Category Archives: Reading

Mature Characters Matter: Why I Love Balthazar

I want to take a moment to have an expanded discussion on one of my favorite things about the books by Kat Ross (see my review of Kat Ross’ latest book The Necromancer Bride coming Monday Oct 7th .) That is her mature characters. So many times these day mature is used to describe adult-rated content (or content for the 55+ crowd,) but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about characters who are deep, well thought out and act like real adults. Which is so refreshing, in a world awash in YA novels with adults who act like teens.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love YA. Just sometimes I read it and wish that the characters made smarter decisions, that they acted more like adults, that they had deeper motives and more definition.

Slight spoilers ahead… continue to the end to enter to win a  Amazon Kindle copy of A Bad Breed.

One character who seems to really stand out to me in this way is Balthazar.  Balthazar has been there practically from the beginning of Kat’s fantasy world. In the Epilogue to The Midnight Sea he is introduced as an evil antimagi.

The one who carried the urn went by the name Balthazar. He was old, although not nearly as old as his mistress…

He was the strongest of the antimagi, the one she trusted above all others.

In the days of the ancient Persian Empire Balthazar had been a magi, a sort of priest of the  ancient Persian religion, until he’s expelled for dabbling with forbidden elements. When we meet him he is in the service of Neblis, the Queen of the Dominion. A dark queen who rules hordes of un-dead ghouls and revenants. The antimagi are her servants they use chains to drain victims of their life force, thus extending their own lives and allowing them magic abilities, like wielding fearful black lightening. The  antimagi are ruthless, and Balthazar more so, killing whole villages, enslaving women and children with the chains, and are guilty of many depraved and despicable acts. Later these antimagi will be know as Necromancers.

Balthazar is more than the top dog among the antimagi, he is also Neblis’ lover. But it quickly becomes apparent that not all is as it seems. Even in the epilogue where he is introduced we get a hint that there are doubts, cracks in the world of Balthazar and the antimagi, and those have nothing to do with the stories hero’s who are so valiantly fighting against them.

It’s towards the end of The Queen of Chaos that I really began to enjoy the depth of Balthazar’s character. He ended up being so much more that a 2-dimensional villain. As revelations come to light and choices have to be made we see Balthazar making decisions less like a ruthless antimagi and more like a lost sheep. We see how Balthazar’s past has shaped him and we begin to understand Neblis’ corruption of him. We see a man desperate to be free.

This is rich stuff for a villain, especially for an under-boss. Many popular fantasy novels don’t flesh out the character of the under-boss like this. Neblis is the big baddie, Balthazar is her tool, her thrall.

He ends the series disappearing off the grid, maybe changed, maybe not. We are unsure if he is still a villain or perhaps something else.

About a thousand years later he resurfaces in the Gaslamp Gothic series as a Victorian Count…

He is at first a background player and of course our hero’s are very weary of him and his motives. Balthazar isn’t the only necromancer still around, but he’s found a way to extend his life without the chains and he’s learned to stay behind the scenes, never drawing too much attention to himself.

It seems that many of the remaining necromancers have grown even more cruel, cunning and greedy with time. Balthazar though has gained something special – wisdom. I love this about him. I love seeing his slow metamorphosis from an villainous antimagi to someone who cares about the world and those around him. Even to such a degree that he is willing  to use the chains on himself to save another.

This isn’t 100% unique, but that change is different in the motivations behind it. There is no romantic interest working to “find the good in him”, no road to Damascus moment, no external force working on him to change. It’s a creeping change, so much so that even toward the end of The Necromancer’s Bride I was left wondering exactly where he would end up.

Balthazar isn’t a hero, he’s not an antihero and he moves beyond being a villain. I’m not sure what to call him, but I am so glad I got to meet him in these books.

The good news is that we are going to get more of Balthazar. The next book in the Gaslamp Gothic series is called Dead Ringer, after which Balthazar’s Bane is scheduled. And check out the cover, which was shared by Kat Ross for this blog post!

If you were going to make a list of complicated, mature characters who would you put on that list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Your comment will enter you to win a Kindle copy of A Bad Breed (Gaslamp Gothic Book 3) by Kat Ross read my review. One entry per person/account, international as long as you can receive a kindle code, ends Oct. 31st, 2019.

“Balthazar wasn’t entirely sure why he stayed, only that he was waiting for something. It was the same feeling one had on a hot summer night when the air grew heavy and charges. The primitive brain knew a storm was brewing long before the first thunderheads appeared on the horizon.

This did not trouble him – quite the reverse. He thrived on his little war against the Duzakh. Killing his former brethren was the only thing that gave him pleasure anymore.

Let them come.

-Excerpt from The Necromancer’s Bride

‘I should have read that book’ tag

I’m not very good at playing “tag.” I never get “tagged” in any blog things, at least that I know of, and I’m not a big fan of tagging others and thereby obligating them to something. But I saw this post on the Books Nest twitter feed and really liked the idea of the ‘I should have read that book’ tag, so I’m giving it a go. (However, I won’t be tagging anyone else.) I’m just going to answer the questions and hope you enjoy it. But if you do happen to post this tag after seeing my answers I’d really appreciate a back link. 😉

Rules:

Thank the person who tagged you and link back to their post
Link to the creator’s blog (booksnest.co.uk) in your post
Answer the questions below
Tag 10 others to take part
ENJOY THE TAG!

The Questions

  • A book that a certain friend is always telling you to read
  • A book that’s been on your TBR forever and yet you still haven’t picked it up
  • A book in a series you’ve started, but haven’t gotten round to finishing yet
  • A classic you’ve always liked the sound of, but never actually read
  • A popular book that it seems everyone but you has read
  • A book that inspired a film/TV adaptation that you really love, but you just haven’t read it yet
  • A book you see all over Instagram but haven’t picked up yet

My Answers

  • A book that a certain friend is always telling you to read

Ha! I’m the one all my friends go to for recommendations. Among my IRL friends I guess I’m the biggest book dragon.  But… if you count social media friends then the book I see most often recommended is the Hate You Give.

  • A book that’s been on your TBR forever and yet you still haven’t picked it up

The Maze Runner, has been on my TBR for sooooo long, and I finally got myself a paperback copy. It’s just sitting on my shelf and taunting me now.

  • A book in a series you’ve started, but haven’t gotten round to finishing yet

I read about halfway through Crooked Kingdom, and then had to return it to the library. I could have finished it before it was due, when it came down to it I was scared something might happen to Inej. I know, bad excuse, but it is what it is.

  • A classic you’ve always liked the sound of, but never actually read

Le Mort d’Arthur, I am a HUGE fan of the Arthurian legend and I’ve never read the classic take on it that pretty much set up the modern view of Arthur. Also I’ve never read The Once and Future King. Seriously I need to get on this.

  • A popular book that it seems everyone but you has read

A Thousand Perfect Notes, I can’t believe I have yet to read this. I’ve been following @Paperfury for a long time, love her social posts and Goodread reviews. Yet, I haven’t picked up her book and it seems like most of my Goodreads friends have already read it.

  • A book that inspired a film/TV adaptation that you really love, but you just haven’t read it yet

Who has time to watch TV? I’ve got this HUGE TBR stack staring me down. Seriously we are trying to watch through Avatar the Last Airbender with the 8 year old and we get about 1 episode a week in, if that. Plus I’m a book first, screen adaptation later type of person. But I did start watching Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell before I realized it was a book, and now of course I can’t keep watching it until I read the book. I guess I’m just weird like that.

  • A book you see all over Instagram but haven’t picked up yet

The Barnes and Noble leather bound classics, they do look very pretty, but I’m not a hardbound book lover. So despite seeing them in oh so many lovely displays on bookstgram I doubt I will ever collect them myself.

 

June 19th Mass Market Paperback Book Day

I will freely admit to being a lover of Mass Market Paperback Books. I will often wait, sometimes for a year or more, to get new releases from my favorite authors as paperbacks.

I just pre- ordered the new Stephen R. Lawhead In the Region of the Summer Stars in mass market paperback format. Hardcover and kindle were released on May 15. How long to I have to wait until my copy arrives?  Until January 29, 2019. Yep that’s over 6 months away, and Lawhead is hands down my favorite author.

I also couldn’t resist getting a physical copy of Roar by Cora Carmack. The cover is just that beautiful! A kindle version would never do. This is a book that needs to be on a shelf. Of course, I wanted to wait for the paperback. The book was released on June 13, 2017, but the paperback (unfortunately not a mass market paperback) didn’t come out until June 5, 2018. Nearly a year later!

I had to put up with seeing all these rave reviews and beautiful Bookstagram pics of the book for almost an entire year before getting my copy.

Those are only two recent examples. I could give you a lot more. Why do I like to have the mass market copies of books? And why is it worth the wait?

Three Reasons to Choose Mass Market Paperbacks:

  1. The weight – Let just admit it right now Hardbacks are heavy. They’re awkward to read if you like to read laying down. (I mean have you ever dropped a book on your face while reading?) Mass market books are a much better choice.
  2. The size – You can fit soooo many more mass market paperbacks on your shelves. Plus they fit better in bags and purses (yes the Kindle absolutely wins for portability, but they aren’t nearly as pretty.) Mass market books also fit better in your hands.
  3. The standard – There is a standard size for mass market paper backs of 4×7 inches. There seems to be no standard for hardbacks and a few different standards for paperbacks. It really bugs me when I have so many different heights of books that all should belong together on the same shelf. Having so many different sizes makes having neat shelves troublesome and bookworms like to have their shelves neatly arranged.

What format do you prefer your books in? Are you a hardback collector? A Kindle reader? Are you like me and enjoy mass market paperback books? And the biggest question of all… WHY DO PUBLISHERS MAKE US WAIT?!?!

Update: What I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2018

I posted at the end of 2017 some book picks we were looking forward to reading this year. Seems like it’s a  good time to check in on those books. See my  original post here.

5 Books To Read & Review in 2018:

  1. Nocturne (The Fourth Talisman Book 1) – I absolutely love Kat Ross, so of course I had to ask to be put on the review tours for her newest series. Check out my review of Nocturne here.
  2. Solis (The Fourth Talisman Book 2) – Check out my review of Solis here. I am eagerly awaiting the next book Monstrum (The Fourth Talisman Book 3).
  3. Romanov – This book wasn’t quite what I expected. Check out Part 1 of my review here and Part 2 here.
  4. The King of Eiselorn – I haven’t read this one yet.
  5. Something by KN Lee – I haven’t dug into any of these book either. I’m now kinda hesitant because I’m not sure how much sex (and how graphic it is) is in her books. I’m kinda burned out on books that have graphic sex scenes.

5 Books to Read With Miss S in 2018:

  1. Illustrated Classic Editions Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn – Not yet.
  2. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – Not yet.
  3. Redwall – We just started Redwall, and so far Miss S isn’t really into it. I’m hoping her interest picks up as the action picks up.
  4. The Mouse and the Motorcycle – Not yet, but I’m planning on reading it to her after we finish Redwall.
  5. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – We read it and laughed and laughed.

We’ve got a pretty good start to our lists for 2018, plus I am trying to do a TBR take-down each month I’m working on reading 1 digital and 1 physical book that have been on my TBR for a least 2 years. What are you reading in 2018? Let me know in the comments.