I’ve found that when it comes to alternate history and steampunk as a genre as a whole, it’s very difficult to adjust everything just right without on...moreI’ve found that when it comes to alternate history and steampunk as a genre as a whole, it’s very difficult to adjust everything just right without one major flaw or another. That said, I’m extremely picky with my steampunk books, and I’ve found many really disappointing. The only stars of the genre within the last year include Scott Westerfeld’s “Leviathan” series, and now, “The Iron Thorn”.
I’d been waiting for this release for months, and this book was worth the wait. I was so happy to find this mix of magic, religion, alternate history, and steampunk all fall well into place and interacting with each other more or less perfectly. I could find no flaws within this book that made me take notice at all. Which is really rare, considering how incredibly picky I am with my books in general, much less just within the steampunk/alternate history genre alone. Kittridge’s tip of the hat to Lovecraft worked so well in so many places, I can’t even begin to start to talk about which part worked best. It just kind of flowed. I can’t really find words other than that to describe this brew of genres.
I have to say, her portrayal of The Land of Thorn (also known as Faerie) was chilling in its difference to nearly all of the other versions of Faerie in other books. This place is not a beautiful place, unlike other versions of Faerie. This place is not hospitible, despite the Field of Lilies. It was really refreshing to have a very, very, very disturbing “reality (Lovecraft/Graystone)” vis-a-vis “Faerie (The Land of Thorn/Mist)”. It was like there was no real place for Aoife to run for relief, and that’s so very rare in not only the urban fantasy/YA and steampunk/alternate history genres, but in general literature as a whole. It’s rare that authors are willing to torture their characters so thoroughly, and with such a big payoff – which is a shame, really, since doing this in “The Iron Thorn” worked so incredibly well.
I really can’t wait until the next book in this series – though it looks like no sequel/companion has been scheduled for release as of yet. I hope that changes, as this was definitely one of the best books of 2011 so far.
(crossposted to librarything and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
Everything that the male sex has been afraid of since the dawn of human civilization IS Savannah Grey. But instead of the vagina dentata, we have a th...moreEverything that the male sex has been afraid of since the dawn of human civilization IS Savannah Grey. But instead of the vagina dentata, we have a throat weapon that can still kill just as easily. The scary legend passed down from generation to generation has been turned on its head.
And I LOVE IT. I literally could not put this book down after picking it up for the first time.
This author makes wonderful use of this image in the shared unconscious to create a pair of wonderful protagonists, as well as monsters that have always haunted the human psyche. These monsters are what Plato would have called the "shadows on the walls", and Savannah is the terrifying reverse - she's the sunlight that awaits quietly outside for those who dare come to her.
Considering the age group (and YA is a pretty big range in terms of age now - it seems to target not just teenagers but everyone under or maybe a bit over age 30), I don't expect everyone will find these psychological semiotic symbols too easily, if at all, within the text. But no matter. With its diverse use of horror and science fact blending with fiction, this book will most definitely appeal to the entire enormous age range that is the young adult genre. Without too much spoiling, the monsters in the book definitely pay tribute to Lovecraft in their appearance and movement, and with all of the above mentioned symbolism and science fact along with what's come to be the usual romance and horror, it stands out within the genre dazzlingly. It's immediately accessible to all, and that's what definitely drew me in from page one.
There's also, within the sub-arc of the Ocrassa's backstory, a bit of Le Petit Prince to things (how it came to Earth, how the other monsters were born, how they all interacted with each other). Turned on its head and looking more at the soul of evil rather than the soul of good, there's definitely hints of Saint-Exupery's master work within the bouts of question and answer between the Ocrassa and the Nyktomorph. As Le Petit Prince is one of my favorite books, this was like sinking down into a warm, comfortable bed with grooves your body's worn into, familiar and safe. There's the question of monsters and morals, and morals and monsters, and if one can actually possess the other, and it's refreshing to see this within a YA horr0r-scifi tale.
The only fault I found was with how long Savannah took to realize what was really going on. For nature's ultimate weapon, full of love or not, she's a bit slow on the uptake. Had that not happened, I would have given this five stars. Regardless, this is a really fabulous book, my nitpicking aside.
If you love horror, or science fiction, or science fact made into fiction; if you love young adult romance or paranormal romance, this book is most definitely for you. I really hope this book gets the recognition it deserves as it's the first new publication of 2011 that's earned my respect.
Four out of five stars.
Crossposted to librarything & witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com.(less)
Ah, I know whenever I’m feeling down that Lovecraftian mythology will be there for me to pick me up out of my slump and scare the living hell out of m...moreAh, I know whenever I’m feeling down that Lovecraftian mythology will be there for me to pick me up out of my slump and scare the living hell out of me. Yeah, this anthology is that good – it made me feel better when I was cranky, and then it proceeded to give me nightmares. The feel-good anthology of the year? Definitely. But only if you like tentacles.
But out of all of the stories in here, the first by Caitlin R. Kiernan was my favorite. I’ve always loved her writing, and I kind of wish that this had been a longer novella and not just a short story. She wrapped it up really nicely at the end, but still, I would definitely sit down and read 200+ pages of that story in an expanded novel format. The end was especially good, and sent chills up my spine (which is hard to do). All of the stories were great, and it’s hard to say which was “the best” out of all of them – but I did enjoy Kiernan’s tale the most out of the entire lot, if I had to choose.
These are all really great tales by some of fantasy’s (and urban fantasy) current masters, and they all deserve a read. This was a wonderful escapist read, and I highly suggest it to all sci-fi/fantasy fans. This anthology just isn’t full of the Chthulu mythos itself, but full of nuclear wars, cold wars, espionage, creepy families, dystopias, other planets, and the like. It’s a very varied mix of different tales all using Lovecraft together in ways that I haven’t seen before, which is what makes this anthology so great. There was traditional fantasy, urban fantasy, hard sci-fi, cyberpunk, alternate histories – every possible sub-genre to fantasy and sci-fi that’s out there? It was in this anthology in some form or another, all using Lovecraft as jumping off point to get their tales going. There really is something for everyone who enjoys sci-fi and fantasy in this anthology. Stross’ story, for example, was awesome – using the cold war, the CIA, and Chthulu all in one story. Sound insane? It was. And I was sad to see the story end so soon. Really, the stories in these anthologies all could have been developed into novels – they caught my attention that deeply.
If you enjoy Lovecraft, do him a solid and pick up this anthology, as all the authors pay proper tribute to him in their stories. I, for one, welcome our new underwater alien overlords, and support them. Won’t you join us?
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
Just as the first book was a wonderful jaunt in an alternate-history steampunk London, now we journey with Griffin, Finley, and the rest o...more4.5/5 stars!
Just as the first book was a wonderful jaunt in an alternate-history steampunk London, now we journey with Griffin, Finley, and the rest of the crew to America to find their comrade Jasper. This book was so much fun - Cross continues her story with just as much mad-scientist playfulness as she did in the first, and loses nothing in the process. No middle book syndrome here, folks. If you liked the first book, you simply must read "The Girl in the Clockwork Collar"!
Though there is a bit of a residual amount of semi-love triangle left over from the first book's storyline with Jack Dandy, I'm happy to say that it doesn't really continue past the first two or three chapters when more pressing matters come into play. Because of the urgency of having to find Jasper before he gets thrown into jail (or worse), it really polarizes all of the characters' actions (and their relationships with each other), and where in the first book there might have been too much pause in one scene or another, there's none of that here. This book is really fast paced, but excellently wrought where even I was getting anxious concerning Jasper, Mei, and her clockwork collar and with Finley and Griffin in terms of finding him.
But what really is at the heart of this story is Finley's continued struggle with her Jekyll and Hyde light and dark sides. They may have been united into one solid personality with help from Griffin at the end of book one, but the struggle to behave continues and really eats away at Finley the entire time. The way Cross handles this is great, gives Finley an out that isn't too easy, but at the same time, isn't too hard on her, either. It even extends to Griffin - can he rely on Finley not to give into her dark side? Can he trust her to pick him and the good fight over a glamorous life of crime? The reader worries along with him, yet at the same time has a blast kicking ass alongside Finley as she works with Jasper to get him away from the past that's caught up with him.
The characters feel even fuller this time around, with more complexities added to them, and the more minor characters that make up Griffin's band of misfits (Sam, Emily, and Jasper) get more face time with the audience. We know more about their pasts, and they all got a good rounding out in general. The world expanded to America, and we got to see more of what this moment in time in this alternate history might look like (Nicola Tesla still running his tests, but Five Points still existing in New York - thanks to Cross' notes at the end of the book).
The ending, though, is something I really didn't see coming (though it had crossed my mind very faintly). I love what Cross did - it's something straight out of a western, and yet with the sci-fi/fantasy angle, it totally worked. By the time I reached the last page, all I could think about was book three, and wondering when it would be out. That's how much I love this world's she created, and the characters she's let loose upon the literary scene. I definitely want more misadventures with everyone in this series (okay, maybe not Mei, but you get the idea) and soon.
"The Girl in the Clockwork Collar" is out May 22, 2012 in North America from HarlequinTeen. It's made my best of 2012 so far list, so definitely check it out when it hits bookstores then. It's full of adventure, mischief, and magic - what more could you want? You definitely cannot miss this sequel if you're a fan of the first book!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
Man, the middle books of 2012 are on a roll so far – this book is pretty “middle book syndrome” free! And that makes me so very, very happy to read. A...moreMan, the middle books of 2012 are on a roll so far – this book is pretty “middle book syndrome” free! And that makes me so very, very happy to read. A lot happens to Aoife in this book, and I feel like she grows a fair amount as a character with her journey to the Bone Sepulchre. I also like that we now have more of a time period to pin down with Aoife and the rest of Lovecraft than we do in the first book (a major improvement in terms of the alternate history setting), so generally I really enjoyed this second book in the “Iron Codex” series.
Okay, so now we have a more concrete time period for when all of this mayhem is happening in and around Lovecraft – post World War II. It looks like that this alternate universe also had a Nazi period with concentration camps (Aoife talks about it later in the book when encountering the new Winter Fae from the revived Winter Court), though whether or not it was the 1930s-1940s is still under debate. We just know that there was a World War II. Which is a nice detail, but I still could use more information of more specifically when we are within the Iron Codex universe.
As usual, the technical details of what I’ve come to expect from Kittridge in this series are tight, well-spun, and very well executed. Her use of sensory language to describe certain areas in the book (The Winter Court, The Bone Sepulchre, The Mists) is excellent, and she’s definitely grown leaps and bounds in that area compared to the first book. The characters have been further clarified and rounded, and everything feels like a fuller world now – even the most fantastic one (The Dream World/The Dream King/The Great Old Ones). Best of all, Aoife’s mission arc ends within this book, and starts a new one in the very last pages of this installment of the series. I love it when authors can pull that off, and Kittridge pulled it off. And her oh-so-sly tributes to Lovecraft himself with showing us the Great Old Ones and Aoife’s new mission to murder them…well, let’s just say I was cheering in those last pages because Aoife finally feels completely solid and tangible.
There’s been a lot of comment on the reviews of Aoife’s repeated wish to be able to “turn back time” throughout the book and how they were annoyed with it, but I think that not only was it a natural obsession, but a natural reaction to her participation in the events at the end of the first book. She grew a huge amount even with the obsessive wish to literally turn back time – you could say it fueled her growth throughout the book into an entirely new Aoife than at the start of this second book, and totally different from the Aoife we met in the early chapters of the first book. However, even at the end of this book, even with learning that time truly cannot be turned back, she’s still ever spurred on by the lure of being able to retrieve something (or someone, but I won’t spoil what/who) that she’s lost. So I guess I can see those reviewers’ points there. However, Kittridge turned this obsession into pure fuel for the evolution of Aoife Grayson as we know her, and did it so well that I couldn’t help but just adore this new awesome Aoife even as she took her lumps throughout her journey in this book.
Final verdict?: Definitely read the first book before this one or you will be very lost. And brush up on your Lovecraft, because Kittridge uses a lot of his motifs and stories (as well as places from his books) in this series. Otherwise? A must-read for 2012, and it makes my list for best of 2012. It hits stores February 14, 2012 (North America), so be sure to go out and pick up a copy or reserve it at your local library. It really is worth the read.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
This is a great book to introduce young to mid-Middle Grade readers to the Lovecraft mythology. In "Professor Gargoyle", there's a lot going on - very...moreThis is a great book to introduce young to mid-Middle Grade readers to the Lovecraft mythology. In "Professor Gargoyle", there's a lot going on - very tame and age-appropriate horror, but this book also deals with some "tough stuff" issues - being new to a school, bullying, and more. However, I do think for the age group (middle school) its target in terms of tone and writing is a little too immature, which really kind of brought things down quite a bit for me. Still, "Professor Gargoyle" is a fun read, but just don't expect too much out of it.
When I say "immature" in tone, I mean that even though Gilman was aiming for young middle school students (perhaps 6th grade?), the tone he used for narration felt aimed at someone much younger. Combine that with the illustrations, and this felt like a book for a young MG reader - in 4th or 5th grade, not someone near young YA. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just feels like when pitching, the author just misidentified where his book should go in the age group part of things. The tone and narration (where it switches between 3rd omniscient and close, which wasn't too great) really reflect that, so it made it a bit hard for me to concentrate on this one. I guess that's my biggest problem with this book, and thus brought down my enjoyment a bit.
The illustrations, however, were fantastic. I loved those.
However, I do have to hand it to Gilman - this is a great way to lure kids into the Lovecraft/Cthulhu mythos. It's very detailed, and a great, safe horror story for the age group, and it will definitely leave them wanting more. You could say this is a gateway drug for the Lovecraft mythos - and Gilman does a great job recrafting it and mixing in the tough stuff issues of being alone and starting a new school (and middle school, for that matter) and bullying to make a really fun, fast-paced scary book.
What I also kind of wanted more of (since this is going to be a series) was a little bit more depth concerning the characters. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Harry Potter, Narnia, and Percy Jackson, but I've come to expect more depth to all of my characters in a MG book, period, and I feel like this area really could have been worked on more. Hopefully in future books, this will be fixed a bit better.
Otherwise? I had fun with this book, and it'll be good for younger kids to introduce them to sci-fi and the Lovecraft mythos. "Professor Gargoyle" is out now from Quirk/Random House in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
I've always been a fan of Rage Against the Machine. So when I heard their guitarist, Tom Morello, was putting out a comic, I was intrigued. The art on...moreI've always been a fan of Rage Against the Machine. So when I heard their guitarist, Tom Morello, was putting out a comic, I was intrigued. The art on the cover looked gorgeous (I'm a sucker for pretty covers. There, I said it.), so I decided to dive in. And I'm glad I did. Even though there's a bit of a slow start to it, "Orchid" is a great dystopian story of the human race being forced back to its beginnings after a major global warming event nearly wipes it out. Warning: this one is DEFINITELY not for kids, so I'd advise older YA and above for an audience. All the same, it's dark and gritty and unflinching, warning us about a future that may be in our reach if we don't shape up our act now.
What I love most about "Orchid" is Morello's absolute staunchness in telling us how bad things get. Well, not exactly that - just when you think things are bad (the seas are rising, people are becoming displaced on boats to survive the flooding), he makes them worse (guess what? the boats are full of crazy cannibals!). People are divided into two classes: the ruling class, and slaves. He also emphasizes that it's probably best to trust no one in either class - because everyone's just doing what they can to survive, which includes killing, maiming, betraying, and the like.
This is not a happy story. I'll say that flat out. But it is one that will make you want to cheer for our heroine. Pretty much everything that can go wrong does for her, yet she still stands up and wants to fight for her right to simply exist. She kicks ass and takes names even after all of the horrible things that happen to her - she refuses to lie down and take it (as so many women in her part of the slave/sex trade do). It's nice to see a heroine so feisty in such a terrible world, so I really, really enjoyed watching how she evolved in the few short issues that are included in this volume.
However - since this is the introductory volume, the character building in the larger sense isn't quite where I would have liked it to be. Anyone who wasn't David or Orchid (or later, Barabas) wasn't really filled out too well, except for the occasional villain of the week. But the worldbuilding knocked my socks off in how detailed it was in the story of how things came to be, and how things are now. The art really puts a gorgeous touch on the worldbuilding, too. Since the worldbuilding really makes up for the wobbly character structure and mostly backstory chapters outside of the main cast and story, I'll give Morello a pass on this one.
So if you're not sick of dystopian stories yet, I'd definitely give this one a read. "Orchid: Volume 1" will be out in North America through Dark Horse Comics July 10, 2012. Definitely check this one out when you get the time, guys - I think Morello is going to prove to be a fantastic comic writer if we just give him the chance.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
Oh, "Savage Blue". While I love your basic story, I do feel like you could have been so much more. I definitely can't wait to read book #3...more3.5/5 stars.
Oh, "Savage Blue". While I love your basic story, I do feel like you could have been so much more. I definitely can't wait to read book #3, if just for the showdown with Nieve, but I do feel you could have had so much more happen with this installment. But if you're a fan of Tristan and co., I think you'll enjoy "Savage Blue" regardless of my nitpicks. If you're looking for some vicious mermaid action this year with some old friends, definitely check out "The Savage Blue".
My biggest complaint about this book: the pacing. It was very, very slow - up until the last third. So there was a good amount of dragging up until that final third of the book. I can see why many early reviewers are all saying the same thing, because I too felt that it was turning into an oracle hunt, and with not much else going on. "Savage Blue" picks up several months after the end of "Vicious Deep", and Tristan is still participating in the championship, trying to find the rest of the pieces of the trident before anyone else can. Layla, who was one of the most important characters of book one, has been reduced to almost a cameo in this book, making the audience wonder - what's really driving him? Is it lust for power? Is it for Layla? Is it to go after Nieve, after the events of book one? Is it all three? If it is all three, Layla is a tiny concern (as is Thalia) compared to the first two.
We get more characters in this book, and some there's neglect going on to ones introduced in book one (Thalia and Layla the biggest examples). We get tons of new maneating merprincesses, a vampire, lots more mermen, and more oracles. This is what aided bogging down the pace, I think - introducing all of these characters. I'm not sure the entire COURT of merprincesses was needed (especially considering the last few Big Reveals of this book), but they were there nonetheless. Not that they were useless - far from it. Expanding the Thorne Hill Alliance was great, especially in the last third of the book. But in terms of merpeople, I'm still not entirely sure we needed everyone we got in this book.
There were some places I wanted to linger a little more - Eternity being one of them, as well as the oracle we only got the barest glimpse of seeing before it all went to hell. I definitely wanted more time there, and I do feel like that was one part of the book we could have lingered without losing pacing since it was so important and such a vital part of Nieve's quest for vengeance and an essential plot point to so much of keeping the sea monsters sealed, it seemed. So if we get a novella about it, or maybe some outtakes or something in the final edition? That'd be pretty awesome.
The Big Reveals were well done - it made a lot of behavior throughout the book make a lot more sense, and that feeling that a certain mermaid might be a little shifty? I won't spoil you, but I'll definitely tell you to trust that feeling. It looks like book 3 isn't just going to be about finishing the championship, but mostly about all-out war with Nieve. Which I'm completely okay with - Nieve is one of my favorite YA villainesses, and I'm hoping some more expansion and insight into her character, aside from what we've been told about why she's doing what she's doing. And the one about one certain mermaid? I totally did not see that coming at ALL. Completely blew me away and makes this book worth reading for that reveal alone (aside from other reasons). Even if you do end up wanting to punch him repeatedly at the end of the book. Like I did. So I punched a pillow instead.
Final verdict? While I do feel like this one needed one more edit in ARC form before hitting the shelves, I'm happy with what I got, and I seriously can't wait until book 3. Team Tristan all the way (even if I do love Nieve). "The Savage Blue" is out now from Sourcebooks Fire, so definitely check it out when you get the chance! This is going to be a mermaid throwdown of EPIC proportions, guys, and you simply can't miss that.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)