Book Thoughts: Elizabeth Kerner’s “The Lesser Kindred”  

Hello All!  

Second book of 2023 down.  

If you’re an old-school fantasy lover, this trilogy is for you.

Published in 2001, The Lesser Kindred is the second of the Tales of Kolmar Trilogy. Tor is one of my favorite fantasy publishers, so I often have high hopes for their books. Then again, my thoughts are a tad more biased because the first book of the series, Song in the Silence, also happens to be one of my absolute favorite books of all time. It’s one I pick up every few years and reread, seeing the characters with different eyes each time.  

In Song in the Silence, we meet a young Lanen Kaelar, who was left by her mother as a baby and raised by her adopted father, a horse breeder. In her early twenties, Lanen is filled with wanderlust and eager to leave home and explore the lands of Kolmar. And maybe, if she’s lucky, find the legendary dragons she’s always dreamed about.  

She finally gets her chance when her adopted father dies and she learns the circumstances behind her birth, and her mother’s departure, from her closest friend and truer father, Jamie. Mainly, she’s at the center of an old prophesy predicting the end of the world as they know it, and that she was promised to demons even before she was born. Together, Lanen and Jamie set out from their old home and Lanen is able to gain passage on a boat bound for the Dragon Isle, where she meets the creatures of her dreams and even falls in love with none other than the Dragon King. It’s this sense dreaming and fulfillment that draws me back to Song in the Silence time after time.  

However, The Lesser Kindred is another story. I tried reading it before, when I was in my teens, and can honestly say that I understand it more now, in my thirties, than I did at fifteen. I can’t even remember if I finished it the first time, though it has lingered in the back of my mind for well over a decade and a half. In the second book, Lanen is more mature due to the struggles she, and her new husband Varien, have faced. Meanwhile the danger to her life is ever more present as the two set off to escape the demon master looking for them and fulfill a promise to Varien’s people. Not only this, but Lanen finds herself pregnant and facing an internal battle that further puts her life in jeopardy. Will her children be monsters? Will she really bring about the end of the world?  

Definitely heavier themes to digest. Along with the themes of displacement from one’s home, human greed, and human resilience in the face of adversity. I can more relate to Lanen’s fear of an unknown future, and her frustration at others daring to try and control the course of her life. Motherhood is a great, often rewarding, thing. But how many mothers have wondered what kind of people their children would become? How many people have wondered if their actions would bring more evil than good?  

In all, I really enjoyed picking The Lesser Kindred back up, and revisiting beloved characters (like old friends). The final book, Redeeming the Lost, is already on my bookshelf, waiting. I don’t think I’ll pick it up immediately because I am still digesting the rest of the second book. But once I do, I will take my time with it because I hate endings and especially endings of beloved stories. It’s only taken me about twenty-or-so years to read all three, so what’s a few more months, right?  

Anyway, if you’re a lover of classic fantasy, I highly recommend the Tales of Kolmar trilogy. You won’t be disappointed, especially if you’ve ever felt a longing for magic and adventure.  

Thoughts: Everina Maxwell’s “Winter’s Orbit” 

Hello All!  

The first book of 2023 was Everina Maxwell’s “Winter’s Orbit”, a fun romp through an intergalactic society filled with political intrigue and colorful characters, all framed within an icy alien landscape. It was a fun read, to say the least, though a bit more political than I usually like. There were a few parts where the pace was slow – roughly, the first third of the novel as we got to know Kiem and Jainan – the prince on royal probation and his Thean emissary husband. This isn’t a bad thing of course, especially if you prefer deeper character development over a fast-paced plot.

I originally went into it thinking it was a young adult book, but, by the halfway point I realized it’s more for adults. Some of the heavier themes included domestic abuse, trauma, and duty to one’s nation. Throw in a few assassination attempts, a done-with-your-shit emperor, a spunky assistant running from her space pirate past, and you’ve got a crazy ride. Also, both Kiem and Jainan grow throughout the story, overcoming their misconceptions about each other and themselves, and so became one of the most stable power couples in their mutual societies.  

Overall, Winter’s Orbit surprised me by presenting some very mature themes amongst a colorful, imaginative landscape, as well as two main characters who struggle with real-life anxieties and fears.  And, as space opera’s go, this one was a pretty quick read.

Let me know if you pick it up!

Book Review: “Circe” by Madeline Miller – 5/5⭐️

Pages: 385

Rating: 5/5 Stars



It’s easy to tell that Miller has a penchant for underdog characters. In Circe, we are introduced to a goddess who is not only the outcast of her family, but also the most human goddess you will ever meet. If, like me, you choose to read this book after reading “The Song of Achilles”, I can tell you now that it is just as poetically written and enchanting. However, while TSOA was a love story (albeit a tragic one), Circe is more of a story of survival and self-discovery. 

We follow the Daughter of Helios as she first grows up in her father’s halls, ignored by all until she finally begins to show signs of her true power: witchcraft. Sadly, it is this power – feared by the gods – that leads to her eventual exile on the island of Aiaia. There, while she grows into herself and learns the extent of her powers, Circe is faced with a series of challenges, and visitors, that teach her more about the human experience. 

I fell in love with Circe because she is no pushover. There is a resilience to her that is both inspiring and humbling. Though she is no saint, with blood on her hands, she feels regret, guilt, and she learns from her mistakes. She has inner strength that keeps her moving forward when others might have given up. For example, early on in the story, she is severely injured by her own father as punishment for contradicting him. And later on, on Aiaia, she is assaulted by wayward sailors. (Trigger warning for those who are sensitive to SA and physical abuse.) These are just a few of the many trials she overcomes, and that’s not even touching on all the difficulties she faced during motherhood (which are, honestly, a nightmare all on their own). 

In all, her story is a long journey through time and turmoil, and unimaginable pain. She is touched by gods and heroes alike, creates and kills monsters, becomes a mother, and faces down eternal isolation. She’s quite the badass. It’s rare to find a book where you can hear the main character’s voice so well, but Circe’s voice is loud and clear and still echoing. I recommend this book for anyone who loves a strong female protagonist, and themes surrounding mortality, loss, self-discovery, and self-sacrifice. It isn’t a pleasant ride, but one that is entirely worth it in the end. 

If you do decide to give the book a read, please let me know what you think! 

Book Review: Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn” – 4/5⭐️

Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is a hard book for me to rate, and that’s because it holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve loved this story (both book and movie form) since I was a kid, and so, I decided to reread it because I was curious about how I would see it now, as an adult. 

In the book, we meet the Unicorn, who exists alone in a kind of immortal stasis. She never leaves her enchanted wood, and so is long disconnected from the world of man. What eventually draws her out of her safety zone is learning that she is the last of her kind. Determined to find the others, she reenters the world of man and immediately runs into humans who can no longer see, or believe in, wonders. She meets the Magician Schmendrick, who, though a true magician, is incapable of controlling his magic, and Molly Grue, a woman who long thought herself well past her prime. However, together, the three journey to a land equally frozen in time, and find themselves coming back to life along the way. 

In this way, time is one of the biggest themes in the story. The passing of time being something that is both feared, but can also bring beauty. It is something necessary for life to be appreciated. The other big themes are human greed and fear, and how they can eventually lead to one’s own downfall. 

I will admit, the reason I ultimately settled on 4 stars, instead of 5, is because of the characters. I wasn’t as connected with them as I once was, though I understood their motivations and admired them all in their own way. For example, I found that I didn’t really care for Schmendrick, as his character was a bit self-centered at times. He is meant to play the fool, as he is beginning his true journey of self discovery, but I still found him a bit irritating at times. However, the harsh Molly Grue has a stronger character. She is jaded, but at the end of the story, is rejuvenated by her adventure with the Magician and Unicorn. I would have liked to know a bit more about her. The Unicorn herself learns about human emotions, like love and regret, and becomes the first of her kind to have truly lived as something else, other than a unicorn.

In all, this book is lyrically written, whimsical, and fast paced. It’s a classic read for anyone wanting a little bit of magic in their lives.