel of Time #1
Narrator: Michael Kramer and Kate Reading
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 29 hours 57 minutes
Published: 2006, MacMillan Audio (originally published 1990)
My Grade: 3,5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs-a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts- five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

 

MY REVIEW

The night before the Wheel of Time TV series premiered, I finished the first book in the 15 book long series by Robert Jordan. I honestly don’t know why I never picked it up. It’s been on my to-read-list (the unofficial one in my head, not on Goodreads) for ages but I guess I was afraid of picking it up because of the enormity of it. 15 books, each several hundred pages long. A kick in the butt from the TV industry is a good way to get me to start reading at least, haha!

Since I started listening to audiobooks a year and a half ago, I’ve mostly listened to science books and children’s books. The last one I listened to was Paolini’s sci-fi novel, which had such an amazing narrator who made it rather easy to follow the story. After Jennifer Hales interpretation of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, I was spoiled and was not prepared for Michael Kramer reading an epic fantasy story, heavy with world building. At first I honestly didn’t think I would get through it. How much of the first few chapters did I really hear and understand? Fortunately, I got used to it, and the rest of the 30 hours total was not too bad. I almost feel bad for saying it about an award winning narrator, but his voice just didn’t seem inviting to me. I’ve come to realize that when listening to audiobooks, this bond with the narrator is very important. It can change the whole book. Or at least, I think it does. I don’t really feel like I have the time to compare reading and listening to books as long as these are, but one day that would be fascinating to do.

In any case, according to my grade system, I feel like this first installment reaches a steady 3,5. If that is because of the story or narrator or anything else, I’m honestly not sure. I do appreciate the immense world building, the magic system seems believable, even if I don’t quite understand it yet. There are several characters but not too many, but I have to admit that sometimes it was hard to know who was who. And also, all the names. They are great, but wow, they are so hard to relate to because they are so far away from our reality. And just hearing them (I won’t give you the satisfaction of spelling them, because I honestly wouldn’t even know where to begin guessing), and not seeing them in front of me was hard. It took me probably 25 hours of the 30 hours total, to know how to pronounce Nynaeve (yes, I did just Google it), even if I had heard it countless of times. The names are complicated and maybe that’s a small thing that drags the whole grade down a bit.

Another thing might be the pace? I can’t really say what I mean, but it feels a bit dragged out. Until the very end which is rushed. A solid 3.5 feels like the correct grade! If what I’ve heard is correct, then the series will be better and better. And I’m really excited to listen to the next!

 

A side note, I’ve of course already seen the first three episodes of the Amazon Prime show that came out on November 19th and I it is amazing so far! Several things are different from the book, of course. But since I didn’t really make out any details while listening, it didn’t bother me at all while watching. Maybe Michael Kramer gave me the story as a whole, and Rafe Judkins (producer) visualized it for me. I’m glad I did it in that order!

Review of “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” by Christopher Paolini

Title: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars
Author: Christopher Paolini
Narrator: Jennifer Hale
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 32 hours 28 minutes
Published: 2020, Tor
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds. Now she’s awakened a nightmare. During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.

As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.

While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope…

 

MY REVIEW

I’m really glad I listened to this book rather than worked my muscles out while holding this brick of a book for countless of hours. I’m not sure how I would have perceived the story, had Jennifer Hale not narrated it. She was brilliant with her many different voices for all the characters. They really came alive.

But of course, she’s not the only one who needs to get credit for this incredible story. I have to admit that I haven’t read too many science fiction books yet, but this one felt original. And it felt legit. Paolini’s take on futuristic science felt realistic, he addressed the question of speeds faster than light and how that didn’t mean you could travel in time. Like with any magic system, he put the limitations on science and did it really well. I really enjoyed that nothing seemed exaggerated. It just was.

The book contained so many characters and they were all interesting and contributed to the story. I felt sympathy for all of them because they all felt real. They had their backstories and stayed true to their goals.

Even if Jennifer Hale was a very good narrator, I sometimes had difficulties following. But I think that has more to do with the fact that I’m not very used to listening to fiction. Last summer, when I started listening to books, I only listened to facts, mostly science but some economic and psychology books. I hope I get used to it soon. I really enjoy listening to someone tell me the story. Also, I just got a bike and can’t really read a physical book while riding, haha!

It was a long book, and maybe it could have been a bit shorter, but I can’t really say which scenes felt unnecessary. But my overall impression was good. And listening to Paolini himself read the after words, I could really feel his relief after the struggles that were this novel. It was inspiring. I wouldn’t put it among my favorites, but it was definitely a four out of five.

Three days in Sala

Time never flies as fast as in the summer. We’ve been out and about all the time except this last of our four weeks vacation. Three of those days last week was spent with my grandma in Sala and we had such a great time there. Mikael have met her once before, but now it was more personal with just the three of us.

July 19th

We arrived, had lunch and went to an incredible limestone quarry. 80m deep and we were completely alone there. I was afraid the water would be cold because it’s so deep and not as warm air temperature as three years ago, but it was amazing! Mikael and I were swimming for quite a while. Grandma couldn’t get in unfortunately. We had some friends in the form of a duck family with very curious spring babies. They actually nibbled on grandma’s toes.

July 20th

The full day we had in Sala was first spent in Helgonmossen, a bog north of Sala. Me and my brother spent a lot of time there both riding a bike and walking with grandma and grandpa when we were kids. Grandma and I were walking for a bit and Mikael rode his MTB. I tried out my new phone camera and I’m super satisfied with everything so far. I few weeks ago I got a OnePlus 9 with a Hasselblad’s camera and it’s out of this world!

In the afternoon we went to the silver mine. I think I’ve only been down to the 29m depth before. The children’s depth. You can also go down to 60m with stairs but we were badass and went all the way down to 155m below ground. Fortunately, they had elevators so we didn’t have to walk all that way. I think grandma said she hadn’t been down there either. Which is weird, she’s been living in Sala since the mid 70’s. It was a great experience, and they had adjusted it really well to the covid-19 pandemic. Here’s a link to a 360-picture I took down in the mine.

Inside Victoria’s hall, one of the women working there sang us a miner’s song, and wow. I’m not kidding about those goosebumps. The acoustic in there was amazing! They told us what it was like working in the mine back in the day and I’m glad I didn’t have to risk my life every day, jumping onto the swinging big basket that transported tools down into the mine, and silver up to the surface. They were hanging on on the outside of it. Insane. Mikael had never heard of the silver mine in Sala so I bet he thought it was super interesting. It has an important part of the Swedish history.

In the afternoon/evening, we took a swim in the lake where grandma lives. Which is not a lake, it’s a built dam for the silver mine.
The camera even takes great pictures facing the sun! I LOVE it!

Inside this big man, there’s a small farmer boy I think, haha ;).

Stens Botten (Rock’s Bottom, except that his name was Sten, which means rock, it’s funny). I remember this hole being open to the public when I was a kid. My dad brought me down there all the time. But a few years ago, there was a horrible accident and they closed it off to the public.

The lake underneath Queen Christina’s shaft. This was super cool! You see that snake-thing on the wall? That’s volcanic ash! We had volcano’s here in Sweden some years ago.

 

July 21st

Our last day consisted of another swim in a limestone quarry, this time in Finntorpsbrottet, where I’ve been several times before. Grandma was smart and brought swim shoes. The rocks were not merciful.

A fun thing about this trip is that we did almost the exact same trip three years ago when grandma turned 80. On the exact same dates, we visited the limestone quarries and went swimming. What are the odds?

Thank you, grandma, for having us!

Review of “House of Earth and Blood” by Sarah J. Maas

Title: House of Earth and Blood
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Crescent City #1
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 803
Published: 2020, Bloomsbury Publishing
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

 

MY REVIEW

One of my favorite authors have started a third series, Crescent City. I was super excited after loving both Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses. I had no expectations, and had honestly barely even read what it was about when I picked it up. I trusted Maas enough to pre-order this one signed as well (I’ve lost count on how many signed copies I have of her books by now, haha).

Even with no expectations, more than she being the author, I have to admit that I was almost ready to put it down at first. It honestly took me half of the book before I actually started to get into it and understand and sympathize with the characters and here’s why.

Maas is an amazing worldbuilder, I would love to pick her brains to find out where she gets all of her ideas from. It’s the same with House of Earth and Blood. She has a little bit of a different approach this time though. At first I hated it, but after reading the whole thing, I think I like it. She introduces the world and all its politics and hierarchies and characters and races in a very natural way. You never feel like she is explaining something, but everything comes naturally in the story. But, this is a whole new world, new races, a lot of characters, and I couldn’t keep up and felt frustrated when I didn’t understand anything at all the first half. I still feel unsure about some things honestly. This is the main reason why I had such a hard time reading this in the beginning.

I think it’s supposed to be adult fantasy, but with the exception of quite a bit of swearing, I don’t really see it. It’s still very similar to her other young adult works. Nothing bad, in my opinion, just something I thought about while reading.

And since it was supposed to be an adult fantasy, and in her latest books had included a lot of sex, I was expecting the worst. But honestly, not a single sex scene. Lots of plays on it though, but nothing that I really thought about. Except that scene when Hunt jerks off in the shower and comes so hard that he sees stars. I actually laughed out loud at that, like wtf?

What was so great about it at the end then? Well, I really liked the mix between science and fantasy. It took place in a modern world but where there was also magic. I really liked the balance she had created there.

The characters’ development were also amazing! All of them were hopeless in the beginning, they all had such attitudes that I just thought it was ridiculous. But it was on purpose and fitted the story and how everything developed at the end.

Also, at the end, so much action. So much was happening! I couldn’t put it down!

The end was an end, but there will be two more and I will obviously read them, but it was a satisfactory ending.

I feel like grading this book is hard. My general feeling now that I have finished it, is that it was a great book! I loved it! But it shouldn’t take 50% into the book to start caring for it. A three is too low, a five (considering the first half) is too much. So I guess a 4 is fair? If you enjoyed her other series, I’m super confident you’ll like this one as well. And if you haven’t read any of Maas’ books previously, start with Throne of Glass.

Review of “Kometen Kommer” by Tove Jansson

Title: Kometen Kommer (~Comet in Moominvalley)
Author: Tove Jansson
Series: Mumintrollen #2 (~The Moomins)
Narrator: Mark Levengood
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 3 hours 31 minutes
Published: 2007, Bonnier Audio (first published 1947)
My Grade: 3 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

When Moomintroll learns that a comet will be passing by, he and his friend Sniff travel to the Observatory on the Lonely Mountains to consult the Professors. Along the way, they have many adventures, but the greatest adventure of all awaits them when they learn that the comet is headed straight for their beloved Moominvalley.

MY REVIEW

The second book about the Moomins was about the comet that flies across the sky. I like how it actually deals with science and explains it in a simple way. Even if it is not described in detail. There are new characters introduced and once again, I’m sad to have listened and not having seen the illustrations. The Snork and Snork Maiden are similar trolls, but change colors. The Snork is so extremely blue it’s ridiculous. But I guess that’s how a children’s book should be written, in extremes to show a point. I honestly found it a bit annoying. And something else that’s annoying is Sniff, the small animal they found in the first book. I’m guessing he’s gonna be by Moomintroll’s side throughout the whole series. He is such an annoying baby. Maybe these stories are better to read myself instead of listening to when the narrator apparently is doing such a good job at reading out loud, haha!

I still very much enjoy the setting and storylines though. So it still gets a three.

Review of “Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen” by Tove Jansson

Title: Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (~The Moomins and the Great Flood)
Author: Tove Jansson
Series: Mumintrollen #1 (~The Moomins)
Narrator: Mark Levengood
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 59 minutes
Published: 2007, Bonnier Audio (first published 1945)
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

The Moomins and the Great Flood was the original Moomin story, published in Finland in 1945. Moomin and his mother is searching for the lost father and experience dangers before the family happily reunites. Finally they come across a valley that is more beautiful than anything they had ever seen before.

MY REVIEW

This was an easy listen. Moomins originates from Finland and having Mark Levengood, Swedish-speaking Finn narrate this hour-long book was perfect. But I think it would have been better to actually read it myself to see the illustrations made by the author herself. It’s been so long since I saw any movies or TV-shows or whatever it was when I was a kid that I didn’t really remember how all the creatures looked like.

The story was short, fast-paced, and cute. A perfect listen while doing chores. But why did the Moomintroll’s father leave in the first place? Why did the Moomintroll’s mother not expect the dad to have built a house for the whole family? Questions perhaps a kid doesn’t even think about.

It was a cute story and it gets a four.

Review of “Ronja Rövardotter” by Astrid Lindgren

Title: Ronja Rövardotter (~Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter)
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Narrator: Astrid Lindgren
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 4 hours 59 minutes
Published: 2013, Astrid Lindgren Aktiebolag (first published 1981)
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

On the night Ronia was born, a thunderstorm raged over the mountain, but in Matt’s castle and among his band of robbers there was only joy — for Matt now had a spirited little black-haired daughter. Soon Ronia learns to dance and yell with the robbers, but it is alone in the forest that she feels truly at home.

Then one day Ronia meets Birk, the son of Matt’s arch-enemy. Soon after Ronia and Birk become friends the worst quarrel ever between the rivals bands erupts, and Ronia and Birk are right in the middle.

MY REVIEW

On my 30th birthday, a couple of weeks back, my mother told me that the reason I don’t remember these books, is because she actually never read them out loud to me. I know I was scared of everything growing up (some movies, like Gremlins, Scary Movie and The Princess Bride (which by the way isn’t even a scary movie) gave me nightmares for countless of years), but being scared of Astrid Lindgren’s children’s stories? I guess I do see it. There are some pretty badass antagonists in all of these books that I’ve listened to lately. I remember seeing the movies and yes, they were scary too. Vildvittror, ugh, they were the worst!

Since I saw the movie many times growing up, I did recognize it all while I was listening now and it is as good as I remembered. Now, I want to see the movie again. That will bring back many memories, for sure.

Astrid’s writing is as usual very colorful and I saw the whole story taking place in front of my inner eye. Maybe even more so because I saw the movie so many times. It was amazing! Astrid herself reading is incredible. I am so infinitely happy that she recorded all of her biggest books (maybe even all, I’m not sure?) to audio. She is not just an amazing author, she has a great storytelling voice and she definitely goes all in while reading her own words. 5 out of 5!

Review of “Mio, min Mio” by Astrid Lindgren

Title: Mio, min Mio (Mio, My Son)
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Narrator: Astrid Lindgren
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 3 hours 34 minutes
Published: 2013, Astrid Lindgren Aktiebolag (first published 1954)
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

With help from a genie, young Karl Anders Nilsson travels by day and night, beyond the stars, to reach Farawayland. There, his father the King, who has been searching for him for nine long years, tells him his true name is Mio, and lavishes upon him the loving attention he never received from his foster parents back in Stockholm. Mio learns of a prophecy that has been foretold for thousand of years. With his best friend Pompoo, and his horse with the golden mane, Miramis, he must travel into the darkness of Outer Land to battle the cruel Sir Kato.

MY REVIEW

I don’t think I’ve ever read Mio, min Mio. And it is supposed to be one of Astrid Lindgren’s best works! I think I have to agree.

It’s fast-paced, it’s easy to follow along, the story is captivating, and it is surprisingly dark. Not as dark as Brothers Lionheart, but there’s the Dead Forest, the super evil villain who kidnaps children. There’s beautiful sceneries and even if I never saw the movie, I could still see it all before my inner eye.

The absolute best part about it though is that I listened to Astrid herself reading it. She does it so enthusiastically! I’m sure reading it myself is great too, but hearing her voice, knowing exactly what feelings she wants to evoke in the reader, it’s absolutely amazing! Highly recommend listening to her narration. 5 out of 5!

Review of “Bröderna Lejonhjärta” by Astrid Lindgren

Title: Bröderna Lejonhjärta (The Brothers Lionheart)
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Narrator: Astrid Lindgren
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 5 hours 18 minutes
Published: 2013, Astrid Lindgren Aktiebolag (first published 1973)
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

The Brothers Lionheart (Swedish: Bröderna Lejonhjärta) is a children’s fantasy novel written by Astrid Lindgren. It was published in the autumn of 1973 and has been translated into 46 languages. Many of its themes are unusually dark and heavy for the children’s book genre. Disease, death, tyranny, betrayal and rebellion are some of the dark themes that permeate the story. The lighter themes of the book involve platonic love, loyalty, hope, courage and pacifism.

The two main characters are two brothers; the older Jonatan and the younger Karl. The two brothers’ surname was originally Lion, but they are generally known as Lionheart. Karl’s nickname is Skorpan (Rusky) since Jonatan likes these typical Swedish toasts or crusts.

In Nangijala, a land in “the campfires and storytelling days”, the brothers experience adventures. Together with a resistance group they lead the struggle against the evil Tengil, who rules with the aid of the fearsome fire-breathing dragon, Katla.

 

MY REVIEW

I would like to say that I grew up with Astrid Lindgren’s works. But after reading this, I’m not sure I can say that anymore. Maybe I grew up with the movies more so than with the books? Did my mom read these to me when I was too young to remember? It doesn’t really matter but in one way I’m glad I didn’t remember. Because it was like I read this classic for the very first time, I had no idea what would happen and was surprised just 20 minutes in. I didn’t even remember that the whole story starts with the two brothers dying. That’s not really a spoiler, so I don’t feel bad about writing it.

It’s the first of Lindgren’s works that I’ve read, well listened to I suppose, and more will there be. Hearing her book, with her has the narrator, was amazing! I don’t think I would have seen it all before my inner eye as clearly as I did when she read it. The different voices, the singing, the anxiousness she got aced completely in the right scenes! Goosebumps!

For a children’s fantasy book, it was very dark. Death, oppression, terrible monsters. I do remember the movie being scary. Now I thought it was sad as well. Especially the ending. It was a brutal ending! I had to google what happened next, and apparently she wrote an open letter to a Swedish newspaper a year after it was released telling everyone about the ending and how it continued in the land of Nangilima. It was a happy ending! If you want spoilers, you can read about it on the Swedish Wikipedia page.

I haven’t really read any children’s books in my adult life and at first I thought it was very simple. As it should be. Still all the environments and pictures flooded throughout the whole story. Things happened all the time, it was fast-paced and had lots of events. I can compare this experience with reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I had no idea it was a screenplay but even without the descriptions, I could clearly see what was going on. The brain is fascinating.

I can’t wait to listen to more of her books. I think I will go on with Mio, Min Mio (Mio, My Son). The Brothers Lionheart gets a solid 5!