Audiobook: Such a fun book with great characters. Really enjoyed this, and Jane Collingwood narrated brilliantly as usual. Definitely recommend if you...moreAudiobook: Such a fun book with great characters. Really enjoyed this, and Jane Collingwood narrated brilliantly as usual. Definitely recommend if you want a fun, light, entertaining read/listen.(less)
Beginning the Bel Dame Apocrypha series is God’s War by Kameron Hurley, a new dystopian fantasy series set amidst a never-ending war.
The book begins with heroine, Nyx, having just sold her womb on the black market to earn enough money to get to her assassination target. She is a bel dame, an assassin who kills those who are contaminated and a risk to entire villages and towns. To make sure her targets are dead and the bodies no longer contagious, Nyx has to cut off the heads of her victims, making her deadly and amoral in the process. Added to this is the ongoing war between the districts of Nasheen and Chenja, which has resulted too many casualties for both sides and shows little sign of ending.
At the novel’s beginning, Nyx’s mission goes wrong and earns her a one-way trip to prison, being released a few years later. Dismissed from the bel dame sisterhood, she has formed her own team of bounty hunters and earns her living bringing in targets dead or alive. When she receives an unexpected message from the Nasheenian queen, Nyx is given a target that could potentially end the war, competing against several other bounty hunters. This mission could regain her status as a bel dame, which she is desperate to return to for the prestige of the sisterhood.
Nyx is self-centred in her desire to carry out the assassination, having little care for the crew she has put together and worked with for the last few years. She has a shape-shifter, Khos, with whom she rarely sees eye-to-eye; a ruthless mercenary; a comms technician with too much family loyalty; and Rhys, a Chenjan magician of mediocre ability. As a Chenjan, Rhys is subject to racial abuse wherever they go and prays several times a day. He is the polar opposite of Nyx’s godless behaviour, often keeping her grounded on their mission and providing a firm moral compass.
As the search for their target leads them across the border into more dangerous territory, the action in this book descends into increasing bouts of violence, often quite graphic. Any injury suffered by Nyx or the team can be repaired by the magicians (loss of limbs and organs can be replaced, etc.), with the only irreparable action seemingly being the removal of ones head. I thought that some of these action scenes made the plot more exciting and fast-paced, but at the same time the book became more like a sequence of action scenes with little plot linking them together.
When it came to the protagonist, I found it very difficult to empathise with Nyx, as she was entirely amoral and sexually ambiguous throughout. She would sleep with both men and women to get what she wanted, which most often was her next target. Although she does seem to care for Rhys, I felt that she had little empathy for the rest of her team, and thought that she owned them rather than worked with them. I understood that she was a hard nut and had been bred to be that way, but at the same time she didn’t really soften during the course of the book, and instead didn’t seem to progress as a character.
Instead, it was Rhys who stole the limelight, with several chapters being from his perspective. He was more caring about the welfare of the team than anyone else, as well as dealing with his personal issues and keeping his own secrets. We know little about why he left Chenja, but I highly respected the way he dealt with the racist taunts that followed him, and his devotion to his god and his morals. He made it clear from the outset that he would not resort to killing for Nyx, and instead tries to subtly guide her to the right path, regardless of whether or not she listens to him.
In terms of the plot, I thought that the bounty hunt took a bit of a backseat at times, as there was always another battle looming on the horizon. It also wasn’t made clear why the target was so important to stopping the war, as I felt like we were only given vague reasons or half-truths. These weren’t big enough questions to have me reaching for the next book, as I found that this story didn’t really pull me in at all. It was a difficult read, especially as the opening chapters are very confusing in terms of world building. The reader is thrown straight into this warring environment with little explanation of who or what Nasheen and Chenja are, left to puzzle out the meaning for yourself to some extent.
I would have liked better foundations for this story to be built on, as it seemed to dive too much into the action scenes and not enough into the explanations. There wasn’t an even balance to keep the plot moving, so I struggled very much to associate with the characters or to care about certain demises. The ending is left open for a sequel, but I think it also ends suitably enough that you won’t be desperate for the second instalment. I think that there was a great concept here that got a little lost amidst the fighting, but I think a little more description would make book two worth a read. Verdict
I found this book very confusing to begin with, as it throws you straight into the world with little build-up. As a result, I found it difficult to connect with the characters or to understand where they were coming from, but this became easier as the plot moved on. The book seemed to move from fight to fight, so I would hope for a little more character development in the second instalment. Rating: 3 Stars
God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Bel Dame Apocrypha #1) Dystopian, Fantasy Del Rey UK (2 May 2013) Ebook: 432 pages
A fun, entertaining listen. Jane Collingwood narrates beautifully as usual. One negative is that I think the story went on for too long, but overall i...moreA fun, entertaining listen. Jane Collingwood narrates beautifully as usual. One negative is that I think the story went on for too long, but overall it was an enjoyable listen.(less)
A nice introduction to Carole Matthews as I haven't read/listened to anything by her before. I thought the narrator was really good and I did enjoy th...moreA nice introduction to Carole Matthews as I haven't read/listened to anything by her before. I thought the narrator was really good and I did enjoy the story, I just didn't love it. I would recommend it though, it's a nice easy listen, with fun characters and an interesting storyline.
I know when I open a book by Marcus Sedgwick that I’ll be sucked straight in to his masterful prose style, and it was no different with She Is Not Invisible.
The book begins by delving straight into the action, with sixteen-year-old Laureth Peak having somewhat abducted her seven-year-old brother, Benjamin, to board a plane from London to New York. She has used their mum’s credit card to book the flight, and withdrawn cash to use when they get there, all with the aim of tracking down their father. Their whirlwind scheme is made all the more difficult by the fact that Laureth is blind, and relies on Ben to guide her and make it look as though she can actually see where she’s going.
This scheme was hatched on a whim, as their father is an author and Laureth is responsible for responding to his emails. When she receives one from a Mr. Walker in New York, claiming to have found her dad’s beloved notebook, she knows something is not right, and that he couldn’t possibly be in Switzerland as he is supposed to be. Her mother is seemingly uninterested, dismissing her questions as nonsense and refusing to entertain the possibility that their father could be missing.
With her father meant to be on a research trip for his next novel, Laureth knows that he wouldn’t go anywhere without his notebook and the ideas it holds. He has been working for a years on a book about coincidence and particular numbers which keep cropping up, telling Laureth his ideas every step of the way. She has become as attuned to spotting these coincidences as her father, and will stop at nothing to put the clues together and bring him home.
It may seem like Laureth jumps to farfetched conclusions easily, especially with the snap decision to jump on a plane with her younger brother, but she does have very good instincts and is quick to put together clues as to where her father might be. She is very aware of how others might see her if they learn she’s blind, and is scared that they might not even let her on the plane – despite not being able to find a regulation against it. Her blindness is by no means the central theme of the book, but at the same time it cannot be forgotten as it is a factor in every decision she makes for both her and Benjamin.
As a protagonist, Laureth is a very strong character and is well-developed by Sedgwick, who manages to define every nuance of her personality as the book goes on. She is smart and brave, determined to look after her brother despite the guilt of bringing him on such a journey. We get to see her fear at being in the big city of New York with just a seven-year-old to rely on, as well as those instances when the clues are running out and she must think of new solutions on her feet. It was clear that she had a close connection with her father, and felt guilty at being unable to channel his thinking and find the much needed solutions to their problems.
At the heart of the book was the ongoing debate over coincidence, the topic which has absorbed her father’s mind for years and which is holding him back from writing his next book. He is obsessed with finding an answer to coincidence, and whether it can ever really be explained or understood. There are passages from his notebook interspersed with the chapters, which gave a good insight into his thinking considering we hadn’t met him as a character. These notes are intriguing and pose noteworthy questions about the world, as well contemplating known mathematicians and philosophers, such as Carl Jung.
With time (and money) running out in the search for their father, I thought the conclusion of this book was wonderfully written and engaging, with more than a little coincidence added for good measure. The book gripped me, and I read this in little over a day as I simply couldn’t put it down. It was fast-paced with several surprises along the way, and I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Laureth and Ben, as he is bright for a seven-year-old and doesn’t seem to mind guiding his big sister around. His attachment to his toy raven, Stan, was especially amusing, providing dashes of humour at just the right moments. This book is an example of Sedgwick at his best, and I cannot wait for his next YA title. Verdict
A fast-paced mystery that completely drew me in and left me unable to put it down until I’d reached the final page. Laureth is an understandable narrator and one which gives an insight into how the world is perceived by the blind, especially with her reliance placed on a seven-year-old. I loved watching the clues unfold, and the book really makes you think about coincidences in your own life, and how they affect the world around you. Rating: 4.5 Stars
She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick Thriller, Young Adult Indigo (3 July 2014) Paperback: 354 pages
A series first released in 1971 and now enjoying an ebook release, Created, The Destroyer by Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir is a ruthless action series about an assassin who no longer exists.
The book begins with ex-police officer Remo Williams awaiting the electric chair on death row, framed for a crime he did not commit. A known criminal was found beaten to death in the street with Remo’s police badge next to him, rendering his defence appeal insignificant and the death row decision rushed through the courts. Having accepted his fate, all Remo is waiting for is that final walk to the dreaded chair.
However, his world is turned upside down when he is whisked away after his supposed ‘death’ and trained by the Korean martial arts master, Chiun. He is shaped into the ultimate assassin for CURE, an organisation which aims to remove enemies of democracy using any means possible. With his death row performance rendering Remo an officially ‘dead’ man, he is beyond the reach of suspicion and the perfect undercover operative for the organisation.
His first mission leads him in pursuit of ‘Maxwell’, a person or organisation at the head of organised crime in the city. With few leads to follow, he is lead to seduce the daughter of criminal Norman Felton, in the hopes that Felton will lead him to his goal. As the body count begins to rise, will Remo achieve his goal or become the dead man he is believed to be?
I really enjoyed the opening to this book, as Remo’s fate on death row seemed all but sealed when he was waiting in his cell. Although it was obvious that he would be freed, I had no idea how it would happen or what awaited him afterwards. The build up was so well-written that I was hooked immediately and couldn’t put the book down until I found out what would happen next. However, it was after this that the plot went downhill for me.
From the moment of his transformation, the narrative began to feel more clumsy and action-packed, as if the authors were trying to cram too much action into too short a space. The goal of the story seemed to become lost, as Remo had been transformed into this assassin but was not sure of the purpose or end goal of CURE. With little explanation he seemed to become ruthless and cold, not afraid of seducing the twenty-year-old daughter of Felton and taking her virginity from her. It was these scenes that I found slightly uncomfortable to read, as he had no trouble in making her believe he loved her, despite only knowing her a matter of days.
As a hero, I found Remo a strange one to follow as I really liked him at the beginning on death row because his feelings came through a lot more. After his rescue it became increasingly difficult to associate with him, as he became cold and hard, determined to do his job as an assassin without questioning why or what purpose he had. The organisation he worked for viewed him as expendable, yet he put his all into working for them regardless. We seemed to be given less and less of his personal views, with the third-person perspective distancing us from Remo and only giving us an outsider’s view of the action.
On the whole, for a quick action story that you can easily read in the space of a day, this book is definitely worth a read. However, if you like your characters to have more emotional depth then this book is not the one for you. It is more concerned with the ever-increasing body count and action scenes than building up character relations, but this may well change in future instalments. Verdict
This book has an amazing opening sequence that is sure to draw you in, but then slowly begins to fall by the wayside as the plot continues. Remo Williams makes for a unique hero, but we learn little of his emotions regarding his death row sentence or of his life afterwards. He becomes an emotionless enigma, seemingly ruthless in his approach to his targets and who gets hurt along the way. If you like cutthroat action scenes then this series is one for you, with the body count increasing with every chapter. Rating: 3 Stars
Created, The Destroyer by Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir (The Destroyer #1) Thriller Sphere (21 Aug 2014) Ebook: 187 pages
The first in a new fantasy series, The Godless by Ben Peek is an action-packed tale of rival nations in a battle over the territory of a buried God.
The book begins with cartographer’s apprentice, Ayae, in the city of Mireea, where she lives a content life with her partner, Illaan. Mireea is built atop the burial ground of the god, Ger, who many believe to be dormant rather than dead, waiting for the time to rise once more. As a result, the ground is believed to be infused with his magic, and can ‘curse’ a selected few with new abilities or powers. When the cartographer’s is set on fire and Ayae does not suffer a single burn, it becomes apparent that she has developed the ability to control the flames.
With the town turning against her, as they do against all who are ‘cursed’, Ayae finds guidance with Kaifyr, an ancient individual who is believed to be a god. He has lived for thousands of years, but we are only given a little insight into the how or why this happened to him. His powers are equally dubious, but he can talk to the dead, or ‘haunts’ as he calls them, using their spirits as guidance for hidden locations and such like. He is desperate to avoid the war Mireea faces with their neighbours, Leera, preferring to remain impartial to avoid the prospect of seeing all the dead spirits.
Somewhat separate to this action in Mireea is the perspective of Bueralan, an exile and mercenary from his nation of Dark who is commissioned by the ruler of Mireea to go behind enemy lines and sabotage Leera’s attempts to attack. This does not go as planned, and instead Bueralan is captured and forced to watch exchanges between Leeran leaders from the sidelines. He is determined to get a message to the people of Dark to protect them from the upcoming war, but there is little he can do from the inside of a cage.
I have found it exceptionally difficult to sum up the plot of this book, as I found it very confusing to read the whole way through. I expected Ayae to become more of a protagonist, but the book switches between the three perspectives of Bueralan, Kaifyr and Ayae, leaving little space for each character to develop fully. Admittedly, I think Ayae was given more of a back story and personality than the others, but it was still difficult to connect with her or to understand her power in more detail. The book seems to be prioritised with the politics between the two nations and establishing the battle more than anything else.
For me, the characters were one of the main problems in the book, as not enough time is spent establishing them or developing them to a point where the reader should care. I had times where I admired each one for a certain action or speech, but these were fleeting as the characters were lost beneath the weight of the too-serious plot. As the chapters switch rapidly between perspectives, I found that often they don’t flow smoothly, as there is little common ground to pinpoint time or place. With Bueralan in a separate city, his views had nothing to do with Ayae or Kaifyr, and felt as if they were taking place in a completely different span of time to the others.
It was the discontinuity of time which also made this a hard read for me, as it became increasingly hard to tell how long the action was taking to happen – whether it was days, weeks or months. I also found that chapters would jump backwards in time with no warning, flashing back to a character’s past suddenly and leaving a feeling of disorientation. It wasn’t always immediately apparent that they were back in the past, which made it very confusing to read and led me to keep putting the book down in frustration.
Some of the battle sequences and political disputes are well-written, but this book definitely was not my cup of tea. I had expected more of a heroic protagonist than I received, and thought that there would be explanation of the god’s deaths which had occurred years previous. All we really learn about Ger is that he is buried beneath Mireea, and not how his power chooses people to ‘curse’, or even if this is the root of the power. I think more establishment of world building and plot was needed in this series, so I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel. Verdict
This book just didn’t grab my attention enough to keep me interested, and as a result I found it to be a very difficult read. The timeline seems to be all over the place, jumping backward and forward with little warning and making it difficult to understand what’s going on at any given time. The characters take a lot of hard work to understand, especially as the chapters flit between three perspectives which often share little or no connection with each other. Rating: 2 Stars
The Godless by Ben Peek (Children #1) Fantasy Tor UK (14 Aug 2014) Ebook: 448 pages