Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

Digital Artists You Absolutely Need To Follow! – Part 2

Image created with canva.con

CLICK HERE to see Part 1!

Welcome back readers! If anyone remembers back to about a year ago actually, I posted a rather lengthy article on a list of digital artists that I think anyone who loves to look at art should absolutely follow; anyone from video game concept artists to professional illustrators to graphic designers and even tattoo artists, I made sure the list had some variety besides just some of my favorites who create amazing fanart commissions of my favorite books and series.

Well if it’s been a year later since then, it makes total sense that I’ve discovered even MORE artists that I want to showcase and organize into a beautifully displayed part 2 to my list. Art matters, and this new addition of artists also have quite a plethora of talent. I’ve only just begun getting back into drawing and I have began on the IOS app, Procreate. I know a few artists on here and part 1 use that program as well, but it’s for sure made me appreciate their work even more and aspire to have my work become even a fraction of how good these artist’s work looks!

Once again, I think this has a great amount of variety in terms of style and subject matter, I hope you discover a new favorite artist yourself! Find their profiles, give them a follow, go onto their websites, buy their prints, support your favorite artists!

Enjoy this list, the names and artwork are in no particular order!

***I do not own any of these artists’ work, and while all work is shared from their individual Instagram profiles, if any of them find this article and wish to have their artwork taken down, please reach out to contact me and I will happily do so!***

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Jen Bartel

Instagram: @heyjenbartel

Website

I discovered this artist by her work illustrating a graphic novel titled “Blackbird,” and I absolutely loved her style and felt like she had a similar style to how I draw. I was happy to learn that this artist uses the program/app Procreate just like I do too! What really draws me in is her use of really bright and vibrant colors that really pop out at you and make so that there’s no way you can’t notice it!

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Marc Simonetti

Instagram: @marc.simonetti

Website

Marc is a concept artist who specializes in environments and has an eye for the little things. As you can see by his work shown above, he is able to capture amazing detail in the smallest of spaces. I guess I could say his work that really captured my attention was his work of the Iron throne image above that’s from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series that everyone knows as “Game of Thrones.” The throne from the HBO show is iconic, sure, but Marc’s throne is actually a much more accurate portrayal to how the author describes it in the books, plus it’s about five times more intimidating looking!

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Lizzart

Instagram: @lizzart_zardonicz

This artist creates some absolutely gorgeous character design in their work and is a master of fantasy-genre artwork. I discovered this artist thanks to some artwork they did of a Sci-Fi series I’m reading: “Red Rising” by Pierce Brown. It’s a space opera that’s like Greek Mythology + The Hunger Games + Game of Thrones but in space! I definitely recommend giving the books a try if that sounds interesting to you at all!

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Philippe Lozinski

Instagram: @philippezolinski

Philippe creates some visually stunning environment concept art and really has a unique style that shows so much texture and really knows how to drive the eye across the canvas with well placed movement either in the environment or the characters he’s placed within. Some of his work really reminds me of the game “Journey” especially with the cloaked character you see in some of the work on the top of his section. I’m not sure if he’s actually worked on that game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out he did!

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Rovina Cai

Instagram: @rovinacai

I discovered this australian artist when she illustrated the fourth book in Holly Black’s “The Folk of the Air” series (as you can see by some of the images I selected.) I really dig her enchanting, gothic, fairytale-like drawings that are both whimsical and ominous and creepy, and I’d say you should go grab a copy of that book just to see these images up close for yourself!

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Jo Painter

Instagram: @po_jainter

This artist has commissioned fanart for a few of my favorite book series, so of course it was only a matter of time before I’d notice her work and fall in love with it. She’s made artwork for Sarah J. Maas’s “Crescent City” and “Throne of Glass” series, as well as Jennifer L. Armentrout’s “From Blood and Ash” series that is so so quickly becoming an all-time favorite of mine as well!

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Joon Ahn

Instagram: @joon_ahn_art

Joon is a concept artist out in Los Angeles, and I love all the work he’s done with both environments and characters. He really seems to specialize in either high fantasy or cyber-punk settings and looks like his work should be in video games, and I was first introduced to this artist by their artwork of the knight riding atop a giant eagle as seen above!

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Sam Yang

Instagram: @samdoesarts

Sam Yang seems to really focus on girls who have what I call the “Disney Princess” aesthetic, as in they look like they have very similar facial distinctions to the 3D animated princesses like Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna. His artwork is so warm, welcoming, and soft with subtle texture infused to make his work stand out on its own. I especially love how he plays with light in his artwork that places his females in a setting like in a car; that’s where I truly think his art shines, no pun intended.

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Dan Mumford

Instagram: @danmumforddraws

Surely you have to recognize Dan’s subject matter in at least one of his pieces I’ve selected above! He adds a ton of detail and heavy outlines to familiar characters and environments in american pop culture history, and while some of it reminds me of some tattoo-like artwork I’ve seen elsewhere, I also appreciate how he also loves to incorporate the creepy factor in his art, or the classic set up of the main character having their back to us as they face out to their setting.

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Yare Yue

Instagram: @yueyare

Amazing environments come with this concept artist, and I’m a big fan of their use of color. I was originally drawn in by their work with the whale swimming through the clouds; the work I seem to love the most is the work of the little kid and his pet cat incorporated into his environment pieces.

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Liang Mark

Instagram: @liangmark

This is an artist where you really need to enlarge the image to enjoy it even more; there’s so much detail work in all of their art! They definitely specialize in dystopian, Sci-Fi settings and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out they’re a concept artist for the newer Star Wars movies, their art just really reminds of it the franchise, especially the newer movies that have been released later than “The Force Awakens.”

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Sasha Lee Coleman

Instagram: @sashac_art

When an artist gets compared to the great Charlie Bowater, that truly speaks to the artist on how great their digital artwork truly is! I can definitely see an influence or inspiration from Charlie’s style of character design, but Sasha is also a really great artist who enjoys making pieces of characters from some of my favorite books! If you don’t recognize some of the characters above, she’s done amazing artwork of Sarah J. Maas’s “Crescent City,” Holly Black’s “Folk of the Air” series, and even Margaret Rogerson’s “Sorcery of Thorns.”

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Rosie Thorns

Instagram: @rosiethorns88

Okay, I absolutely HAD to show this artist because they do so many different styles of artwork both on canvas or digitally, but what I really want to draw attention to is her papercraft fan art of popular YA Fantasy titles! That’s right, some of this artwork is crafted from paper and brought together like a master scrapbooker. She’s done projects of Sarah J. Maas’s popular “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series with Rhysand and Feyre at Starfall, her “Crescent City” series with Bryce and Dana on top, along with “The Folk of the Air” by Holly Black, “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue,” and Kerri Maniscalco’s “Kingdom of the Wicked.”

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Delaney Januzzi

Instagram: @delaneyjanuzzi

Here’s another noteworthy concept artist who specializes in character design! Their cartoony style reminds me of animated movies and I feel like they’d make some amazing work for Dreamworks animated movies. I especially love that they’re one of the only artists I’ve found who’ve created fanart of Madeline Miller’s debut novel: “The Song of Achilles.” Take a closer look at their artwork of when Patroclus meets Thetis for the first time (sometimes meeting your lover’s parents doesn’t end up working in your favor!)

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Sally Pham

Instagram: @sallteas

Sally is another digital artist I discovered because she’s done a fanart for a lot of my favorite book series! She’s done artwork for Sarah J. Maas’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” along with Leigh Bardugo’s “Six of Crows” series, Kerri Maniscalco’s “Kingdom of the Wicked,” plus even Adrienne Young’s “Fable.”

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Vanessa Ninona

Instagram: @nessa_ninona

Vanessa loves ancient Egypt, that much is obvious with her main focus on artwork for a graphic novel she both writes and illustrates called “Golden Brown.” I love her use of colors, especially the complementary use of browns, golds, and yellows mixed with blues to make it really pop!

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Darek Zabrocki

Instagram: @darekzabrocki

Another concept artist I found who specializes in environment design, this is another artist you also need to zoom in on their work to see all the little details he puts into his work. He’s done work for the “Assassin’s Creed” video game franchise, but my favorite work by him has to be either the pirate ships in the bay with the giant windmill, or the one right above of the small party of explorers walking into the ruins with the statue looking down over them like a guardian or an omen.

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Gukkhwa

Instagram: @gukkhwa

This artist does some gorgeous character design artwork with their subject matter focusing on mythological figures. Whether it’s deities of Greek mythology, Egyptian Mythology, Angels or Satan himself out of the christian bible, you have to admit that their work is certainly eye catching!

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Gretel Lusky

Instagram: @gretlusky

Gretel is another artist whose style really reminds me of the “Disney Princess” aesthetic, and that’s not just because she actually posts work of actual Disney princesses either! She switches between digital artwork and good ole watercolor and pastels on paper, but her use of color and the overall style of her work is one that I love, and wanted to showcase on this list to show others and get her name out there!

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Fran Garcés

Instagram: @dibujantenocturno

Fran is an absolute favorite of mine, I never get tired of his distinguishable linework and ultra amount of detail in his work. His love of dragons is what got him into drawing, but he just loves to draw monsters and nightmare imagery to create visually stunning artwork. I love his style so much that I had to buy his book to show my support!

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Gabrielle Ragusi

Instagram: @gabrielleragusi

I initially discovered this artist for their artwork of a series I’d recently started reading and really enjoy: “The Bridge Kingdom” by Danielle Jensen. Upon further looking into this artist, I found they’ve also done artwork for “Harry Potter” by JK Rowling and “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas and “To Kill a Kingdom” by Alexandria Christo, I really like their style and think they deserve to be as known amongst all the other artists who (thankfully) make stunning fanart of some of our favorite book characters!

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Abhishek Singh

Instagram: @abhiart

Drawing inspiration from his home country of India, this artist paints such awesome artwork of prominent figures from stories and myth. I love the amount of detail he puts into his work, especially with the costume and accessories of the figures as seen above!

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Marissa Clement

Instagram: @marissasketches

I discovered Marissa thanks to her artwork of Jude from Holly Black’s “The Folk of the Air” series along with Leigh Bardugo’s Alina Starkhov from her “Shadow and Bone” trilogy that’s gotten a lot of hype lately thanks to the new Netflix show premiering in late April 2021!

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Kelsey Eng

Instagram: @kelseyeng32

This artist has an adorable, cartoony style that I really enjoy, especially her artwork from what i assume is digital stills from actual episodes in “Game of Thrones.” I especially like the contrast she shows in her piece with Dany and Jon Snow, and even the one with Sansa and Arya Stark, the last of the Stark family line!

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Anato Finnstark

Instagram: @anatofinnstark

What initially introduced me to this artist was their artwork that showcases some truly iconic characters/monsters/figures in Fantasy literature: the darker characters from Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I instantly fell in love with their work of the Nazgul, or the Ring Wraiths as they’re also known as, but I also adore their art of the Balrog and Sauron as he’s taking on Isildur at the battle at the end of the second age where he fell. I really enjoy their overall dark and creepy vibes in their work and it all truly leaves an impression on the viewer, and someone who I believe is perfect to end this second list on!

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CLICK HERE to see Part 1!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Image courtesy of Instagram profile: @queen_of_books_and_sleep

Leigh Bardugo is one of the my favorite authors around even from just reading her Six of Crows duology, but once I’d learned that they were actually a spin-off from this trilogy that she’d written before, I of course HAD to check them out too because let’s be honest: there are a few instances where there was obviously information referenced that I missed by not reading them prior. Whether it was because of a certain character’s surprise appearance, a past event mentioned, or more background information on the Grisha in general, I could tell I was missing some vital information.

While I enjoyed Six of Crows much more than this trilogy for multiple reasons, I can still say that the Shadow and Bone trilogy is not to be skipped over! There are some very memorable characters and plenty of twists and turns that you’d expect from Leigh Bardugo’s mind even if you’re like me and read these books out of order!

Even though there’s a Netflix show out with official castings, I still had my own version of the cast list of who I thought would play these characters in my head. Some of my choices below are my own, but I can also admit there’s a few selections from the actual show I agreed with that were mixed in with the bunch to add a little variety. See for yourself what you think!

Here’s a link below to my official Fancast/Dreamcast of the Six of Crows duology for those interested:

Click HERE to see my Six of Crows Fancast/Dreamcast

The Blurb of Shadow and Bone:

Soldier

Summoner.

Saint. 

Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold—a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.

Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite—and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.

As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.

Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems…

To see my review of book #1 – Shadow and Bone – Click HERE!

To see my review of book #2 – Siege and Storm – Click HERE!

To see my review of book #3 – Ruin and Rising – Click HERE!

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Here’s my official Fancast/Dreamcast:

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Zoya Nazyalensky: Shay Mitchell

Image courtesy of unitedtalent.com

My first choice for this character was Megan Fox, which I had no problem with except for when I later learned that Zoya is actually a person of color. I mean, she was the token “mean girl” in the first book, and Leigh described her pretty much as being stupid hot, so c’mon, Megan Fox is an obvious choice for me! Shay is also such a beautiful woman! Her Filipino, Scottish, and Irish descent makes her a much more accurate choice.

Genya Safin: Miguelle Landry

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram Profile

This Instagram model is like my go to face for whenever a book calls for a gorgeous redhead, so sorry not sorry, but you’re gonna see her on a few of my fancasts *shrugs*.

David Kostyk: Luke Pasqualino

Image courtesy of fault-magazine.com

I don’t know much about him as an actor; he was on Skins not that I ever watched it, but he’s an actual casting for the part on the Netflix show, so I can roll with this casting choice!

Baghra Morozova: Zoë Wanamaker

Image courtesy of theguardian.com

She is another actual casting from the Netflix show, but most of you may or may not recognize her from another popular YA Fantasy series? No? Here’s a hint: she was the broom flying instructor at a certain school for young witches and wizards!

Nikolai Lantsov: Lucas Bloms

Credit to owner

A gorgeous male-model to play a gorgeous prince? Need I say more?

Botkin Yul-Erdene: Daniel Dae-Kim

Image courtesy of ew.com

Daniel may seem like a cliché go to character for these types of roles, but I can’t help but keep that way of thinking with him playing the role of Alina’s combat instructor at the small palace. I just think he’d make an excellent tutor!

Ivan: Simon Sears

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

He’s another actual casting choice for the Netflix show, and he’s not really described as well as I’d hoped in the books, so I’m happy to give my blessing for this choice! He looks rugged and rough around the edges, just like I’d imagined what one of the Darkling’s closest soldier’s would look like.

Fedyor Kaminksy: Julian Kostov

Image courtesy of the actor’s Instagram profile

Julian is actually casted to play this character for the show, so I thought I’d share him too and say I support this choice! I remember I liked Fedyor whenever he made an appearance in the books, sure he wasn’t afraid to viciously kill anyone who stood against him, but at least he killed a Fjerdan in order to protect Alina, right? Right…

Harshaw: Andrew Garfield

Credit to owner

Harshaw is described as being tall and gangly with red hair, so for some reason I thought of Andrew Garfield. Not sure why; Harshaw’s a wackjob who talks to his cat too much and probably an arsonist who just also happens to be an inferni…so yeah…Most of you would recognize Andrew from The Amazing Spider-Man movies with Emma Stone, and The Social Network.

Marie: Nathalie Kelley

Credit to owner

Marie was a conflicting character throughout the books…Sure, she tried to befriend Alina right away when the Sun Summoner first appeared at the small palace, but she was totally two-faced to Zoya and elitist with Genya, and flipped sides when her boyfriend, Sergei, spoke out against Alina in Siege and Storm. I just found her really catty, so I thought Nathalie, who’s been in The Vampire Diaries, and Dynasty (both CW shows), I thought she’d play the part well!

Nadia Zhabin: Gabrielle Brooks

Image courtesy of the actress’s IMDB Profile

Nadia is pretty much the same as Marie up above, but doesn’t really stick up for herself. Gabrielle is another actual casting choice for the show, which I just want to point out is great that they switched up her look because the books described her as kind of a mousy little blonde, so I’m happy with how Leigh wanted to make it a point to try and add more diversity amongst the cast!

Tamar Kir-Bataar: Lana Condor

Image courtesy of whowhatwear.com

I’m surprised it doesn’t seem like Tamar and her twin brother are going to be in the Netflix show! Like, they’re not even listed on the Netflix show’s IMDB page (check it out HERE)…Whatever I guess, their loss because she’s a badass! Lana may look small and fragile like she kind of is in the All the Boy’s I’ve Met Before Netflix movies, but check out other films she’s been in, and it’s obvious she can hold her own in more action-packed flicks.

Tolya Kir-Bataar: Ross Butler

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

Ross is on Netflix’s adaptation of 13 Reasons Why and DC’s “Shazam,” and he’s a tall guy who can also pull off the stoic, “tough guy” persona that I pictured Tolya constantly showed whenever he made an appearance. I’m still upset that him and his sister didn’t make it into the Netflix show apparently…

Ana Kuya: Amanda Donohue

Image courtesy of contactmusic.com

Amanda just gives me more of how I pictured the owner of the orphanage where Alina and Mal grew up than who they casted for the show! I’m sure the actual actress will still do a great job though!

The Apparat: David Bradley

Image courtesy of zimbio.com

David Bradley is just so good at playing creepy, despicable old men in Fantasy settings! He was Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films and Walder Frey in Game of Thrones, and the Apparat gave me some weird vibes, so I immediately thought of David Bradley to play him.

Sergei Beznikov: Jack Falahee

Credit to owner

Sergei was another one of those really conflicting characters in the books; I didn’t really have the greatest opinion of him, especially when he tries to oppose Alina in trying to take charge of the second army, but I felt for him at the end of Siege of Storm and what happened to him…there’s more to it, but I won’t spoil it! I loved Jack in How to Get Away with Murder, and thought he’d be a great choice!

Alina Starkov: Jessica Mei Li

Credit to owner

Here’s another actual casting off the Netflix show, and I for one am happy with how Leigh made it more of a point to make the cast more diverse with more POC actors! She felt bad about how whitewashed she made the books, apologized, and has been making it a point to not do that ever again. Kudos to her, and I can’t wait to see how Jessica portrays our main protagonist of the Shadow and Bone trilogy!

Mal Oretsev: Christian Hogue

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile

So, Mal gives me the whole “Golden Boy, Big Man on Campus, Star Quarterback, Homecoming King” kind of guy that we see all over YA fiction, but of course, this particular time in a Fantasy setting. Christian is an Instagram model I’ve known about for some time, and he’s just who came to mind for me when I pictured Alina’s childhood friend-turn-lover.

The Darkling: Nick Ayler

Credit to owner

I’d also casted Nick Ayler as my Magnus Damora in the Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes, and I will admit him and the Darkling have some similarities in their aesthetics…they’re both the broody, dark haired bad boy who the golden, innocent protagonist has mixed feelings for…so why not have Nick play my favorite character in the whole trilogy. Besides being my favorite character, you’ve outta admit he’s got the coolest nicknames!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Frozen Tides (Falling Kingdoms #4): by Morgan Rhodes

Publish Date: December 15th, 2015
Number of Pages: 413 Pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers from the previous books in the series, continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my full review of book #1: Falling Kingdoms – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #2: Rebel Spring – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #3: Gathering Darkness – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the whole series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

For anyone who’s been following in my reviews of this series, some may be surprised at how my rating has dropped when compared to the previous book in this series. Believe me, I was just as surprised at my reaction to this fourth book in one of my favorite YA fantasy series, but to be honest, I just couldn’t help but be disappointed in this title a little bit.

There were plenty of parts that I immensely enjoyed, and still can say I loved reading it like the other titles; I guess for me it was mainly my disappointment with the direction the series was starting to move in at this point. I feel like there was a shift in the overall feel of the books by this point, and the overall story had started to move in a direction that maybe I wasn’t so fond of, at least concerning certain subplots or character arcs. While plenty of the twists and the forbidden romance continued to pique my interest, there was just a lot more aspects that I just wasn’t entirely agreeing with.

There were a couple things I loved about this series. One was the introduction of the Kraeshian Empire, the homeland of Prince Ashur and Princess Amara Cortas. Its presence has been brewing in the background since the second book, so it was nice to see it finally make its grand entrance into the story. Another was, of course, how Prince Magnus’s relationship with Princess Cleo continues to develop oh-so-achingly slowly, and one last one worth mentioning was the development of spy/assassin/double-crossing Felix Graebas.

There were of course plenty of things I disliked about this books as well: Princess Lucia Damora being the biggest one worth mentioning. I go into more details about all these things I’ve mentioned further below in my review, as I do in all of my book reviews on this website.

Overall, I did enjoy this book like all the other books in this series so far, I was literally vibrating with excitement waiting for their publishing date every year after waiting those 365 days. I couldn’t help but literally binge read whenever these books came out, because while it’s such a cheap tactic to put on us readers, the author is damn good at those cliffhangers that keep us coming back! The thing is, I wasn’t nearly as satisfied with this book when I finished like I was with the other books. I can’t explain it, but like I said, I felt like there was just a major shift with the overall series once I got to this book, and while I still enjoy the story and characters and want to keep reading on, part of me just isn’t as emotionally invested as I once was *shrugs.* Part of it could be because around the time I’d first read this, I was really getting more into the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, and maybe that stole the thunder from this series a little bit?

What It’s About:

Because if you don’t choose to fight against the wrong in the world, then you are the wrong in the world.”

– Morgan Rhodes, “Frozen Tides”

Rebels, royals, and monsters wage war over the Mytican throne in the shocking fourth book of the Falling Kingdoms series, from New York Times bestselling author, Morgan Rhodes.

CLEO: Reeling after a bloody showdown in Limeros ending with Amara’s abduction of the water crystal, and a vacancy in the Mytican throne, Princess Cleo must cast aside her feelings and look toward her kingdom with the eyes of a Queen.

MAGNUS: With the kingdom in chaos, Princess Lucia still missing and quite possibly in danger, and a shocking realization about Cleo, the steely prince is once again torn between love and duty, leaving him wondering whether he’s strong enough to rule his people.

LUCIA: The young sorcercess has had her vengeance after the cruel death of her first and only love. Heartbroken and unable to trust anyone, she allies with the awoken Fire god, who also seeks revenge.

JONAS: After escaping death by the skin of his teeth, the defeated rebel—along with a mysterious stranger–leader reunites with Princess Cleo, only to find himself a mere pawn in a dangerous hunt for the elusive Kindred.

KING GAIUS: Abandoned by Melenia and betrayed by his own children, Gaius flees Mytica and sails to Kraeshia, where he attempts to ally with the famously brutal emperor across the Silver Sea.

What our hearts want can overtake what our minds tell us is forbidden to us. We can’t control these feelings, even if we desperately wish we could.”

– Morgan Rhodes, “Frozen Tides”

What I Liked:

  1. The Kraeshian Empire! It’s been something that’s been brewing in the background since the first appearance of Prince Ashur at Cleo and Magnus’s wedding in Rebel Spring, and you finally get a glimpse of the vast empire in the capital city! To be honest, it doesn’t seem too different from Dorne in Westeros from Game of Thrones, but the author uses it to really further the development of Amara Cortas, who is quickly letting us know she’s an irresistible force to be reckoned with in these books. You learn more about her and her family, and it adds some major depth to her crafty demeanor.
  2. Felix Graebas! You met him in the previous book, Gathering Darkness, and you probably loved him as much as I did for his cheeky personality and overall charming amount of shadiness. Turns out, he was actually an assassin sent by King Gaius to kill Jonas, but he couldn’t go through with it in the end because Jonas had become like a friend to him. Still, Jonas and Lysandra found out and banished him away, which leads Felix to realign himself with the wicked king and become his personal bodyguard! There’s more to his character, but I don’t want to give too much away; like Amara, he’s given more attention in this book and there’s more depths added to him and his motives.
  3. Magnus and Cleo’s Romantic Development! In Gathering Darkness, we got a major moment with them admitting their mutual unrequited attraction to each other—along with a steamy kiss—and Magneo officially became canon! In this book, their relationship continues to evolve as they return to the Limeros palace, Magnus’s home, and continue to bicker and get on each other’s nerves, but it’s okay because it’s foreplay for them. They reluctantly learn to trust each other and use their strengths together in order to come ahead of all the key players in the hunt for the Kindred.
  4. Many Cliffhangers! It’s definitely a normal expectation for these books, but the ending will blow your mind with how much happens! Lots of excitement for the last 25% of the book, and I won’t spoil it, but expect a lot of unexpectedness!

What I Disliked:

  1. Lucia Damora…I swear, I like her less and less with every book…Sis just needs to go away. In this book, she takes a walk on the dark side as she aligns herself with Kyan, who was actually the fire spirit trapped inside the Fire Kindred. It turns out each orb has some immortal being trapped inside like some sort of poké ball and releasing them is actually pretty bad news for EVERYONE, including the Watchers on the other side of the portals strewn about Mytica. Lucia and him travel around the realm and search for a portal that can still be activated and allow him to kill off Timotheus, the leader of the Watchers. While this new predicament is interesting and raises the stakes, Lucia does not. She’s just so easily unlikeable by this point, and her chapters were really bleh for me. So many opportunities with her whole story arc were just tossed out the window like a Corona beer during the pandemic; the storyline of her birth parents was a letdown, and even her powers aren’t all that much more impressive…
  2. The Kraeshian Rebellion…While at the Kraeshian Empire, Nic and Jonas meet Mikah, who is a servant-but-actually a leader in a rebellion group looking to overthrow the whole Empire led by Amara’s family…This whole addition was absolutely not necessary to include into the story, to be honest. Sure, it was an unexpected twist for Mikah’s character, but I can say this whole rebellion doesn’t mean anything for pretty much the entirety of the book. If anything, it serves as a plot convenience to rescue a certain character, but that’s it! There was another way to go about sneaking someone out of the palace than including this rebellion into the story, especially if it won’t come into play to the entire plot after that…pointless.
  3. Jonas Continues to Dwindle…Jonas is like that meme with the guy doing the post game interview, stating they had ’em in the first half. That perfectly sums up Jonas’s character in this series! I had high hopes for him, I really did—I even totally hoped him and Cleo ended up together—but he’s slowly being pushed further and further onto the back burner. He’s accomplished literally none of the mission’s he’s set out to do, and it feels like by this point, even the author is seeming to give up on him.

Conclusion:

Another thrilling edition to the bestselling Falling Kingdoms series, this title continues the usual recipe these books have: winding twists and turns up the wazoo, unpredictable character deaths, scorching romance, bloody political intrigue, and magic now oozing off the sides.

While many other readers who read this book seemed to love this addition, I was a little less than impressed with this title for the reasons I’ve already listed above, so I won’t repeat myself and get repetitive on the matter. Still, with the many cliffhangers this book gives us at the end, you can bet your cute butt that I’m still invested and kept reading these books! I’ve spent too much time screaming over everything that’s happened and just about everything else with these books to give up at this point.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

sci-fi

My Review: Red Rising: by Pierce Brown

Publish Date: January 28th 2014
Number of Pages: 382 Pages
Publisher: Del Ray (Random House)
Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

This book is like the love child of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones…but in space. Oh my god, I know…just let that beautiful image sink into your mind as you come up with dozens of crazy, brutal, and absolutely insane possibilities! Odds are, a good chunk of those ideas are actually in this story. Add a touch of the Ancient Greek epic, The Iliad by Homer, and you’ve got the overall vibe of Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

What It’s About:

Hundreds of years into the future, mankind has finally begun to colonize on other planets, and the ruling class of citizens has installed a caste system that is distinguished by colors into our society. The godlike, arrogant and mighty Golds are the overall rulers, and the system ends all the way at the very bottom with the Reds.

Darrow, a 16-year-old Red, is part of a special group of miners called “Helldivers,” who dig deep beneath the surface of Mars in order to procure Helium-3 to terraform the planet and make it habitable for humans. You meet Darrow during one of his excursions and learn that despite him being a Red, he’s overconfident and regards himself to a higher degree than those around him. The story takes a tragic turn when him and his wife, Eo, are arrested for trespassing in a forbidden forest-like area. After getting whipped publicly, Eo sings a haunting, but forbidden song about their unfair slavery, and is hanged for her actions, per order of Mars’s arch-governor, Nero Au Augustus. Devastated over his sudden loss, Darrow makes the terrible mistake of cutting her body down from the noose and burying her body, which in turn gets him hanged as well.

Darrow awakens to discover that he was drugged and secretly brought to a terrorist covert group of Reds called the “Sons of Ares,” who’s goal is to end the oppression of the lower class citizens (aka “lowcolors”). They reveal to Darrow that the Golds had fooled them all: that society had already fully terraformed centuries before, and they continued the ruse in order to use the Reds for their cheap labor and stay under their subjugation. Furious for the unfairness of it all, Darrow joins their cause, using Eo’s haunting song as part of their smear campaign. After many painful surgeries/treatments/cosmetics, Darrow is transformed from a lowly read to an impressive Gold, and everything is set in order to infiltrate the Gold society and destroy it from within.

Through many lessons of Gold etiquette, social behaviors and receiving fake documentation, Darrow then enrolls into the Gold’s Institute, and befriends the charismatic Cassius Au Bellona, and calls out the bitchy Antonia Au Severus on her elitism. Darrow has them all fooled, and is selected to be one of a select few to represent House Mars by the gruff proctor, Fitchner. This leads to him and the others being split into several teams that have a fortress and a scepter, also known as a standard, to defend (like some space-like advanced game of Capture the Flag) in a designated area within the Institute. Darrow meets some other characters, most notably a beautiful young woman named Mustang, a raging lunatic in Titus Au Ladros, and perhaps his biggest threat: the vicious, clever and unseen figure who goes by “The Jackal.”

The winning captain who enslaves all the other teams is deemed the winner, and receives a patron to sponsor them with power, wealth, and influence. Through this contest, battle lines are drawn, alliances are formed and lost, bitter betrayals cost others their lives, twists that surprise you at every corner, and absolutely no one is safe from the brutality of those that are willing to step on whoever they need to in order to gain power in this epic tale.

What I Liked:

  1. The Drama! The author does an amazing job of creating tension, adding in dozens of action packed scenes, badass & diverse characters both male and female, the plot twists and reveals, and a real sense of danger between the pages. There are some brutal deaths that are handed out, and even “The Jackal” can remind GoT fans of a combination of Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton, two of the biggest villains the HBO show has ever seen. There’s even a small amount of romance, much to my delight! It’s not a major part of the plot, but feels natural and well developed between two strong characters who recognize the call to battle that’s more important towards their survival, but allow small moments of passion and tenderness.
  2. The Diversity of Characters! Because of the rich world building (more on that down the list), the author created a great opportunity to create a diverse cast of characters, and even does so without getting too into the terminology or risk racial issues of groups of people being misrepresented. People within the color ranks are different races of ethnicity, and it’s the same thing with sexual orientation, and the author doesn’t just straight up say if a character is black, or gay, etc. It’s implied, but never outright said, which gave me the impression that the author didn’t want these things to matter so much in the story. They do matter, but the issue of race or sexual orientation is never questioned in the world.
  3. The Infusion of Greek/Roman Mythology! With some research involved, there’s actually quite a lot of comparisons to the ancient tales. The names of the characters like Nero and Cassius, to the houses within the story, and the planets that represented Roman gods and goddesses, PLUS symbolism used in the story. Upon checking out a subreddit, people pointed out many similarities that I missed: Eo being Persephone, Ares (Greek God of War) with the terrorist group, even the pyramid caste system is similar to Plato’s ideal society! I suggest looking into it, it makes the story so much more satisfying to tho
  4. The Setting! The author has made a truly interesting world in this series; the most notable being the caste system that keeps society in “order.” The setting is also such an integral part of the story, and I am glad to see that it doesn’t just fall in the background; its needed as more and more is revealed in terms of the society, technology and the many characters that appear. The color caste system was a nice touch and felt original, which is impressive considering all the dystopian series like Divergent and The Hunger Games that made the idea so popular. Many other stories failed to make their system something credible, but Red Rising successfully accomplished it. Below is the Caste pyramid that shows the colors and their rank, along with their societal roles:
The Caste system of the colors, image courtesy of http://www.queergeektheory.com
  • Golds: rulers, royalty of the society
  • Silvers: financiers and Businessmen
  • Whites: clergy’s and Judges
  • Coppers: administrators, lawyers, and bureaucrats
  • Blues: bridge Crew & pilots
  • Yellows: doctors and researchers
  • Greens: programmers and technicians
  • Violets: artisans and creatives
  • Oranges: mechanics and engineers
  • Grays: regular soldiers and police force
  • Browns: servants, cooks and janitors
  • Obsidians: Elite soldiers and bodyguards
  • Pinks: sex slaves, prostitutes and social functionaries
  • Reds: manual laborers and miners

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Wordy in Some Areas…The book is marketed as a dystopian/sci-fi thriller (some would even argue that it could be YA since Darrow is only 16 in this story), but it does get incredibly wordy throughout, much like a fantasy genre novel. the author uses a high level of technical terminology, loads and loads of characters with little descriptions and a considerably slow first half of the story that could cause readers to lose interest before the real games begin. It’s supposed to read like an ancient greek tragedy written by Homer himself, with the words that the author uses in his prose and the character dialogue, but it can seem overdramatic and cheesy at times.
  2. Darrow is Perfect…In fact, he’s too perfect. Sure, he’s made into a space-age Adonis as a Gold, but he gets a little too close to the “Mary Sue” character trope (or maybe “Marty Stu” in this case?). He accomplishes tasks with seemingly little issues along the way from his end; any problems he runs into is because of outside forces. Maybe his only mistakes is underestimating other characters: taking them for granted, and being upset with himself when it comes back to bite him in the ass, and learns that there’s more to others than his own assumptions. He views himself as somewhat superior to everyone around him, even when he was Red, and it’s ironic how he’d mention how annoying the arrogant Golds were. All of this, along with the idea that he’s supposed to be an average guy who is from the lowest social caste in the world and the fact that he’s only 16, is a bit hard to believe. It’s MarySue meets the Chosen One for cliché character tropes.
  3. The First Half is incredibly Boring…I’m not going to lie, it drags on for quite a bit. After the initial set up, the story flows at a much slower pace, with a ton of info dumped onto you as well. Darrow’s transformation is a little cringeworthy: bones are snapped and rebuilt to be longer, skin is peeled off, there’s lots of pain, screaming, and blood; and while it’s kind of awesome, but I personally wished that the author condensed more parts around this part of the story. Once Darrow and the other Gold’s get into the competition is when it gets much more interesting, but man-oh-man….it was a journey to get there.

Conclusion:

I’d say that fans of the Hunger Games will enjoy these books because they both deal with similar themes of warfare, oppressive governments, and politics in fun, creative ways. Pierce Brown has created a rich world, probably even more complex than Panem, and the promise of so much more to come as the series develops. It’s still far from perfect; there’s still plenty of work that the author needs to improve on: like developing Darrow into a much more fleshed out, relatable character that more people can support and get behind. To end this review, I can say that the book is definitely worth checking out!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell