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John Kang

Richmond, VA
  • 8
  • reviews
  • 6
  • helpful votes
  • 11
  • ratings
  • Soul Render

  • Soul Stones, Book 1
  • By: T.L. Branson
  • Narrated by: A W Dickson
  • Length: 10 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 21
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 18
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 18

Resistance fighter Will Sumner wants little more than to avenge his father who died at the hands of the ruthless king Alexander Drygo. When the opportunity arises to steal the king's most valuable possession, Will and his brothers launch an assault to retrieve it. Obtaining the unimaginable power of a legendary soul stone, Will learns that the gods of old aren't dead after all. But even his newfound ability is no match for the tyrant that sits on the throne.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating World Building

  • By John Kang on 03-22-19

Fascinating World Building

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-22-19

Cool worldbuilding, compelling main character, though a secondary character steals the show. I was a little disturbed by the hero's attitude toward destroying souls, though.

  • Rune Kingdom

  • Uncommon World: Northern Isles
  • By: Alisha Klapheke
  • Narrated by: Amanda Dolan
  • Length: 7 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4

When the ruling mage of Snowfallen chooses Bryn’s mother as the next sacrifice, Bryn decides she’s had enough. With her own burgeoning magic, Bryn claims a forbidden grimoire and brings a host of dangerous - and potentially evil - creatures to life. But will her new power save her mother or turn Bryn into a mage far more vicious than her enemy?  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great story to listen to and read

  • By L Coffing on 01-29-19

The Path to Hell Is Paved With Best Intentions

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-22-19

There's some fascinating world building surrounding different types of rune magic, and an action-packed story told at breakneck pace.

  • Web of Eyes

  • By: Rhett C. Bruno, Jaime Castle
  • Narrated by: Luke Daniels
  • Length: 11 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 567
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 541
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 539

When a piece of the crown prince's soul is stolen by a traitorous warlock, disgraced knight Torsten Unger makes it his sworn duty to get it back and save the last hope for the kingdom. But he can't do it alone. Self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Thief" Whitney Fierstown sits in the castle dungeon, destined for the gallows until Torsten offers this choice: rot and die in a dank cell or join him on a dangerous expedition to put his skills to good use and earn his freedom. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I loved this book!

  • By Joliet Jill on 11-15-18

A Fantasy Version of 48 Hours

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-24-18

I saw an early cover for Rhett C. Bruno and Jaime Castle’s Web of Eyes, and knew I wanted to eventually read it. While the new covers each feature one of the three main characters, the original had all three: a warrior, rogue or ranger, and elf mage, plus an ominous drider/Lolth figure (if you’re on this blog, you probably don’t need to be told that this is a centaur, only the lower body is a spider instead of a horse) looming in the background. It screamed heroic fantasy with a Dungeons and Dragons flair.

What I did not expect when reading it was a fantasy version of 48 Hours—the iconic comedy with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte as a cop and a criminal who are forced together, and mayhem and hilarity ensue. The stick-in-the-mud knight and mischievous rogue partnering together is nothing new to fantasy, but I cannot think of one where it is done with better flair.

Thornton is head of the king’s elite guards, Eeyore in his pessimistic disposition, Joan of Arc in his religious fervor, and Rasputin in his unflappable determination. Coming from a humble birth, he is utterly devoted to the king who rose him up out of poverty, and totally faithful to the state religion.

His foil is the thief, Whitney, who is something of a cross between Danny Ocean and Robin Hood: the titular figure of Oceans 11, because he comes up with outrageous plans where he is always two steps ahead, yet can improvise when plans inevitably go south; and Robin Hood in that he essentially has a heart of gold, motivated more by the challenge and the desire for infamy, than by wealth. With his flamboyance, drama, and snappy dialog, Whitney owns the pages to the point where the story doesn’t even matter.

But oh, what a story. The king is dying, and enemies are circling. His son is incompetent since being cursed by the foreign queen’s warlock brother. When the king dies and the prince falls comatose, it is up to Thornton to recover a doll which supposedly houses the prince’s soul. With no idea of where to start, he reluctantly recruits Whitney to help. What follows is twists and turns, where no mansion or fortress is safe from burning down; and it turns out there is more to the religion than the fervent Thornton wants to believe.

The middle of the tale, where the two go their separate ways for a time, it gets a bit muddled, and I do feel the pacing lost some of its momentum. Still, it moves the plot forward, with Whitney reuniting with his childhood friend, the elf magic-user, Sora. She’s a cutter; inasmuch she needs blood to funnel her magic in the vein (see what I did there?) of Aliette de Bodard’s magic system in Servant of the Underworld. They all reunite as the plot threads weave together into a web, for a creepy, yet explosive climax, worthy of these characters’ chemistry.

Where Web of Eyes really stood out to me was the distinct narrative voices. The authors capture Thornton’s dour inner monologue, and Whitney’s flamboyance. I hope Sora turns out to be just as unique if she turns out to be a POV character in books two and three.

Where Web of Eyes came up just a little short for me was the worldbuilding. It’s a prototypical medieval setting, with rebellions, plotting, and a pantheistic religion. The magic system doesn’t break new ground, at least not from what I could tell in book one.

Still, Web of Eyes was thoroughly enjoyable and made honorable mention in my Top 10 Fantasy Reads of 2018. I rate it a 4.5.

Note: the narrator nails Torsten's and Whitney's voices; I'm not as impressed with Sora's. Still, excellent delivery.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Son of a Liche

  • The Dark Profit Saga, Book 2
  • By: J. Zachary Pike
  • Narrated by: Doug Tisdale Jr.
  • Length: 20 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 908
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 867
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 867

Still bruised and heartbroken from their last calamitous quest, Gorm Ingerson and his band of washed-up heroes try to make amends for the orcs they accidentally betrayed. But justice is put on hold when an old foe marches to the city gates. Gorm is horrified to discover a liche pitching the frightened city-dwellers on the merits of the undead lifestyle...at the head of a corpse army. To save the city from high-pressure sales tactics and an inevitable siege, the dwarf warrior and his misfit band hatch a harebrained scheme that lands them at the top of the king’s kill list.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent book

  • By Kristi Brownfield on 05-14-18

Even Better Than The First

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-17-18

Son of a Liche is even better than Orconomics, which is really saying something considering how brilliant Book 1 was.

  • Orconomics: A Satire

  • The Dark Profit Saga, Book 1
  • By: J. Zachary Pike
  • Narrated by: Doug Tisdale Jr.
  • Length: 11 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,933
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,834
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,830

Professional heroes kill and loot deadly monsters every day, but Gorm Ingerson's latest quest will be anything but business as usual. The adventuring industry drives the economy of Arth, a world much like our own but with more magic and fewer vowels. Monsters' hoards are claimed, bought by corporate interests, and sold off to plunder funds long before the Heroes' Guild actually kills the beasts. Of course, that's a terrible arrangement for the Shadowkin; orcs, goblins, kobolds, and their ilk must apply for to become Noncombatant Paper Carriers to avoid being killed and looted by heroes.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Holy shit

  • By EyeDeKay on 02-21-17

Dungeons and Dragons Meets The Big Short

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-17-18

This is one of the most brilliant stories I've ever read, a cross between litRPG and a lesson in mortgage-backed securities. The narrator just nails it with comedic timing.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Empire of the Dead

  • By: Phil Tucker
  • Narrated by: Paul Guyet
  • Length: 8 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 43
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 40
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 40

Acharsis has always loved long shots. But even with a perfect scheme and a handpicked squad of godsblooded grifters and fighters, breaking into the undead lord's Akkodaisis' ziggurat is suicidally impossible. Good thing Archarsis is a fallen demigod with more than one trick up his sleeve....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Incredibly imaginative

  • By RyRy on 09-08-17

Walking Dead Meets Oceans 11 Meets Gilgamesh

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-17-18

Two brilliant POV characters with distinct narrative voices, which the narrator just hits out of the park.

  • The Edinburgh Seer

  • Edinburgh Seer Series, Book 1
  • By: Alisha Klapheke
  • Narrated by: Kylie Stewart
  • Length: 7 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6

A Seer, a spy, and the rebellion that will flip their world upside down. Outlander meets the Mortal Instruments in this romantic fantasy. Get USA Today best-selling author Alisha Klapheke's most recent release today! 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • weak reader

  • By Patricia on 07-09-18

Second World Urban Fantasy

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-17-18

This alternate Earth urban fantasy has great characters and wonderful writing. The narrator does great accents, though I do feel she was inconsistent with some of them at times.

  • Threads of Silk

  • By: Amanda Roberts
  • Narrated by: Leanne Yau
  • Length: 10 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 68
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 65
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 64

Born in the middle of nowhere, Yaqian, a little embroidery girl from Hunan Province, finds her way to the imperial court, a place of intrigue, desire, and treachery. From the bed of an Emperor, the heart of a Prince, and the right side of an Empress, Yaqian weaves her way through the most turbulent decades of China's history and witnesses the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Absolutely wonderful story !

  • By Margaret on 09-14-17

Spectacular Storytelling... Revisionist History?

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-02-17

If you could sum up Threads of Silk in three words, what would they be?

Engaging, Immersive, Questionable

What did you like best about this story?

The primary character was so adorable and compelling.

Which character – as performed by Leanne Yau – was your favorite?

Yaqian, of course!

If you could take any character from Threads of Silk out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Empress Cixi, because I sure would want to know what is really going through her head.

Any additional comments?

As a reader, I thoroughly enjoyed the engaging storytelling in Threads of Silk. As someone who appreciates history, my enjoyment was tempered by a mostly one-sided, positive view of a generally reviled historical figure.

Told through the eyes of fictional Yang Yaqian, the story covers the turbulent end of China’s Qing Dynasty. From the research into everything from embroidery to cultural customs to history, the author weaves Yaqian’s personal joys and tribulations, into key events of the mid-to-late 19the century. She’s stubborn and courageous, smart and dutiful. Her innocence and humble origins, as well as her collection of mementos from her important relationships, make her relatable as she rises to palace embroiderer for Empress Cixi. The tying of all those threads made for a satisfying end.

If I were to judge solely on the merits of storytelling, Threads of Silk would be a hands-down 5+ stars. However, as historical fiction, historical inaccuracies can’t be ignored. The First Sino-Japanese war is off by a year. The United States is noted as China’s ally, without mention of the Unequal Treaties. The Chinese Exclusion Act is interpreted as a blanket ban. Yaqian is amazed by the British’s multi-story homes, when there were already many in China.

Yet these are issues which can be rationalized by Yaqian’s narrative point of view. More concerning to me is the glowing light in which Empress Cixi is portrayed. Though I am willing to accept that history, as written by men, is probably unfair in its absolute vilification of the empress, a complete opposite account made me scratch my head. All the praise Cixi receives in Threads of Silk is hard to rationalize with the marble boat, built with funds earmarked for the Chinese Navy, still sitting in the Summer Palace. I have reached out to the author, who has recommended a recent biography by Jung Chang.