Guys, this is up on NetGalley for review! Trust me, it's REALLY GOOD and worth your time! Definitely one of my favorite recent Japanese light novels/nGuys, this is up on NetGalley for review! Trust me, it's REALLY GOOD and worth your time! Definitely one of my favorite recent Japanese light novels/novels. Request it here!
[edit - 03 May 2013] Great translation of the first half of the book! Review to come!...more
While this one started off kind of slow, "The Winner's Curse" is one of those books that sneaks up on you and won't let go until the very last page. IWhile this one started off kind of slow, "The Winner's Curse" is one of those books that sneaks up on you and won't let go until the very last page. It's almost a remarkable leap when compared to "The Shadow Society" in terms of nearly every technical area of writing. Plus, you have a wonderful high fantasy/political intrigue that would make George R R Martin quite proud. "The Winner's Curse" is definitely one of my favorites of 2014 so far, and for good reason. I'm definitely hungering for that next book. NOW.
Do you like strange curses? High school mean girls? Bringing killers to justice? Urban fantasy? "The Weight of Souls" is definitely a read3.5/5 stars!
Do you like strange curses? High school mean girls? Bringing killers to justice? Urban fantasy? "The Weight of Souls" is definitely a read you should check out - it has all of this and more. While I was a bit conflicted by the ending of the book (and the pairing that happens with it), I still enjoyed this read quite a bit. If you're looking for a new spin on ancient family curses, give "The Weight of Souls" a try. There might be a few spoilers in this review, so you've been warned.
My biggest issue with this book: the romance and general balance of social dynamics between Taylor, her besties, Justin, and his popular crowd. Though all explained in the end (and rather neatly tied up in terms of their relationship) is the one between Taylor and Justin. He bullies her mercilessly for years, and though his death humanizes him (ironically enough), it really did bother me that they fell for each other, even if he acted out like a second grader in terms of his feelings in the first place. While the ploy of him unwittingly forcing her to help track down his killer is a good one, and their friendship does feel genuine once thrown together and he starts to see what he's done to her over the years accumulate more and more in terms of social and emotional damage, their romance felt a bit rushed, especially toward the climax/resolution/end of the book. So while yay realizing you've been a jerk when you were alive and basically destroyed a girl's social life, it does feel a little too little, too late in many parts of the book. However, by the time Taylor starts to execute her plan in order to find Justin's murderer, things have started significant rehabilitation once Justin starts seeing things from the other side of the looking glass, and starts to see that who he was in life is quickly being forgotten. That was quite satisfying, and put a silver lining to the whole bullying thing - and more importantly, it leveled the playing field really well for Taylor and Justin to work together to solve her Mark. In terms of the romance, it is known in the beginning of the book that Taylor does (and possibly has for a long time) nursed a crush on him, so it's not like the romance completely came out of nowhere.
Another issue: the semi-developed idea that the family curse is actually a virus. I read an ARC version of the book, so maybe this might be re-edited by the time the final version gets released. This is a very large running theme throughout the book, and one that helps contribute to the family dynamics between Taylor and her father, and an idea I felt was a bit of wasted potential in terms of development. SO MUCH could have come from this idea, and we're given the hint at the end of the book that there really might be more to this curse than just the supernatural so I'm hoping for a companion book if just to develop this idea further. I love virology and the supernatural, and to have them come together like that was really, really fun. I just wish it had been developed more.
Now for the awesome stuff - first, the protagonist. Considering what she has to do in order to survive and everything that's happened to her, Taylor is not only a very sympathetic MC, but a badass as well. She does a lot of brave things in the face of very real danger, and she also continually survives a school life filled with bullies and diminishing returns with her best friends. It's hard to live a life like that (to put it lightly), so her hanging in there was really pretty great to see. The character development for the rest of the main cast varied - I felt like the bullies got far more development than her bestie Hannah did, which felt a little uneven and off. Nevertheless, these characters are good enough to go on, and though I wish they'd been a little more richly detailed, they still develop significantly by the very end of the book.
There's also the mash-up of mythology that Pierce uses within the book - that of family curses, Egyptian tomb curses, the Minotaur/Labyrinth Greek myth, and general Egyptian myth. While I feel like some of the ideas needed to be a bit more developed (again, this is why I want a companion book, if just to develop this idea further) in the Egyptian myth arena (Anubis and his frozen army of the dead, which even Taylor is confused by). We're not even given a hint as to the previous and very creative spin on Anubis' particular myth, and that was a bit frustrating. It's not resolved at all, because we suddenly delve into Justin and Taylor's romance. I wanted more resolution there.
The rest of the book? Brilliant. Loved the general worldbuilding, plot flow, and sensory imagery and language. Pierce definitely has a talent with the sensory - she made so many scenes so very vivid, it's as if I'd been standing right next to Taylor as she experienced everything. In terms of catching the murderer, and the race against time with the Darkness, this book definitely kept me turning pages if just to find out the whodunnit. And let me tell you - with the Mark, and certain attributes to Justin's murder, it redefines the term "being caught red-handed". Definitely gets into the thriller genre of things toward the end, and I absolutely loved that.
So, kind of a mixed bag here. On one hand, excellent characters, worldbuilding, sensory imagery, and plot. On the other, some wasted potential, rushed romance, and unresolved plot pieces that definitely deserve a companion book. Nevertheless, this was a great read, and definitely recommended. "The Weight of Souls" is out now from Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance! And don't forget to stop by the blog today, August 6th, for Pierce's guest post on making up mythologies!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com) ...more
Oh you guys, this one had so much potential, but it was so very disappointing in so many ways. I had such high hopes for "Strange Fates" -1.5/5 stars.
Oh you guys, this one had so much potential, but it was so very disappointing in so many ways. I had such high hopes for "Strange Fates" - it sounded like one of the more original takes on Greek mythology, but very early, things came crashing down, and not in a good way. Maybe it was the fact that I feel that this needed at least two more drafts before even making it to the ARC stage of things, but I just can't recommend "Strange Fates".
I think my largest problem with this book was the fact that Nyx did not sound like a guy. He sounded like a girl. I understand cross-gender narration is hard to pull off, especially in urban fantasy novels, but this was almost ridiculous in how obvious it felt that Nyx was a guy, but the author could not make him sound like one. She tried the tough guy tact, the immortal guy tact, pretty much every tactic one can use for successful cross-gender narration and it just kind of failed. On every level. And that, quite frankly, is painful to read.
And then there's the infodumping interwoven with very awkward and stilted dialogue, and the random mystery of why Elizabeth takes Nyx in in the first place. It was too much too soon, and not separated and clarified well enough to be interwoven back into each other again. The secondary paranormal world that's so important to Nyx (and this book) was pretty much non-existent in that first third of the book. And by the second third, I was too far gone to really care. I understood what Nyx's purpose was, and why I should care about him, but all I felt was indifferent. And that's not good.
The sensory imagery...well, the only time that really shone was during the bar fight in the first chapter. And from there on in, it kind of faded away. There was so much telling, I found myself continuing to ask "but where'd the showing go" repeatedly the longer the telling (and infodumping) went on. The infodumping even went on in terms of characters - even though Nyx has a strong base to build on, it feels like Perez just didn't do it in favor of giving us his backstory instead, up front. Which is a nice idea, but with everything else going on, where she inserted things was pretty random and clashed with other things at the time.
Bottom line: This one needed SO much more editing. So much more. However, the premise was absolutely brilliant, but the execution...not so much. And that was the most terrible bit of all. I hate wasted potential like nothing else.
Final verdict? While "Strange Fates" has a wonderful premise for an urban fantasy genre novel, its execution needed so much more work. But that's just how I feel about it. "Strange Fates" is out now from Orbit in North America, so check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
It's no secret that I'm a sucker for pretty much anything CLAMP does/participates in, and "BLOOD-C" is no exception. I'm also a huge fan of the greateIt's no secret that I'm a sucker for pretty much anything CLAMP does/participates in, and "BLOOD-C" is no exception. I'm also a huge fan of the greater "Blood: The Last Vampire" universe, too. If you've wanted an alternate universe where Kisaragi Saya is a bumbling schoolgirl yet deadly hunter, this is definitely one of the "BLOOD" spin-offs you need to check out.
The content of the manga isn't so different from the "BLOOD-C" TV series, if you've seen that. It covers up until Nene and the Old Ones come into the picture (I'll admit that I'm not really digging Dark Horse's choice of English translation for "furukimono" - I'd have preferred the "Old Ones" over "Ancient Ones", but that's me being nitpicky). What is great is that there are a lot of the foreshadowing clues that didn't seem as obvious in the anime compared to here in the manga - like we can see where things are going, and they're not going in a great direction. And fast.
There's a lot of action, too - lots of battles with the Old Ones, but I'd have preferred more than what we got, but we have a few more volumes to go, so hopefully Kotone and CLAMP will up their game a bit more in future volumes. But what we did get? Kotone really did a great job with those fight scenes, and even though I wish CLAMP had illustrated the manga themselves, Kotone does a good job filling in for them. A really good job. If you're going to check out this manga only because it is apart of the "BLOOD" universe, just check it out for those fight scenes as well as what the Old Ones look like. Pretty creepy, compared to the originals we saw in "Blood: The Last Vampire", "Blood: 2000", and "Blood+".
And as in any CLAMP creation, there's already a crossover clue - keep your eye on the dog Saya finds at the end of this volume, then watch the film that serves as an end to the series, "The Last Dark", if you can. All I can say in that respect is - well played, CLAMP. They took a piece of the "BLOOD" universe and really made it their own. Saya as an innocent, bumbling yet absolutely deadly schoolgirl is an absolutely brilliant angle that I'd hoping someone would create for awhile, and my wish came true with this series. I don't know about everyone else, but I really enjoyed it - and with what's coming up on the horizon for this series (when shit get real), it'll definitely knock your socks off.
Also, the translation is pretty great, and they include all of the original color plates from the source material. Seriously delicious, and worth the buy for those alone.
Final verdict? If you're looking for something new and fun to read, or if you're a CLAMP/BLOOD fan, definitely be sure to check out "Blood-C: Volume 1". It drops from Dark Horse Comics on March 19, 2013 in North America so be sure to look for it then!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
So, "Zenn Scarlett". I'm still not entirely how to shelve this book in terms of genre - is it YA, or MG? Or is it riding the fine line between them? WSo, "Zenn Scarlett". I'm still not entirely how to shelve this book in terms of genre - is it YA, or MG? Or is it riding the fine line between them? While this was a really solid debut for Schoon, I think it needed at least one or two more edits before getting to the ARC stage of things because a lot of things needed clarification. While I'm happy this book is yet another we can add to the space western canon within MG/YA, at the same time, I just wish it'd been clearer. Nevertheless, I did have fun with "Zenn Scarlett", and I think other readers will too.
What was good: the worldbuilding, for the most part. We get this really interesting version of Mars - it's not completely safe for human living. In fact, we live in bubbles on this version of Mars, and without them, well, we'll die. I liked that sense of desperation there, and the fact that Earth isn't really talking to Mars in a very American Civil War-esque kind of way makes for a very interesting dynamic between the haves and the havenots, the settlers and the prospectors. And in the middle, we have the Ciscans (presumably descended from the Franciscan order, though this is not really delved into too much) - an order that used to be religious, but now focuses on exoanimal medicine. We get a lot of backstory as to how the "Rift" between Earth and Mars started, and how everything got to this point in Zenn's world, but we're not given solid dates as to orient ourselves in terms of how far in the future we are from right now. Which was a bit frustrating because I like to know where we are in time. All we're told is that it's at least a few hundred years from now, and there's a Star Trek-like Union of planets that Earth and Mars are apart of. When Schoon chose to use sensory imagery and language, he really knows how to do it. But unfortunately, there is a lot of telling over showing (especially in terms of the backstory), and that made things a little difficult to keep up with. I can see how it would work for MG (especially young MG), but not YA.
What really needed work: the character building. While the simple parts of Zenn and her main cast (Hamish was my favorite) were pretty sturdy, I wanted a little more complication in terms of how their characters function. We're given a lot of details (like how age is calculated and used due to Mars' orbit time, etc), but some of the more important and finer aspects as to what drives these characters is more or less glossed over. Example: we know why Hamish is there - because his Queen Mother-Spawn sent him, and that's what's expected of him. I wanted more complication - though Hamish is an insectoid creature, it felt kind of speciesist to keep him so simple and almost robotic in some of his actions. As for Zenn, we know why she wants to be an exovet (the incident with her mother at the beginning was a great way to create tension there), but at the same time, for most of the book, all it's about is not the tension with bandits going around as if in a western novel, or about how resources are starting to run out (kind of important) for the humans on the planet - but just focused on passing her exam. And for me, frankly, that just wasn't enough. I wanted more.
Zenn is 16 - we're told this through the narration, which couldn't seem to settle between 3rd close and 3rd omniscient. However, her actions, her voice seemed to speak more toward 13 or 14, regardless of how age is calculated between Earth and Mars' orbital standards. In so many ways, it felt like Schoon was writing down to the audience, and that was really frustrating, too. Very obvious things that apparently had to be explained to Hamish (give the dude a break, he's an insect and obviously got into the Ciscan order - he's got enough smarts) like "intolerance is bad and diversity is good" and so forth. While I can see the cultural divide into how a lot of the things Zenn and Hamish talked about had to be explained to the poor bugdude, a lot of it could have been cut.
Thus, my confusion - is this YA? Or MG? By the narrative tone, I'd say it's late MG or early YA. But Zenn is 16 - and she should sound (and act) much older.
What I really liked in terms of character building: Zenn's strange superpower with the exoanimals around her. I thought that was great, and I wanted a lot more of that than I actually got. But since we're set up for book two, I may just read it if for more explanation into what's going on with her abilities and how it may change the world around her for good. Also, some more diversity on her animals would be awesome (though I want her cat-like creature, Katie. Can I has? Please?) - not just mammals next time around.
Otherwise? I just think this one needed a bit more cleaning up (and hopefully will get it) by the time it gets pubbed. It was a lot of fun, and I love that space westerns are combining with space opera to make a really fun bastard genre that's finally really making its way into the YA/MG canons in a solid way. "Zenn Scarlett" is out May 7, 2013 from Strange Chemistry in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out. We'll have a guest post from the author on the blog for the tour on May 10, 2013, so be sure to check out what Schoon has to say about his process then!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
If you were a manga fan in the ’90s, you knew about CLAMP. CLAMP was just really getting big back then – first with early titles like this one, then iIf you were a manga fan in the ’90s, you knew about CLAMP. CLAMP was just really getting big back then – first with early titles like this one, then its sequel, “X”, and later, “Cardcaptor Sakura” and other series. But if you’re really looking for some 90s nostalgia (pre-bubble), this is definitely the series for you to check out. It’s got pretty much everything you could want – romance, danger, diversity in sexual preferences, all that good stuff. And Dark Horse hasn’t done us wrong with these CLAMP omnibuses so far. They’ve released “Clover”, “Chobits”, and are working on “Gate 7″, and “Blood-C” now. Their work has been pretty excellent so far, but this omnibus has caused some worry on my part. Read on for more details.
Because I love this story so much, it’s definitely four stars, and I won’t go much into it because there are a TON (seriously, just check google) of reviews of this series out there. It’s before CLAMP got a little more cautious with its work, and there’s a great edge to this work that some of its later works don’t have. It’s definitely in the classic shoujo manga canon, and a must-read for any fan, or for anyone who’s just dipping their toes into the manga pool to see what they like. And if you find that you’re a fan, I highly suggest you move on to “X” (where Seishirou and Subaru return), see if you can find the short OAV anime, and the live action movie. They’re out there waiting to be rediscovered. This is decadent Tokyo culture at its height, originally published one year before the bubble burst and Japan’s economy went down the crapper – so if you’re going to read it for none of the above reasons? Just look at it for the fashions. I mean, seriously.
Now, I’ve read all of the original volumes (all seven of them) of “Tokyo Babylon”, first when they originally came out through Tokyopop. The translation there was horrendous, but they didn’t seem to censor or leave anything out with their releases. So when I was able, I picked up the bunko editions of the original in Japanese, and found that what Tokyopop released was also in the bunko editions and was able to read the rest of the series that way, since Tokyopop only got to volume 5 before they shut down.
So when I found out that Dark Horse was releasing this in omni format, I couldn’t help wonder how they were going to do it. Seven volumes isn’t easy to split, and this one contains five of seven. At only a little over 500 pages, I paged through everything. Each volume is roughly 150-160 pages. Now multiply that times five. That’s not 500 pages. While I’m not absolutely certain (only because CLAMP keeps repackaging and rereleasing this series every so many years – in fact, in 2012 there was yet another 3 book omnibus format release in Japan), I am starting to wonder if Dark Horse hasn’t cut anything. I don’t know what version they were working from, but some of the stuff later in the omnibus seems shortened.
Then again, I can’t be sure. As I said, there are so many different releases out there even in Japan, one can’t really be sure, because even CLAMP has cut or revised the original source material when rereleasing it. It could be that if they did cut any material from this volume, they might include it in the next one. I hope this is the case if indeed anything was cut.
On the plus side, this series has finally gotten the good translation it deserves. Gustav Horn is a vet in terms of manga and translation, and he’s done a fantastic job cleaning up Tokyopop’s mess. The translation is absolutely wonderful, and I’m glad that he’s worked on this series.
So when it comes to the formatting and release of this omnibus, I’m feeling a little lukewarm. Dark Horse always does a fantastic job with CLAMP’s stuff, so it’s a bit surprising that things seem a little shortened. However, they do include all of the color plates that have come with the rereleases over the years, and that’s definitely a plus if you’re a collector. But I’m feeling a little cautious (and a taste disappointed) with this release, which I won’t be rating just because I do feel so unsure about it.
Nevertheless, this is a must-own series if you’re a CLAMP fan, or a manga fan, period. This first omnibus of “Tokyo Babylon” drops March 13, 2013 in North America, so check it out when you get the chance, and let me know how you feel about this release.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more