Mini Fantasy Reviews | The Tiger and the Wolf, The Emperor’s Knife, and Short Stories from Hogwarts

I’m back with more mini reviews for you all! Today, I’m actually reviewing 3 fantasy books I’ve read recently. I just don’t have all that much to say about each of them, but I still wanted to let you guys know what I thought of the books. 

the tiger and the wolfThe Tiger and the Wolf (Echoes of the Fall #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Published: 11.02.2016 by Pan Macmillan
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3/5 stars – ★★★

Synopsis: In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming. Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She can’t disown half her soul, so escapes – with the killer Broken Axe in pursuit. Maniye’s father plots to rule the north, and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger, a time of testing and broken laws. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. But what spark will set the world ablaze? 


I’ll start by saying that there’s a theme for the books I’m reviewing today. I thought they were “meh”. They weren’t bad, not at all. But they weren’t great either. There was nothing special to grab my attention, to be honest.

This story had so much potential. The shifter clans of different animals are so intriguing! Especially the history. The tigers who used to rule the Northern Crown on the World, until the Wolves took over. There are different Wolf-clans, each with their own chieftain, but there is one ruling person in general. There are Snakes, Bears, Coyotes, etc. It’s really interesting, especially because they all have some traits we associate with those animals as well. I do think that a lot of the potential here wasn’t fulfilled. 

I wasn’t really attached to any of the characters. I thought Broken Axe was really intriguing, and he’s the biggest reason I kept reading. Maniye wasn’t a bad or boring character, I just didn’t relate to her at all. Characters are incredibly important to me because when I don’t feel attached to them, I tend to not be captivated by the plot either. That was exactly the case here. I wasn’t captivated by the story. To be honest, I felt like there was no big plot-climax. You know what I mean? I didn’t feel like this story was building up to something, and it left me with one overall question: what was the point?

Like I said, I don’t think this is a bad book. I will definitely be trying some of the author’s other works because I’ve already enjoyed one other book by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Empire in Black and Gold. But I don’t think I’ll be continuing this series. This book has quite a high average rating on Goodreads though, so you may want to try it and decide for yourself.

EmperorsKnife_Press_Corrected02.inddThe Emperor’s Knife (Knife & Tower #1) by Mazarkis Williams
Published: 27.10.2011 by Quercus
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3/5 stars – ★★★

SynopsisThere is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike. Geometric patterns spread across the skin, until you die in agony, or become a Carrier, doing the bidding of an evil intelligence, the Pattern Master. Anyone showing the tell-tale marks is put to death; that is Emperor Beyon’s law…but now the pattern is running over the Emperor’s own arms. His body servants have been executed, he ignores his wives, but he is doomed, for soon the pattern will reach his face. While Beyon’s agents scour the land for a cure, Sarmin, the Emperor’s only surviving brother, awaits his bride, Mesema, a windreader from the northern plains. Unused to the Imperial Court’s stifling protocols and deadly intrigues, Mesema has no one to turn to but an aging imperial assassin, the Emperor’s Knife. As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence, the invincible Pattern Master appears from the deep desert. Only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes who once saw a path in a pattern — a path that might save them all.


Like The Tiger and the Wolf, I felt “meh” about this book. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I don’t have the need to finish the trilogy, but I already own the second book. Dilemma…

I think this book had a lot of potential, but I didn’t really like the execution of it. I was intrigued for several reasons: geometric patterns across the skin that make you do someone else’s bidding, an Emperor with a dead family, the Prince locked up and a Windreader. Those all sound so promising!

But instead, I felt like there was something off about this story. First, it seemed like I was watching the story unfold from a distance instead of being there with the characters. Second, while you’re reading, it feels like there are chunks of time missing. The characters develop but I think it was unrealistic. For example: Sarmin has spent almost his entire life locked up in his room without seeing anyone. And suddenly, he has the ability to stop the biggest threat his empire has ever faced? I don’t get it. The characters changed so suddenly, I couldn’t really follow anymore. The only character I could understand was the Knife. Third, I didn’t understand parts of the history or backstory. Why did all the brothers have to be killed? Why not Sarmin? Maybe I missed it or just forgot in the past month, but I couldn’t tell you if my life depended on it. 

short-stories-from-hogwarts-2Short Stories from Hogwarts: Of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore Presents #1) by J.K. Rowling
Published: 06.09.2016
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars – ★★★

SynopsisThese stories of heroism, hardship and dangerous hobbies profile two of the Harry Potter stories’ most courageous and iconic characters: Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin. J.K. Rowling also gives us a peek behind the closed curtains of Sybill Trelawney’s life, and you’ll encounter the reckless, magical-beast-loving Silvanus Kettleburn along the way.


When I heard about the three Pottermore Presents books, I immediately went to Amazon to pre-order one. I chose this one, because of Minerva and Remus. They are some of my favorite adults of the Wizarding World so of course I had to order short stories about them. By the time September 6th rolled around, I’d actually already forgotten about it. Imagine my surprise when I opened my Kindle app. 

Of course I loved learning more about my favorite Hogwarts professors. I even thought Silvanus Kettleburn’s part was interesting! It allowed me to get to know them better. I never would have thought Minerva McGonagall had gone through such hardship in her life. I felt for her, I really did. And I already loved and felt for Remus. 

But my biggest criticism is: this book’s name is really misleading. These aren’t short stories, in my opinion. They’re more like: short biographies? It’s not told in a story format, but merely in a text providing you with the facts. I hope you understand my meaning.

Review: Empire in Black and Gold

empire in black and goldNovel: Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Published: March 1st 2012 by Tor
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Goodreads | Bookdepository

Synopsis: 17 years ago Stenwold witnessed the Wasp Empire storming the city of Myna in a brutal war of conquest. Since then he has preached vainly against this threat in his home city of Collegium, but now the Empire is on the march, with its spies and its armies everywhere, and the Lowlands lie directly in its path.


When I did a two-week work experience at Pan Macmillan in London, they were kind enough to let me pick a few books off their shelves at the end of it (which I’m honestly so grateful for). This is one of the books I picked. I had never heard of the book or author before, but the synopsis sounded intriguing enough. Plus, I wanted to pick up more books I hadn’t seen in the blogosphere yet. Not a bad decision at all!


I can’t explain the plot without first talking about the world. So in this fantasy setting, the people are based on/kind of animals. You have the Wasp-kinden, Beetle-kinden, Spider-kinden, Dragonfly-kinden and so on. You get the gist. At first, this kind of grossed me out because I am definitely not a fan of insects and spiders. But I was actually intrigued by them.

Each race has their own looks, and attributes. For example, the Beetle-people are more heavy but very good at inventing, creating and mechanics. Spider-kinden are not that apt, but they are beautiful and incredible at politics, manipulation and persuasion. It’s really interesting to see each kind’s and person’s characteristics and talents. I do wish that the characters’ appearances were explained more. I can kind of imagine them, but it’s hard to really see the details… 

As the story progresses, we get to see more of the world as the main characters travel. I did love the different settings and cities! The Collegium was interesting because it’s the Hogwarts of Harry Potter, the University of The Name of the Wind and so on. It’s where you go to learn. Then there’s the second big city in the Lowlands: Helleron. A despicable city in which everyone just wants to make money no matter the costs. As I’m writing this, I wonder whether that’s a commentary on our society. Anyway, lots of different interesting places, but again I can’t really form a description of the lands. 


So, the plot. You don’t really get much from the synopsis, do you? It’s about Stenwold and his apprentices (I guess?) trying to prevent an invasion of the Wasp Empire. Adventures ensue! 

Truly, a lot happens in this book. While I had been in a reading slump for about 2 months, I couldn’t put this book down. For the first time in 2 months, I wanted to keep reading. That says something, doesn’t it? I thought the plot was really captivating, as I sat in the sofa reading for hours instead of studying or working. I won’t tell you anything about what actually happens because the synopsis doesn’t either.


This novel has quite a few main characters, so I’ll just have a little explanation of each!

Stenwold Maker: Beetle-kinden. He watched the city Myna fall and has been working his way up in the Collegium ever since then to spy on the Wasp Empire and work against them. Really enjoyed his character! 

Cheerwell “Che” Maker: Beetle-kinden and Stenwold’s niece. She’s been studying at the Collegium. She often feels like the lesser one: not as apt, not as able, not as pretty. But she’s tough, tries hard and never gives up. 

Tynisa: Stenwold’s protégé really. She’s Spider-kinden but has grown up at the Collegium with the Beetle-kinden. She’s a fighter -literally. She loves to fight. To be honest, she was my least favorite character because she was often arrogant. Incredibly so. 

Totho: half-breed. Also studies at the Collegium and is an artificer now – so he creates all kinds of cool things. Quite enjoyed his character, and I felt bad for him because of how he was treated due to him being a half-breed. 

Salma: Prince of the Dragonfly-kinden. I both loved and disliked him. He is incredibly handsome, and knows it -just like Tynisa knows she’s beautiful. But he treats his friends well and would do anything to help them -and his people. 

Tisamon: I believe he’s a Mantis. He’s one of my absolute favorite characters of this book! He’s a Weaponsmaster, which apparently is really rare. His kind holds on to grudges but also to promises. He’s probably the best fighter ever. He’s from the same generation as Stenwold, while the previous 4 are young. He was also at Myna when it fell to the Wasps. 

I also liked Achaeos, a Moth-kinden who is introduced much later on!


I quite liked this book overall! I thought the concept was intriguing, the synopsis captivating and the characters fascinating. The only downside I found here is that it lacks in description. I would’ve really liked to see the world and characters described more. I do want to continue on with the series because I enjoyed it, but I won’t go running out the door to the bookstore because I need it now.