I was so incredibly happy to have been approved to review this title! P.G. Wodehouse is my absolute...more
arc provided by Random House UK through Netgalley
I was so incredibly happy to have been approved to review this title! P.G. Wodehouse is my absolutely favourite author and I do not allow a year to go by without rereading a few of his works, they really brighten up your day.
Faulks, in an author's note, made clear that he, "didn’t want to write too close an imitation of that distinctive music for fear of sounding flat or sharp." In my opinion this was a mistake. It's absolutely jarring to read these beloved characters sounding as not quite the real thing. Yes, Wodehouse's style is far from easy to imitate - but if you search the vastness that is the internet you'll find plenty of tributes (viz.: fanfiction) which, despite portraying unlikely scenarios, manage to perfectly capture the tone in which the books were written. Then again, this too is fanfiction, so when non-published fanfiction is doing it better... well.
Faulks chose to place the action is a very specific time: the 1926 General Strike, something Wodehouse avoided, and with good reason - reading a Wodehouse book is leaving the real world behind and entering a world where your major concerns should be avoiding aunts and how to get your valet to approve your latest sartorial faux pas. If you ready yourself to read about Bertie Wooster's latest imbroglio you do so expecting levity, not the reminder that 800,000 coal miners were fighting for their income not to be further diminished.
The plot was not up to Wodehouse standards. There is romance in the Jeeves books, there is comedy. But there is no romantic comedy, which is what this book turned out to be.
I'm being too harsh, I do realise it, and it must be said that I do it only because these characters are so dear to me. The book, on its own, is quite enjoyable - had it featured other characters and not have been published as "Jeeves #16" I would have given it a higher rating. Faulks can write, and he can spin a good yarn. ...It's just not up to Wodehouse standards but, then again, what is?
I see this book intends to entice a new audience to experience Wodehouse and I wish it all the success in that endeavour but, to be honest, the best way to entice someone to read Wodehouse is to direct them towards the master's work itself, there is no short supply of it, for he was a marvellously prolific writer.
I'd like to express my most heartfelt gratitude to the publishers for accepting my request to review this book! My review may, sadly, not be the best one to promote the book, but it was still a treat to get to read it! (less)
Caeli-Amur, an ancient city, a relic of a golden age long since past where pieces of broken technology a...more
ARC provided by Tor Books through Netgalley
Caeli-Amur, an ancient city, a relic of a golden age long since past where pieces of broken technology are trinkets that adorn cramped houses.
It's a place where minotaurs exist alongside philosopher-assassins, a place abandoned by the gods and left broken. Its sister city, Caeli-Enas sunk deep within the ocean and can be seen glimmering beneath the waves, its streets of white marble inhabited by monstrous serpents. A place ruled by three Houses and kept in order by the Elo-Talern, thin and spindly creatures of bone and death. In a socio-political climate reminiscent of the Spring of Nations, these autocratic Houses attempt to subdue the discontent workers fuelled by the seditionists.
The story is told through three points of view:
• Kata, a philosopher-assassin who grew up in the streets after her mother's death. She was hired to kill two minotaurs and then to spy on the seditionists.
• Boris Autec, a former tram worker, now a subofficiate of House Technis. He is addicted to Anlusian hotwine, which he uses to quell his grief for his lost wife.
• Maximilian, a seditionist who wants to use thaumaturgy to gain power for the movement.
I must admit, though it started off wonderfully packed with action, I lost interest fairly early on in the book (about 14% in), but kept reading since I could find nothing actually bad in the book. The story just couldn't keep me interested, though it had all the elements to do so: an assassin, mythological creatures, a steampunk/epic fantasy setting built on the ruins of a golden age long past, revolution in the air.
At times I really felt like this book needed a glossary, the worldbuilding is absolutely superb, but everything else seems somewhat vague. I needed more time invested in the characters' and their relationships so I could connect with them, flawed though they may be.
I appreciate that, this being a trilogy, most of this will be addressed in the following books - but without striking that balance between worldbuilding/characters/plot I was left with little desire to learn what will happen in the next books.
This is my personal opinion - you need only read the other reviews to see that what didn't work for me was just what worked for other readers. So, please, do give this book a chance - there is much in it to like, and what I personally disliked, other readers may not. (less)
I must confess, I was reluctant to read this, I always am reluctant to read...more
2.5 stars rounded up to 3
book provided by the author for an honest review
I must confess, I was reluctant to read this, I always am reluctant to read anything about someone described as "quirky". It brings to mind the whole manic pixie girl thing, which is just... not for me.
But as it started, I was pleasantly surprised, I really laughed aloud at several situations that happened to the author. The thing is, there are things I just don't find funny, like rape jokes, or using bipolar as an adjective ("bipolar hair"), or ableist jokes, or implying that being a lesbian is the closest thing to being a boy. So this is a very hard book to rate for me, because every time I started liking and sympathising with Jamie, she would say or do something that would leave me completely appalled. So this book would go from 4 stars to 2 stars and 4 again, and so on.
It takes a lot of guts to just leave everything behind and face all of those horrible jobs and bosses, so I'm cutting her some slack, but if you say a joke and you're the only one laughing because everyone else is offended, you've done something wrong and you should acknowledge it and learn not to repeat it, not wink wink nudge the reader, like, "they don't get it, but you will, right?" No. I get it. It was just insensitive and offensive.
So bottom line, it is amusing at times, and my hat's off to her for having the fortitude to withstand all that - but political correctness exists for a reason and if you ignore it for a laugh, you're not being edgy and going against the norm, you're just enforcing pernicious attitudes and you need to check your privilege. (less)
ARC provided by Strange Chemistry through Netgalley
Hanna Euli grew up listening to wondrous stories of the adventures of Ananna, the great pirate queen with whom her mother had sailed before settling down with her father.
An apprentice to Kolur, a fisherman, Hanna dreams of being a witch. Possessing a special affinity with the south wind, Hanna keeps practising her spells during her free time, between hauling the day's catch and tending to the sails of the Penelope, Kolur's boat.
When the Penelope gets caught in a storm and thrown off course, Hanna starts suspecting Kolur is more than the mere fisherman he claims to be. Especially when he brings Frida, a witch from his mysterious past, on board of the Penelope.
But trouble is just starting for Hanna, who finds herself being followed by an ethereally beautiful... merboy?
Though different from Ananna, I loved Hanna just as dearly.
Ananna was more impulsive, her life was pretty adventurous before The Assassin's Curse's events, what with her being a pirate's daughter.
Hanna was easier to relate to: her life is mundane. There is a set and dull fate she is expected to take. But she never gives up, she doesn't just set aside the banality of everyday life for a great adventure, we see her make time within her ordinary life, to train so she can achieve the extraordinary things she wants. We need more characters like her in YA!
And then there is Isolfr, the merboy... or perhaps not a merboy, but not quite human - who came from a palace in the sky. He was interesting, but all the effort that went to keep everything so mysterious meant his relationship with Hanna didn't feel as strong as it should have been...
I didn't like how we, along with Hanna, were kept in the dark for most of the book. The Mists never really felt threatening enough to warrant the slow pace. As a reader, instead of feeling more engaged with the story, I felt more and more disconnected from it.
Perhaps that was what I felt was missing in The Wizard's Promise. I wasn't as invested in the story. While the whole atmosphere felt right in The Assassin's Curse, whether the characters were in the desert, an enchanted island, or at sea - in The Wizard's Promise I never really felt there with them. It lacked that... spark - I don't have another word for it - that made The Assassin's Curse books shine so brightly.
Kyra is a thief trying to make ends meet when she's taken into the Assassi...more
actual rating: 2.5 stars
ARC provided by Disney-Hyperion through Netgalley
Kyra is a thief trying to make ends meet when she's taken into the Assassins Guild. There she hones her skills and learns a few new tricks. Tristam is close to his knighthood when barbarians riding demon cats attack and kill his best friend. This makes Tristam choose a path which will allow him to seek justice for his fallen friend.
I was really, REALLY excited for this book, but that excitement died down within the very first chapter. Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing bad about this book. There is nothing particularly good about it, either, and that's the problem.
I didn't dislike Kyra, but I didn't like her, either. She was just... there. She starts off badly right on the first chapter - the head of the Assassins Guild blatantly hires her to test her skills, and she can't even figure this out. A 17 year old girl who spent most of her life fending for herself on the streets... lacks the street-smarts to see this? I wanted her to be cleverer! Mind you, perhaps I am a bit spoiled by Megan Whalen Turner's Eugenides, but Kyra never really shined... She was a good thief because she'd trained herself to physically be so, out of necessity. There is very little of her outsmarting anyone else.
And there's the sense that there was a bit of chickening out in this book: Kyra joins the Assassins Guild. I expected her to learn how to become an assassin? But she can't even bring herself to watch someone take a beating, and spends her time drawing maps and harbouring vague concerns over the morality of her employers. When she kills, she's horrified at what she's done.
"There were steps she wasn’t willing to take. The kill had been an accident. She wasn’t an assassin, and she wouldn’t kill a Council member. She couldn’t."
Then why did she join the Assassins Guild?! How stupid is this girl?! Obviously, I'm not advocating murder as a viable professional choice for young ladies, but why have one of your protagonists join an Assassins Guild if this isn't used in her training and growth as a character? To sound cool?
Tristam isn't any more interesting. I guess, perhaps, he is even less: at least Kyra has a few protégés and some kind of life outside of her work...
Tristam's story starts with the usual Friendly Target trope - you know, his best friend dies so Tristam can have a purpose in the plot.
He wanted to patrol roads (I didn't really get the concept of knighthood in this book? Wouldn't patrolling roads be a task for a guard?) but his friend's tragic (and inevitable) death makes him pledge his service to Sir Malikel - probably the only interesting character in the book: a foreigner whose cunning and skill elevated him to the role of Minister of Defense. Tristam expects to fight the barbarians who "kind of" killed his friend. I say "kind of" because let's be honest: it was mostly his friend's own incompetence that got him killed. Instead we're treated to Tristam building aqueducts and supervising evictions of shopkeepers who can't keep their business afloat with all the raids depriving them of their stock.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the barbarian invaders raiding farms and cities attack with demon cats. As if there are any other kind.
There needed to be more of a marker to signify a change of point of view. We go on for 5 chapters told from Kyra's point of view, and then the 6th is told from Tristam's with no warning whatsoever. I mean, after a few chapters I noticed Kyra's chapters started with a:
And Tristam's chapters started with a:
But these are somewhat obscured by the initial at the beginning of the chapter. Wouldn't it be easier for the reader to just have the name of the character from whose point of view we're reading stated at the beginning of each chapter? Just my opinion...
This book is aimed at readers 12 and up, so it's YA, I guess? But I've read plenty of Middle Grade books more complex and advanced than this...
I'm sorry to say this, but I found this book incredibly boring and extremely simplistic. Take this with a grain of salt, though. What doesn't work for me, may very well work for others... (less)
I was so excited when my request was approved, I've been dying to read thi...more
2.5 stars rounded up to 3
arc provided by Patchwork Press through netgalley
I was so excited when my request was approved, I've been dying to read this book! It's not even the cover (though it's amazing, look at it!), it's the description: a Celtic inspired kingdom, barbed roots attacking woodsmen, a girl (yay!) on a quest! And, to be fair, there were many things I admired about this book, but they weren't enough to outweigh the sheer determination it took to get through it.
First what didn't work for me: This is a fairy tale like story in an alternate Irish setting, but where was the world building? You can tell from the very first page that the book aspires to be high fantasy, but high fantasy takes a very solid grounding, a very definitive feel of the world in the reader's mind so all the fantastical things can then be accepted. We know very little of Lia's village, the writing isn't descriptive enough - in most genres I like this, I prefer snappy dialogue that jumps off the page to perfect renderings of the setting. But this is fantasy. It really needs to be descriptive. I'm not saying you need to go all-out Tolkien style about how green the leaves are or whatever. But you definitely need to give the reader more than what was given in this book. I was so frustrated with this when it came to Brune!
The character development was lacking. We start with Lia and we know very little about her life, only that the villagers distrust her because... because she is interested in herbal remedies? I mean what else were these people meant to have been using, even the doctor entrusted his patients to Lia's Granda when it came to medication. So we were off to a shaky start where there is conflict and the main character is something of a social outcast just because. Lia was somewhat more developed as the book progressed, mainly through her interactions with her grandma's grimoire. The rest of the characters lacked development and barely felt real to me.
The plot and pacing, it took turns - sometimes it seemed too convoluted, others conveniently easy, but always off. The pacing did not work for me at all.
What worked for me: One extremely awesome thing about this book: Ogham. I don't know how familiar most readers are with the Ogham alphabet (also known as the Celtic Tree Alphabet), but it's really, really worth checking out. The Ogham alphabet was used in primitive Irish and it's awesome because each letter's name means a tree or herb. I think it was an absolute stroke of brilliance from the author to have beth bark (birch bark) at the beginning of the quest, when Beith (birch tree) is the first letter of Ogham. The whole plot is a trip through the Ogham alphabet, ending with yew (the last letter). If Mercer ever reads this review here's my chance to say: "That was absolutely brilliant, and one of the most awesome things I've seen in recent YA fantasy books!"
The concept was amazing. Really, a spirited heroine, a quest, creepy barbed roots, mysterious enchanted places, magical creatures, a Celtic setting, a Grimoire!
This book has been getting very positive reviews but, as I said, to me it was a struggle to get through. My mind just kept wandering, the story couldn't catch my interest.
So maybe it's just me, and you guys should give it a chance! (less)