Feb 2021: Review of “The Golim War”
We get to see how she adjusts to her life with the rebels, her changed relationship with her siblings, and most important of all, her father.
The strange new world she discovers and the monsters within are enough to really challenge Maihara into become the strong leader she was destined to become.
What I liked most about this series was how strong and real Maihara felt. She’s an example of a strong female character who isn’t a fighter, doesn’t know karate, but does know a little magic! But her compassion, curiosity, and intelligent are what makes her feel so strong and admirable. If you’re looking for stories with strong female characters, this is one you should check out!
There are many things to like here: A solid story with solid lead characters. This is the continuation of Book 1, The Witch’s Box, and follows Maihara’s adventures as she’s now stranded from the Empire and united with the Rebels. Maihara is the daughter of the emperor, and second in line to the throne. She is enraged with the imperial since they think her a witch because of her magic, and first a prisoner, now a guest with the rebels, she gets very close to Tarchon, the general of the rebels. There are great things about her, especially that she’s smart and sees things no one else does.
I like Maihara’s curiosity about the golims and how they are built while the rest just destroy them and are totally ignorant: that sets her as an interesting MC and different from the usual heroines. I also like her independence streak, that’s done very well, as well as her compassion for those damaged by war. That last part is important since sometimes Maihara can be a bit bossy, so that softens her.
Tarchon is also a good, interesting character and his goals are clear, which I appreciate.
Conflict: I love the conflict with Maihara wanting power and wanting Tarchon at the same time. Of course, she can’t have both so she has to choose.
Visuals are good all around and I can picture where they are without feeling lost.
Technology: The author seeps some of today’s tech into the story, which is setup in a fantasy kingdom with fantastic creatures, in a way that feels organic and the result is enjoyable.
Please note that this is part of a trilogy so the story doesn’t end here.
Overall: This is an interesting follow up to Book 1, with Cordan’s secrets starting to peek and technology starting to reveal to the characters who aren’t familiar with it. The reason why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is because sometimes the plot goes around in circles and so does Maihara’s relationship with Tarchon. Secondary characters could also have a bit more polish.
But it is a satisfying reading overall. Strong world-building and strong lead characters. A very good option for those who enjoy strong female leads triumphing in a male-dominated world
Jan 2021: Review of “The Golim War”
Harpalycus: 5 out of 5 stars. A story in which to immerse yourself. A young princess is caught up in the throes of a rebellion, rejected by her father, the Emperor, threatened with execution and treated with dislike and suspicion by the Republican rebels. She has to find her way through these turbulent waters, helped only by her witch blood and a natural facility to use the old magic.
This is the second volume of a series that is noteworthy for its imaginative and credible world building and its fascinating portrayal of a well-rounded character, Maihara, strong-willed and clever, but by no means perfect. She can be abrupt and unforgiving and her romantic liaison with the Rebel General is always in tension as the disturbing new feelings with her coming of age clash with her ambition and strong sense of duty.
This book is not one of those that maps out the narrative arc from page 1 and moves inexorably to its predictable conclusion. Instead, the reader follows Maihara through the confusion of battle and intrigue as she attempts to follow the trail of her deranged father’s experimentation with mechanical soldiers.
Well written and with a cast of well-drawn characters in support, not too heavy on the fantasy aspects (the magic is intriguingly reminiscent of learning to overcome the vagaries of modern information technology) and always holding the attention, it is a story in which to immerse yourself.
Jan 2021: Review of “The Golim War”
The imagination behind the Golims and other mechanical machines takes this series to a whole new level and had me eagerly turning the page. I thought I knew roughly where it might go after reading the first book in the series – but I was wrong. The twists and turns make it unpredictable – and that’s what I like about a story. Maihara might not be able to wield a sword but she can certainly hold her own.
An exhilarating read that leaves me wanting more.
Jan 2021: Review of “The Witch’s Box”
Jennifer Shephard rated it: 5 out of 5 stars. This is the first book I read from this author and let me tell you that I loved it! Such a good book with great characters that keeps you obsessed with every page since the first one. The ending of this book.. come on! I just didn´t expect it! Can´t wait to read other books from this great writer! Amazing job! a must-read! A fantastic book that has it all! I happily endorse this story to any and all who are looking for a fantasy enjoyable read and a completely different experience than anyone could imagine on their own. Great book!
Jan 2020: Reviews of “The Witch’s Box”
5.0 out of 5 stars
An epic fantasy that will appeal to readers of all genres.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 24, 2020. Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Epic fantasises aren’t my usual “go to” genre but I really enjoyed The Witch’s Box. Rather than being a straight forward fantasy story, the book instead takes the reader in one hand and Maihara in the other and simultaneously leads both through Maihara’s journey of self-reflection and self-discovery following the disruption of her previously comfortable existence.
Despite her sheltered position as an Imperial Princess, Maihara isn’t a helpless damsel in distress. Instead she’s a determined individual who has the courage of her convictions and a sharp, strategic mind. Though she’s thrust into a patriarchal world against her will, she holds her own against the men around her, maintains a clear sense of self-awareness, and doesn’t allow herself to become a victim. She’s believable and well-rounded as a character, as well as being someone who most readers will be able to relate to. To those wanting a strong and intelligent woman at the centre of their next epic fantasy read: this book is definitely for you.
I received a free advance copy of this book, and look forward to finding out what happens to Maihara next.
The Witch’s Box
T. Leonard, 5.0 out of 5 stars, Intriguing adventure!
Reviewed in the United States on January 24, 2020. Format: Paperback
This is my second Cowie book and so far my favorite. If you’re looking for an adventure with a strong female character—and not strong because she can beat people up or fight, but strong because she’s intelligent and confident—this is the boom for you. Princess Maihara is a bit spoiled at first, but she doesn’t quite understand the world outside her walls, though she’s eager to learn. Especially on the topics of war and battle strategies. When a rebellion breaks out and puts her and her family in danger, no one wants to listen to the little princess who should sit and be proper, but she actually has some solid strategies that end up getting her into trouble. Lots and lots of trouble. And it’s so satisfying to watch her dig her way out, make hard choices, and explore an exciting world outside her royal upbringing!
I did receive a free advanced copy for review.
The Witch’s Box
Sreshta, 5.0 out of 5 stars, A fun fantasy adventure
Reviewed in the United States on January 25, 2020. Format: Kindle Edition
I really enjoyed this book. It combines two staples of modern fantasy: magic and political drama. The book is a gripping tale with a vivid setting and compelling characters. Maihara is a well written female character trying to find her place in the world. She is an engaging lead that I found myself rooting for throughout the story. Her relationship with her family and other characters is well drawn, and the characters bounce off each other in a lifelike and relatable manner. The romance perfectly supplements the story; there is not too little but also not too much that it overshadows the main plot. Overall, I would highly recommend this for fans of fantasy and also those new to the genre. I received a free copy for advance review.
The Witch’s Box
Mdavisnowell, 5.0 out of 5 stars
An Imperial Princess and a Rebel Leader: Intrigue, Suspense, Mutual Attraction.
Reviewed in the United States on January 21, 2020. Format: Paperback
Maihara, an Imperial Princess accused of witchcraft, is captured during an uprising against the Emperor by the leader of rebel forces, Tarchon. Both Maihara and Tarchon are well drawn characters, intelligent and manipulative, with opposite goals. Their interactions range from intrigue to mutual attraction, always with an uncertain outcome that keeps the reader in suspense. A solid read from start to finish. I was furnished with a free advance copy by the author.
The Witch’s Box
S. Beasley, 5.0 out of 5 stars. A well written, exciting novel.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 January 2020. Format: Paperback
Having received a free copy in my inbox, I profess to wondering what I might find. I needn’t have worried because from the first paragraph to the last, I was mesmerised. This book is amazing.
The story follows a wrapped-in-cottonwool princess, Maihara, on the cusp of womanhood, who is yet restricted to the nursery. With her education carefully controlled by her father’s people, Maihara has to find her own education in books. All that changes when the city is taken by rebels and Maihara is thrust into the real world. Once started, I had to read page after page until there were no more to read. Following Maihara’s exploits made it hard to put down and on reaching the end, I wanted book two.
Maihara might be naïve to begin with, but she is astute, smart and knows her own mind with a no-nonsense attitude that she needs to survive. You also get an insight into the rebels and this makes rumours of the Emperor building a golem army, a threat, rather than the cavalry over the hill for her. Out of the clutches of her father, Maihara learns what she really needs to know, and her inherited magic begins to take shape.
The story is easy to read and flows well. The description is fantastic, revealing the world, it’s people and war with clarity. The twists and turns of the plot are not predictable making it an exciting read. The political situation is well described without it becoming a story about the politics, though Maihara readily grasps the subject.
I particularly like a scene where Maihara is fleeing a city being overrun by the rebels. The tension at the gate as to whether her carriage will get through or not, is breath taking.
If you like a good read – this is it!
The Witch’s Box
Harpalycus, 5.0 out of 5 stars. An enjoyable read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 January 2020. Format: Kindle Edition
What I liked about the book was that the characters were believable and far from perfect. Maihara, a little dumpy, by no means as pretty as her sister, somewhat too certain of her own intelligence and apt to blunder into things with all the delicacy and tact of the proverbial bull in a china shop, is suddenly thrust from her cocooned world into a world where she is surrounded by enemies, the rebels who hate the Imperial family and her own father, the Emperor, who has set his malevolent Fifth Bureau to find her convinced that she is a witch, an inheritance from her mother, all against the background of civil war and social unrest. Add a soupcon of romance as she dallies with the idea of a relationship with the rebel army commander, a great deal of tension and some good old-fashioned magic and you have a most enjoyable read.
The Witch’s Box
Nikki B, 5.0 out of 5 stars
A thoroughly entertaining and suspenseful fantasy adventure
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 15 January 2020. Format: Kindle Edition
This is a well-structured, fun read with some incredibly well done battles and an intriguing magic system. I found myself immersed in the realistic fantasy setting and the political conflicts posed by various factions.
Maihara’s story is told at a cracking pace as she’s propelled from her comfortable life and out into the world. Forced to question everything she’s been taught, she rises to each challenge in a way that makes her enjoyable to follow. Without giving to much away, Tarchon was the biggest surprise. Certainly for me, the most interesting character.
I received an advance copy of this book, and I look forward to reading more of the author’s work.
2017: The Plain Girl’s Earrings: I have just discovered that my fantasy novel “The Plain Girl’s Earrings’ has been featured as one of “14 Exciting New Authors to Try Over the Summer” on the SFF Chronicles forum. It also appears in the site’s dynamic header.
Yay! You can buy it on Amazon.
**** The Plain Girl’s Earrings
L. M. de Wit on June 2, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author provided me with a copy of his book in exchange of a review. This is my honest take.
Trying to do the right thing, young cadet Starsin Estevan gets on the wrong side of the Virnals. Virnals are an order of lords who control the Empire, abusing power and women at their will. Starsin, unfortunately, lacks power and guts to stand on their way. He gets involved with the beastly Northerners after he falls for Ussha. Ussha is a young Northerner woman delivered as a hostage and abused by the Virnals.
Starsin’s attempt to do things right go wrong, and the cadet vanishes to a faraway land as a prisoner, where things start to get complicated and nasty.
Starsin starts as a weak, push-able character, not sure on what he stands or even who he is, except that he likes painting and hates the army and the abusing Virnals. As he takes notice of the abuse of the lords to the commoners and the Northerner hostage, rage makes his way and Starsin opts to stand up to the Virnals, hoping to find allies that stand by him and against the mighty lords. In between, he finds supporters when he was not expecting them, all due to his obscure parentage that the Virnals try to put against him.
Sorcery, strange magical artifacts, women spies, and more, are combined in this story that interestingly is situated in a land where there is no machinery, and yet, mechanical and magical objects make their way into Starsin’s life, to his surprise.
Starsin, while in prison, reflects on his mistakes that took him there, growing as a person at last.
As a reader, it was a bit hard to connect to Starsin at first. I don’t mind flawed characters, actually I love them, but I was a bit frustrated at times of his non-action. This, however, was done on purpose, since Starsin, lead by his anger at the Virnals abuses, starts to be more confident. He still isn’t the hero I would like to see in a book like this, but I guess he will keep growing in the next book.
The descriptions were well done, I was never confused during the story. The Virnals reminded me a lot of British officers in India (for example) when they overstepped their boundaries and abused their power into some decadent (not shown and barely described) actions.
There were instances where I thought the author repeated what it was clear in his narrative, but that was my only nit in his narrative. Otherwise it was clear and understandable.
I would have liked to see more of Lannarah, a woman spy that pops in and out. As it is, she was mostly absent and I was expecting more of her, because I thought very interesting to see a woman in a spy role like hers.
The world building was very well done: clear and full of surprises, since due to the setting, I wasn’t expecting to read about “futurist” objects in this type of Old Empire-style land where there is no electricity, no cars, no machines, but somewhere in the 15th century, so that was a nice twist.
This book is the first in a series, apparently, since the story does not end here. Please note that there is some violence (killings) and some explicit sexual content (though in general it’s brushed by; there are some instances where a sensitive person might be offended).
*****The Plain Girl’s Earrings
A tense world with realistic characters!
By T. Leonard on May 6, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
I received a copy of this story in exchange for an honest review. Here goes:
Starsin’s situation goes from bad to worse when he’s entrusted with a magical object and asked to deliver it to a plain girl with earrings.
But magical items are feared and distrusted, and if Starsin is caught with the strange object, he could find himself in bigger trouble with the Virnals who are cleaning up the magic and abusing their growing power over people. However, with watchful eyes all around, Starsin cannot easily discard the object without getting caught.
After watching the Virnals murder his friend and mentor, Starsin finds himself siding more for those opposed to the Virnal Order, but to silence Starsin, they now want him to join. Starsin finds himself backed further and further into a corner.
Perhaps the magical object and the plain girl could help him after all…
This story plants you into a tense world with realistic characters that sometimes walk the line of good and bad, or selfish and selfless. Cowie’s care and attention to detail and history shine through the fabric of this world. This is a great tale to immerse yourself in and watch these characters struggle through their problems while you escape your own!
Worth the read!
***** The Plain Girl’s Earrings
Full of Intrigue, Mystery, Suspense, Magic and Changing Characters
By Trace on June 23, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
This book was good read full of intrigue, mystery, suspense, magic, and changing characters. Starsin, the main character wants a simple, slow life that he can enjoy to do whatever selfish things he wants. That is exactly how the story begins; Starsin is a selfish person who wants what’s best for him, but that changes throughout the story as he sees things that he doesn’t agree with and he can’t believe is happening. He is whisked away to a prison for standing up for what is right for once, which he regrets somewhat because that’s not what he believes his old self would have done. He is entrusted with a “magical object” and has to deliver it to the titles namesake, “the girl with the plain earrings.”
The characters in this book will take you on a thrilling adventure full magic, spies, fighting and more. The plot is full of surprises and suspense and the characters are probably the best gems, only second to the world that Cowie builds. Starsin is a fun character to follow along with because he grows, and as he does so, he’s constantly questioning or second guessing himself, even through his actions, whether he is selfish (like his old self) or selfless (like what he may be becoming).
****The Plain Girl’s Earrings
An intriguing new fantasy world
By John Gosling on 3 May 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
One of the intriguing things about this novel is the setting. Is it a past earth, a future earth or somewhere else entirely? Whatever or whenever it is, something from a past cataclysm is leaking into this world, as foul gashes open in the ground and spew poisons that bring illness and death. The mystery of what befell a past civilisation is one of the key elements of this debut fantasy novel from Kim Cowie, and the author does a very good job of painting a compelling picture of a world teetering on the edge of ruin, because not only do the huddled masses have to contend with the dangers of encountering the poisons of the past, which may be evil magic or something even stranger, but they are also under the thumb of the Virnal order, a secretive organisation who control the levers of power. Trying to keep his head down and out of trouble is our hero Starsin, an army cadet with a mysterious past of his own. Drawn into the nefarious machinations of the Virnal Order on one side and a resistance group with their own agenda on the other, Starsin finds himself fighting for his life and honour, forced to grow from a callow youth to a man of action and resolve and perhaps something even greater. There’s plenty of action, but also a good deal of political wheeling and dealing, a combination that Cowie weaves together into a thoroughly enjoyable page turner, further helped by descriptive flourishes that being the cities and plains of this world to vivid life. Highly recommended.