3.5 stars Val Shapiro is a part-demon vampire slayer. And she has a snarky dog named Fang who thinks at her in all caps.
Bite Me, the first book in th...more3.5 stars Val Shapiro is a part-demon vampire slayer. And she has a snarky dog named Fang who thinks at her in all caps.
Bite Me, the first book in the Underground series, surprised me with its butt-kicking heroine, deadpan humor, and an interesting set-up. I really liked Val and Fang, whose relationship is the most compelling one in the book. There are also some great fight scenes and some intriguing secondary characters, including Shade, Micah, Ramirez, and Tessa, and the whole thing is well-written and moves along at a fast pace.
The book could have used some fleshing out, however, in the conflicts with her family. Val handles it maturely (so refreshing for YA), but there's not much insight into her mother's or her stepfather's or her sister's characters. They only make themselves known in the context of the main character, so it's hard to get to know them--and therefore it's hard to get a good feel for emotional tension. Some of the plotting in the middle and latter parts of the book could have used some streamlining as well, as there are a LOT of visits to go see this person and that person and a LOT of talking at all those locations. Plus the whole set-up might've been a little more convincing if Val were simply helping out an underground task force rather than an official police department--I mean, the girl is only 18. Most of all though, Val needs a better love interest than the good-hearted but supremely uninteresting Dan.
I thought the scene where Val lends her strength to Dan by using Shade as a conduit was very strong, though, and I'd love to see more of that type of thing in future books. I'm intrigued enough to keep reading the series (the next two books arealready out), as I think the author shows a lot of promise. But please--let's get this succubus a sexier boyfriend! (less)
**spoiler alert** Certainly a well-written novel...but did I like it? I'm not sure. Getting hit with axes and drowning critters and eating spiders isn...more**spoiler alert** Certainly a well-written novel...but did I like it? I'm not sure. Getting hit with axes and drowning critters and eating spiders isn't really my thing. Giving it 3 stars for the writing, though.(less)
Sometimes you ask for something...and the author actually grants your wish! After reading Bite Me recently, I noted that the series would be a lot mor...moreSometimes you ask for something...and the author actually grants your wish! After reading Bite Me recently, I noted that the series would be a lot more fun if Val, who is a vampire-slaying part-succubus, actually got a decent boyfriend. I'm happy to say that in the second and third installments in the series, Val breaks up with the honorable but boring Dan and hooks up with someone much more interesting.
And that someone is Shade, a fascinating shadow demon who has transparent skin that shows the powerful energy swirling around inside him. Shade's skin only appears normal when he's grounded by touching someone else, and paired with the ability to absorb and reshape energy, this character pretty spectacular. Val is partnered with Shade to help figure out who's betraying the Demon Underground and to recover the missing Encylopedia Magicka, and later finds that he's very helpful in channeling Lola, her inner lust demon. Unfortunately, just as Val starts getting closer to her boyfriend, she's faced with a difficult choice: is love worth giving up your identity for?
As in the first installment, Val's sidekick demon hellhound Fang is still snarky and hilarious and sweet, and now has a lady companion of his own who wreaks havoc in her own inimitable way. The struggles and power plays between the demons and the vamps has been ratcheted up, with tensions mounting as both sides try to maintain a temporary truce while fighting the unrest and deception within their own factions. Val really comes into her own in these books as a strong female character who's not only a butt-kicking action hero, but who also consistently tries to do the right thing. It's also great to see a hot but mutually respectful relationship; Shade doesn't hesitate to disagree with Val when he thinks she's wrong, but their arguments don't turn nasty and controlling like they do in so many other books.
The author has already announced that she's working on Make Me, the fourth book in this series, which will be out in 2012. Fans of the Chicagoland Vampires or Vampire Academy (and kick-ass heroines in general) will definitely love this series.
This review is also available at The Midnight Garden. An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
Fun! This book really grew on me. It took several tries to get past the first couple of chapters, but once Sophie finally gets settled in at Hex Hall...moreFun! This book really grew on me. It took several tries to get past the first couple of chapters, but once Sophie finally gets settled in at Hex Hall things start moving along. The witchy battles are pretty cool, there's good build-up of the mystique behind the school and behind Sophie's past and powers, and the author does a nice job with creating a variety of different characters with distinctive voices. I especially liked BFF Jenna and the super cute and witty Archer, and Sophie herself turns out to be a pretty kick-ass heroine.
It did take me a little while to get used to the author's voice, but the humor actually gets to be really good as the story develops and I've gone back to giggle over certain passages again. Overally, this is a really terrific debut and a fast-paced, entertaining read. It's always a plus when a YA author manages to surprise her audience with twists and turns in the plot too, and there are a couple of really good ones here that will leave readers on the edge for more.
Besides...you can't not love a girl who tries to stop an attacking werewolf by yelling, "BAD DOG!"(less)
Still heaps of fun! I love a good paranormal book as much as the next person, but sometimes they take themselves too seriously. I'm happy to report th...moreStill heaps of fun! I love a good paranormal book as much as the next person, but sometimes they take themselves too seriously. I'm happy to report that Demonglass retains the same sarcastic humor and a snappy, action-packed plot that is just as entertaining as the one in Hex Hall.
Sophie is spending some time on her father's estate to figure out whether she's going to keep her awesome but pesky powers, and she's still secretly pining for her missing demon-hunter crush, Archer Cross. Complicating matters is the revelation that cute-as-heck Cal has been betrothed to her for years (hey, they do things differently in the otherworld) and the afore-mentioned crush is part of The Eye, a group hell-bent on wiping out all of Sophie's kind. Kinda puts a damper on the relationship.
The politics and power struggles within the Prodigium (witches, shapeshifters, and fairies) and with the demon hunters is growing steadily more complicated, and Sophie and her father must develop her gifts before time runs out. It would be interesting to see more of the plotting ladies within the Prodigium and to have the tension ratcheted up with The Eye, but hopefully these will be further explored in future books.
The author does a fabulous job of moving the story along with cheeky attitude, however, while taking time out for real connections between Sophie and her BFF Jenna and between her and her dad. There are also some brief but swoon-worthy moments with her guy, and you really breeze through this thing rooting for everyone to be happy. I'm really enjoying Sophie and her smart and snappy banter, and this series has fast turned into one of my fluffy and fun favorites.
2.5 stars The first chapter in Demon's Lexicon is extremely misleading. The riveting opening scene starts off with two boys bantering in a kitchen unt...more2.5 stars The first chapter in Demon's Lexicon is extremely misleading. The riveting opening scene starts off with two boys bantering in a kitchen until they're suddenly interrupted by an attack. Someone has sent a magical flock of ravens to destroy their home, and Nick and his brother Alan manage to ward them off in an exciting, action-packed scene. During the aftermath, Mae and Jamie, two kids from school that the boys know slightly, show up asking for help with their own terrible problem--Jamie has been marked for death by a demon, and they have nowhere else to turn.
After such a taut, well-plotted beginning, during which Nick seems to be a funny, quick-witted man of action, I was looking forward to sinking into what I thought was going to be a really great novel. Unfortunately, the structure of the book wobbled precariously throughout the whole thing, and much of the mythology was confusing or inadequately explored. Some of Nick's inner narrative was too belabored and meandering, and the author also relied too much on telling us things rather than showing them. In addition, much of the humor is very dry, and some parts that are meant to be funny fall rather flat.
Most importantly, however, Nick is just a mightily unlikable character. There turns out to be a reason for this, but he is so unkind and (mostly) unfeeling throughout the book that it became very unpleasant to stay in his head, and there's not enough warmth or charm to balance out the relentless onslaught of negativity. It's very difficult to write a book like this without offering redemption of some kind for the narrator.
The end of the book was significantly interesting enough that I'll probably pick up the next one from the library to see where the story goes, but I'll be approaching it with much lower expectations than I'd originally anticipated.(less)
Have you ever pictured yourself wandering among the tombs at Westminster Abbey, marveling at the sheer wonder of being among the greatest literary fig...moreHave you ever pictured yourself wandering among the tombs at Westminster Abbey, marveling at the sheer wonder of being among the greatest literary figures in history? Sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray is taken to Poets' Corner by someone who understands exactly what such an experience will mean to her, and this lovely little moment in the sequel to Clockwork Angel perfectly encapsulates everything I love about the Infernal Devices series. Tessa is a shapeshifting Shadowhunter who is becoming accustomed to her powers, but in the middle of all the magic and mystery in Victorian England, the relationships between Tessa, the enigmatic Will, and the thoughtful, sensitive Jem remain the very heart of the story.
Following a rather, ahem, provocative prologue, the story really begins as the London Institute of Shadowhunters is given two weeks to find the evil Magister, who is still determined to gain control of Tessa’s powers and bring down the Enclave. Tessa and the Shadowhunters must battle dreadful clockwork creatures, demons, and even treachery within their own ranks before everything around them is forever altered. Readers who agonized over the last book will be happy to know that we see the beginnings of the ties between the Lightwood and Herondale families, find out what the initials "JTS" mean, and spend more time getting to know all the characters, including Magnus, Jessamine, Henry, Charlotte, and Sophie.
Here are the other important elements that I loved from this story:
Tessa, Will, and Jem
Tessa becomes more sure of her unique position and powers, and her relationships with both the boys in her life deepen in a life-changing way. Jem unexpectedly reveals an incredibly alluring side to him that we’ve never seen before, and we finally discover the devastating secret in handsome Will’s tragic past. This is one of the most well-written love triangles I’ve ever read, with a strong girl torn between two very attractive and honorable boys; there are good reasons for Tessa to love them both, but also excellent reasons for her to give her heart to neither. It is nothing short of torture to feel Tessa’s deep pull towards Jem and Will, both of whom have swooningly romantic and wildly sensual moments with our heroine. Believe me, the infamous Dirty Sexy Balcony Scene more than lives up to its promise, and I clutched my pearls more than once while reading this book!
What Tessa never forgets, however, is that as confused as she is about her feelings for Jem and Will, there is also a lifelong friendship between them that she must honor. Jem’s illness, Will’s love for and dependence upon him, and her own need for self-respect all contribute to an intensely difficult situation, and one that made me hurt for everyone involved.
The Victorian details in this novel make me quite ill with pleasure. That's right, ill with pleasure. I'm not even speaking solely of catnip such as the clothes and carriages and the like, but of a finer, deeper authenticity that has to do with a way of truly immersive thinking, rather than just trifling details. It seems to be so difficult for many YA historical fiction authors to refrain from projecting anachronistic modern attitudes onto period characters, but Tessa Gray stands out as a true Victorian heroine. She shows courage and spirit, but it's within the appropriate behaviors and thinking patterns for a girl living in the 19th century; if she breaks tradition, she thinks about it (and we know it's unusual) before she does so.
Even while she's being trained for self-defense by other Shadowhunters, Tessa spends a great deal of her time struggling to reconcile her magical powers and responsibilities with her upbringing and social decorum. The role of women in oppressive circumstances has always interested me, and Tessa’s internal dialogue and conduct (along with Sophie’s) are notably in keeping with all the other spot-on period details, which are meticulously researched and beautifully woven into the story. Before she began writing this series, the author rather famously moved to England for six months and read nothing but books written or set in the Victorian era, and even walked all the streets that her characters might have traveled. There is a certain mood and style that is decidedly steeped in the foundations of this research, and the dexterous language and witty dialogue feel pretty nearly perfect and true to the time—with allowances for fantasy and magic, of course. Tessa transcends the thinking of the time and uses clever magic and thinking to outwit her adversaries at every turn.
A Love of Literature
Another thing I also adore about this series is how much appreciation all the characters have for literature. I still remember the awe I felt the first time I went to Westminster Abbey, and it struck a chord to hear Tessa say, “I can’t explain it. It’s like being among friends, being among these names.” Upon traveling to the countryside for the first time, she also says, "I feel as though I have seen it before. In books. I keep imagining I’ll see Thornfield Hall rising up beyond the trees, or Wuthering Heights perched on a stony crag.“ It is nearly impossible for any lover of books, particularly those with an unruly bit of romance in her soul, to fail to thrill when reading words like this. Tessa is a kindred spirit for me, and I think she would be for many other thinking, dreaming readers as well.
If you were dying for this second installment in the Infernal Devices series, rest assured that it has been more than worth the wait. It's full of great action scenes, a clever use of magic, and the hilarious dialogue that we've come to expect from these characters. It is, however, also an intensely emotional read for those invested in the characters, so be prepared with tissues—I cried several times near the heartbreaking end and it's going to be so hard to wait another whole year for Clockwork Princess. Was the book satisfying? Yes. Was it agonizing? A thousand times, yes. But it was painful in the most exquisite and emotionally truthful of ways.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
My poor heart has never felt this way after finishing a series; I had no idea it was possible to feel such tempered happiness as well as such overwhel...moreMy poor heart has never felt this way after finishing a series; I had no idea it was possible to feel such tempered happiness as well as such overwhelming grief for everyone involved. Many of the things I thought might happen, did--and yet it doesn't change my fierce love and admiration for the way everything unfolded.
THIS is how a love triangle should be written, in a way that preserves the honor of everyone involved. There isn't another series out there that has ever managed to handle one with such love and kindness and respect.
Ugh, that epilogue. Still sobbing uncontrollably. I don't know how to stop! My puny human heart wasn't meant to process such epic love stories.
P.S. If you're considering reading the Infernal Devices series, I wrote a real review for Clockwork Prince here, which is book #2. It contains no spoilers, even if you haven't read the first book.
*Happy happy dance.* For fans the Soul Screamers series, this book will either be everything you want...or everything you feared most. I fall firmly i...more*Happy happy dance.* For fans the Soul Screamers series, this book will either be everything you want...or everything you feared most. I fall firmly into the "incoherently happy" camp after reading it.
Soul Screamers as a whole is kind of a funny animal. The mythology is pretty unusual and I really like the unique world that Rachel Vincent creates with her banshees, maras, grim reapers, and demon breath. The stories are admittedly fairly straightforward (think Morganville rather than Chicagoland or Vampire Academy) and Kaylee Cavanaugh sometimes seemed very young in the beginning. But as Kaylee's problems became bigger and her relationships with her best friend and her family and her boyfriend became more involved, this somehow became a series that I really, really enjoy. She makes plenty of mistakes, particularly in that last agonizing book My Soul to Steal, but they are ones that you completely understand and sympathize with.
If I Die presents Kaylee with the biggest challenges she's ever faced in her life--she suspects that attractive new math teacher may not be everything he appears to be, she's still fighting her complicated feelings for her possibly irredeemable boyfriend Nash, and to top it off, she receives world-changing news that gives her only a matter of days to put everything right.
I really love Kaylee after this book. One of the things that surprised me is that she meets all of her problems with admirable maturity and sensitivity. There are a number of really difficult situations she has to resolve before time runs out, but instead of being self-pitying or railing against fate, she immediately takes action to help the people around her, all the while remaining true to her emotional self; that's no small feat under the best of circumstances. I'm impressed by the author's frank handling of teen sexuality, which is very um, enthusiastically present in this book but written with exactly the right amount of excitement and humor and gravity. Most importantly, it's also included in the right context of Kaylee's life.
I'm also really happy with the way the author handled the tricky situation with Kaylee's relationship with her boyfriend. Nash was previously hooked on demon breath and his ex-girlfriend the evil Sabine complicated things further. Nash's behavior, particularly (view spoiler)[how he dealt with his ex and the terrible, terrible thing he did to compel Kaylee (hide spoiler)], changed Kaylee's perception of him irrevocably, and the author does a terrific job of showing how agonizing and sad it is when feelings and priorities change with time. Anyone who read the excellent Soul Screamers short Reaper also knows the complicated story behind what Nash's brother Tod has done for him and will be thrilled to see Tod finally being present in the book in a big way. Fangirl moment: (view spoiler)[Yaaaay! At last at last at last. I'm so happy with where this story went. :D (hide spoiler)]
If you haven't read the series, it's one that is extremely entertaining and matures in surprising ways with its protagonist. And if you're already a fan of the series, well...this latest installment hooks you from the very first chapter. It's important to read this as quickly as possible so that major plot developments aren't accidentally spoiled for you, since this is a game-changing book--so don't wait too long! You're in for an awesome ride.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I think I've finally figured out why I'm not that into this series. I'm a fan of both Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy and Dark Swan series, but for so...moreI think I've finally figured out why I'm not that into this series. I'm a fan of both Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy and Dark Swan series, but for some reason I've had a hard time connecting with this one, and it wasn't until Book 4 that I realized what was bothering me. (Yeah, I'm a little slow on the uptake.) It's simply this: I believe in fidelity. Both emotionally and sexually.
The thing is, I'm pretty live and let live, so it doesn't really faze me if people want to live their lives in open relationships or want to frolic with stuffed animals or whatever, just so long as it's all above board and no one's getting hurt. But that's precisely the problem I've been having here--Georgina is hurt by the need-to-sleep-with-random-guys/no-consummation-with-human Seth scenario, and so is he. So the whole set-up is engineered in a way that just isn't going to make me very comfortable.
I'm also not as invested in the mythology of this particular world or in any of the other characters. And since I usually like men who are a little more alpha male than Seth is (don't get me wrong, I like sensitive men, too, but Seth is overall a little too passive for my taste), it all adds up to a conflicted reading experience for me, since I do like Georgie a lot. I thought this book was particularly good in the way it stripped her of her powers and showed that she is still a strong, alluring person even when she doesn't have her succubus abilities to fall back on.
Anyway...I will obviously still read the next installments to see where the story goes. But it won't be with the same degree of pleasure that I usually approach one of this author's books.
3.5 stars. Quick reactions: the secondary characters are starting to get more interesting and Seth finally seems to be growing a pair, although Roman...more3.5 stars. Quick reactions: the secondary characters are starting to get more interesting and Seth finally seems to be growing a pair, although Roman is still more intriguing to me. A few too many dreams, in my opinion, but props for propelling the story forward in a most decided way towards the end.(less)
**Please be aware that the spoilers in this review are real, so don't click on them unless you've read the book. There are mild spoilers in the visibl...more**Please be aware that the spoilers in this review are real, so don't click on them unless you've read the book. There are mild spoilers in the visible text, but they're not anything that you haven't already guessed if you're already a fan of the series. And since three people have done this already, please DO NOT discuss spoilers in this book without spoiler-tagging your comments since you will absolutely ruin the book for people who haven't read the book yet. If you don't know how to do this, please learn before commenting.**
I absolutely LOVED the first two Hex Hall novels. There are few authors whose books I pounce on at midnight the day of release and stay up all night reading, so that should give you an idea of how much I love Sophie, Jenna, Archer, and Cal.
The relationship between Sophie and Jenna is still fantastic, and that was probably my favorite part of this book. Their worry for each other, their banter, etc, are all familiar and funny and a welcome interlude whenever they're together. There is also a plot line involving (view spoiler)[demon kids Nick and Daisy that pulled at my heartstrings a bit. (hide spoiler)]
I'm sorry to say that this turned out to be my least favorite book in the series, however. The action zips back and forth between a lot of locations and the various overlapping storylines felt rather jumbled, which is problematic even if you've already guessed many of the big secrets back when you were reading Demonglass. I had a hard time staying engaged in the story, especially since there were moments that seemed to lend themselves to a bigger emotional punch (view spoiler)[such as the revelation that her mom is a Brannick, the early interactions with Cal, seeing her father again, Archer being tortured, etc (hide spoiler)] than were portrayed. I also got a little tired of Elodie popping up again and again (view spoiler)[and possessing Sophie's body (hide spoiler)] and the way Sophie's magic came and went at pretty convenient moments.
My two biggest issues with the book, however, were:
1. (view spoiler)[Sophie kissing Cal very soon after the book begins, before she even knows if something's happened to Archer. I'm not satisfied with the amount of guilt she felt after Archer pops up again, and in fact, she never even tells him about that particular kiss. Then Elodie later uses Sophie's body to kiss Cal again to torture Archer! Both scenarios just seemed very convoluted and forced to me, and they felt very different from the sunny nature of the previous books. (hide spoiler)]
2. DO NOT CLICK THIS if you haven't read the book. Seriously. Don't do it. (view spoiler)[Cal's death. And the precious little amount of time spent mourning him. Please give me a hug. :( (hide spoiler)] Not only did that make me extremely sad, but it felt so unnecessary.
Many of the elements I enjoyed so much about the previous books just felt different here. It's definitely still a funny book, but there's so much going on that the humor doesn't flow quite as smoothly. The parental relationships, always one of the stronger parts of the Hex Hall and Demonglass, were largely absent here as well. And most of all, there's very little time spent with Archer or Cal. What's there relies a tremendous amount on your past knowledge of Sophie's intimacy with them, and there aren't nearly enough meaningful moments between them for my taste. (view spoiler)[Okay, and not nearly enough make out scenes, either! (hide spoiler)] Don't get me wrong, there are some, but they didn't seem as urgent and charged as the ones in the previous books.
Maybe it's just me? I'm really sad to feel this way about the ending of a series I love so much. I'm very curious to see what my fellow Sophie fans think of this one, though. I liked this book overall, but the surprises that this book offered were just not the kind that I really enjoyed.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Note: Info on free ebook download link for this story below. A lot of authors release short stories as prequels or companion novels to their series, u...moreNote: Info on free ebook download link for this story below. A lot of authors release short stories as prequels or companion novels to their series, usually to keep fans jazzed between books or to entice you to try out the others. Some of these small bites are more successful than others, and I'm happy to report that the taste readers get from Daimon is enough to whet the appetite for more.
Alex is a 17-year-old half-demon who has been living among humans with her mother for three past years. She doesn't know why they're hiding from The Covenant, but a brutal attack by relentless daimons forces her to go on run...possibly back to the very place her mother always told her they should avoid.
This fast-paced, well-written short story does a great job of setting up the series. Alex is a smart, likable heroine with some mad daimon fighting skills. I really liked the action sequences in this book, as well as the way that the author shows the closeness between mother and daughter. (Ice cream always helps.) I got a little confused with one of the flashbacks, however, since it suddenly mentions a boy she's yearning for who hasn't been referenced before--I had to go back and skim through the book again to make sure I wasn't missing anything! But it's a small quibble considering how solid the rest of this preview is. It looks like this is going to be a really fun series and I'm looking forward to Half-Blood, which comes out on September 15, 2011.
Incidentally, contrary to what I assumed, Jennifer L. Armentrout is not the alter ego of urban fantasy author Jennifer Armintrout, who wrote the Blood Ties series. But readers who enjoy the other author's work will probably enjoy this YA series as well.
I have wildly mixed feelings about this book, which is loosely based on the myth of Persephone. I'm not sure I can write a coherent review because I'm...moreI have wildly mixed feelings about this book, which is loosely based on the myth of Persephone. I'm not sure I can write a coherent review because I'm so conflicted, so here goes the pros and cons list.
For the first two thirds of the book:
* I was pretty annoyed with the main character Theia. Stop falling in love with boys just because they're kinda cute, girls! * I really, really disliked Haden. Manipulative, bad-tempered, controlling, stalker-ish guys who try to make girls jealous, especially while (view spoiler)[grinding their hips against other girls during a dance while eye-locked with the main character (hide spoiler)], make me want to resort to violence.
I can't get a handle on the guy. Sometimes he seems so into you, and other times he's...sort of the Antichrist. Exactly!
* I saw no reason for Theia's dialogue to be so stilted. I understand why Haden's was, but speaking with a British accent doesn't mean she has to talk as if she's straight out of some boring 18th century period drama. Even her father's dialogue was less formal than hers. * I got a little tired of all the "Touch me!" "But I can't..." "I want you to!" "You'll die!" "But it's sooo worth it!" drama that kept repeating over and over. * I really didn't buy into the mix of attractive boy/dangerous "man" thing. * I wasn't sure why Haden was so attracted to Theia at first...how many boys are enthralled by spying on a girl playing the violin? Although I did really like the way Theia's hair was described, all gold and caramel curls. Lovely!
* The opening is pretty darned good. Burning man falling from the sky = great visual. * I really, really liked some of Theia's friends--and they were proof that the author could write snappy and unstilted dialogue. Her best friend Donny is hilarious, and I liked Amelia, Gabriel, Mike, etc. as well. All the early interactions between the friends felt very grounded and real, although the roles they play towards the end of the book are less convincing. * Some of the self-deprecating humor took me by surprise. Even while I was rolling my eyes at all the melodramatic stuff that drags on through the first part of the book, I kept going because every once in awhile the author would pop out a surprisingly funny remark that poked fun at what was going on. More of that tone would definitely have improved the book, however.
What really made the book enjoyable to me, though:
* A fantastic villain! When she shows up about two-thirds of the way through, I sat up and paid attention. Her physical being, her arch dialogue, and her evil scheming were all really well done. I wasn't entirely convinced by the (view spoiler)[disguise she takes (hide spoiler)] later on in the book, but I still really liked seeing her. * A big, big sacrifice that is made that I thought was extraordinarily well done. Based on what had come before, I wasn't expecting it to be that emotionally compelling. * The turn of tables (related to the sacrifice) and shift in POV was pretty interesting. * I ended up liking the new and changed Theia quite a lot. There's the backbone we were all waiting for! It's a shame it didn't happen sooner in the storyline. * I love love loved the creepy evil minions. (view spoiler)[Skeletons. Women stitched together with black thread and wobbly heads. Who violently BATHE her. (hide spoiler)] Awesome! Would love to have seen more done with them.
I'm torn between how I felt at the beginning of the book (bored, somewhat annoyed) and the end of the book (really excited and interested), so I'm not really sure whether it's something I'd recommend. I'd say that if you're intrigued by the premise, it's worth a read just so long as you keep your expectations in check. I, for one, will definitely be checking out the next book to see what the new and improved Theia will do.
This review may also be found at The Midnight Garden. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Meh. Banished held my interest for the first half, but somehow I just didn't connect with this one. The best paranormal books offer unique worldbuildi...moreMeh. Banished held my interest for the first half, but somehow I just didn't connect with this one. The best paranormal books offer unique worldbuilding of their supernatural side and combine that with strong, compelling characters and relationships for their urban side. Unfortunately, neither one is particularly well-done or unusual in this book. I don't mind books that have a less complex mythology, but what's here seemed underdeveloped and not terribly original . Hailey's powers are handy, but aside two nice healing scenes (one in the prologue, one emotional one after she realizes what she's done to her dog), it was more the idea of what she could do than what she was actually doing that saw this book through.
The dialogue is also a little clunky and I found a lot of the names annoying. Trashtown, Gypsum, Chub, Rattler...they stand out so much and are so unpleasant that they distracted from the plot. This book is somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars for me; I'm bumping it up because I didn't actively dislike it. But it would have been nice to have a little more development in characters and plotting overall.
**Hm, I'm coming back to this to add that in all fairness, I've read literally hundreds of paranormal YA books. So readers coming into the genre with less jaded eyes may be less bothered by the points I mentioned than I was.(less)
I liked this one better than the first...mostly because you aren't stuck in Nick's head with all his relentless negativity and darkness the whole time...moreI liked this one better than the first...mostly because you aren't stuck in Nick's head with all his relentless negativity and darkness the whole time. I still find the mythology a little confusing and I wasn't a fan of Mae playing kissy face with three--count 'em, THREE--boys, but I was sufficiently entertained enough that I'll be interested to see where the story goes next. I really want to love this series, but so far it's not really grabbing me in any compelling way.(less)
3.5 stars Once upon a time, a fantasy book came unto the young adult world and set it aflame. Long-time fans of the author swooned. Mainstream publica...more3.5 stars Once upon a time, a fantasy book came unto the young adult world and set it aflame. Long-time fans of the author swooned. Mainstream publications wrote cryptic but positive impressions. And many readers declared that the book was leaps and bounds above all other young adult literature previously published.
It's always a little tricky reading a book that arrives with a crazy amount of hype, even one that's not accompanied by the lavish praise that has been heaped upon this one, as the pressure to love it can be pretty intense. The story of a tattooed, blue-haired orphaned teenager named Karou caught up in an ancient war between angels and demons sounded amazing, however, and I was completely drawn in from the very first page. Karou is a young art student living in Prague, except that the fantastic figures she draws are actually of demons that she has known. She meets them in her strange teeth-collecting errands whenever she's summoned by Brimstone, a beast who has been a father figure to her as long as she can remember.
The first half of the book is simply mesmerizing, with vividly imagined details and the promise of a complex and stirring story. Karou has hamsas tattooed into her palms, she can fulfill small wishes with a necklace with unusual powers, and she dashes through magic portals on her errands to land on the streets of Marrakesh and Paris. But it's a life she has to hide from her best friend Zuzana and everyone at her school, and things get more complicated when black handprints begin appearing on doorways all over the world. Is something brewing in the otherworld that will affect this one?
For me, all that promise remained unfulfilled, however, as the narrative diverted sharply once Akiva, a gorgeous and impossibly perfect angel, appears in the story. He is strangely drawn to Karou, and follows her from place to place until finally they meet in an apparently earth-shattering fashion. “He was the most beautiful thing Karou had ever seen. Her first thought, incongruous but overpowering, was to memorize him so she could draw him later.” Here is the beginning of where I lost interest in the story, as most of the remainder of the book revolves around their overpowering romance, and eventually, why they may not be able to be together.
Readers who find the romance compelling will probably enjoy this book better than I did, but I found it hard to get invested in two such blindingly beautiful and perfect beings for whom there is apparently no other equal--I mean, of course they're going to be attracted to each other! How could they not be? One of the things I found so odd about their relationship is that it seemed to lack any sort of realism or depth; as cartoonishly ridiculous as Karou's ex-boyfriend was, the way she handled him and the dialogue there was at least smart and funny and likably grounded. When Karou and Akiva first meet and all throughout the subsequent chapters when they have their first kiss and so on and so forth, it's written as if the earth is moving and the stars are aligning...but I'm afraid the earth simply didn't move for me. I might have felt differently if their compulsion towards each other was based on something stronger than just physical attraction, but the majority of what I read was about their stunning beauty and their unearthly perfections. Even the promise of "wait, wait, you'll see why they're so drawn together" didn't pay off for me, because I predicted that well ahead of time and (view spoiler)[even back then, their immediate attraction was mostly based on their physical appearances and the a certain amount of unexpected behavior. My good friend Stephanie points out that being in the middle of a war certainly adds an additional element in such meetings, but (hide spoiler)] I would like to have seen more time given to any possible number of layers to a relationship, including admiration for how the person behaves in an extraordinary way, noticing subtle and lovely details about someone's personality, uncovering meaning in someone's words, bonding over shared situations, etc, etc. None of that happened here.
Much of the earlier extravagant detailing (except in reference to their relationship) and humor is abandoned in the second half, and things get further derailed when we get thrust into yet another type of story involving a girl named Madrigal. It isn't until the very end that the book finally gets back on course and we get some decent action scenes and some attention paid to the overarching storyline. Even then, I guessed what Akiva's big secret was, however, so I never really regained my initial enjoyment for the book. The ending was also a typical cliffhanger that is written in a way designed to leave readers in the maximum state of shock. I can't say that I admire that much, and I do think it's possible to write an open-ended conclusion in a way that doesn't feel like you've been...well, pushed off a cliff. And told to wait for another year to see if you'll recover from the fall.
While I certainly acknowledge and even respond to some of the author's imaginative worldbuilding, I can't really say that I went into raptures over it. I can't deny that the book is very well-written and I can appreciate the opulent touches and occasional flights of fancy...but unfortunately, this wasn't writing that I personally found to be particularly deep or moving or meaningful. That's just my own taste, however, since I know many of my friends have loved the writing and story much more than I did. I think in the end, it just comes down to what you respond to as a reader, and I'm really disappointed that I just didn't love this as much as I wanted to.
Still, the book is significantly better than most of the YA that's published right now, and it does hold the promise of a fascinating story that will hopefully get back on track in the sequel. I just wish that it wasn't another book that allowed, yet again, for a moony-eyed, long-fated romance to take over the life of another smart and seemingly level-headed heroine.