So. Some summary there, huh? Really makes you wonder things like, “wtf is the SQ?” or “wtf are these books even...moreOriginally published at yAdult Review.
So. Some summary there, huh? Really makes you wonder things like, “wtf is the SQ?” or “wtf are these books even about?” I’m sure the paper book has a better summary on the back. I hope so, anyway, because the opening of this novel is awesome. It’s Sera-centeric, and it’s kind of raw and emotional. Sera not only caught a glimpse of the Cataclysm (which disturbed her so much, she repressed the memories), but she’s also affected by Remnants. Bits and pieces of the Cataclysm are starting to come back to her, and it’s not pretty or nice. Something I was reminded of in this book, though, is that Sera is a person of color. She’s Hispanic, and Dak makes reference to how she looks much like the ancient Maya. So two out of three main characters in this series are people of color. Yay, progress! Speaking of progress, why is it that Dak has a little character development every book (mostly where he learns to control his urge to run off), and then is the exact same annoying little boy in the next one? Granted, he’s upset by what he sees as Sera ignoring him for Riq and by Dak’s parents being lost in time, but Dak really thinks highly of himself and his ability to get out of trouble. He’s spiteful and more than a little delusional. I don’t like calling eleven-year-olds “delusional,” but there it is. Dak drives me absolutely bonkers. Riq is definitely experiencing some changes, but more of the hormonal variety set off by a pretty Mayan girl. I laughed only a little at Riq’s expense here. He was just super clueless and cute. The main problem in this one, though, is that Sera has seemingly transported them to the wrong century. Dak suspects they can learn something while there, and he has a few suspicions about what they are.
Unfortunately (?), Dak can’t really make do on these suspicions because he’s in a coma for the better part of the first half, so Sera and Riq run around trying to figure out the riddle for themselves. And they do, of course. In fact, this story is split into two–the ancient Maya and the age of the conquistador (which is a terribly sad and frankly genocidal period of history. Go, Europe!). But like, learning what Sera saw when she experienced the Cataclysm made me cry. It’s an emotional journey for Sera, and she’s only eleven. Even a mature eleven-year-old can only handle so much misery and horror. And Riq is experiencing a little heartbreak. AND Dak has to go and redeem himself with his amusing inner monologue and musings about Sera’s origins. I almost liked him in the later middle chapters. Riq and Sera both have immediate emotional issues in this one, while Dak’s main problem remains his parents being lost in time.
I really really liked this one. It made me excited about the series again! I was lucky enough to snag a paper ARC of the next book in the series, Cave of Wonders, at the annual ALA conference at the end of June. Thanks, Scholastic! So what I’m getting at is the next Infinity Ring review should be up and ready very soon!(less)
**spoiler alert** First of all, I want to point out that this book is marked “young adult” but that’s grading it way too high. The writing is very sim...more**spoiler alert** First of all, I want to point out that this book is marked “young adult” but that’s grading it way too high. The writing is very simplistic and the characters, while supposedly teenagers, are written very young, especially Prince Alek. I would have guessed their ages to be eleven or twelve, not fourteen or fifteen. If you’re expecting romance, you’ll be disappointed. There aren’t even any supernatural aspects of this book, and several reviewers on Amazon call it a “steampunk novel.” As I know next to nothing about steampunk, I can’t comment on that.
Secondly, I am not the hugest fan of Westerfeld, as I could barely get through Uglies without stabbing myself in the eye. His Midnighters series, however, was brilliant and lovely and sad and perfect. (I’m not a big fan of Westerfeld as a person either, and you can read why here.) Despite my feelings, he is a good writer and after reading the Midnighters series, I was excited to read more.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
Leviathan is a retelling of the outbreak of World War I. While most of the history remains the same, there is one gigantic difference: machines. There are two factions, the Clunkers and the Darwinists. The Clunkers use metal only, building machines that, in my head at least, look like Imperial Walkers from Star Wars and other variations upon that theme. The Darwinists, named after the Darwin, use animal/machine hybrids both as transport and as weapons. I honestly can’t remember which nations were Clunkers and which were Darwinists, but I do know that Alek grew up Clunker and Deryn (from Scotland) grew up Darwinist.
Now, I am an animal lover, and there’s a lot of talk of how these Darwinist “beasties” can feel pain, fear, nervousness, et cetera. I had to skim through the parts where the animals get torn apart, because they made me so sad. As you can see, I’m not particularly on the side of the Darwinists, though, if Westerfeld keeps to the history, the Darwinists will win.
You know who’s side I am on though? Deryn’s. She’s awesome and a perfect contrast to Alek. Alek is rich, spoiled, arrogant, and whiny, pretty much everything I hate in a protagonist. Yes, his parents were killed. Yes, he was torn away from his nice cushy castle to live in some snowy “pile of rocks” in Switzerland. Yes, he’s been thrust into battle perhaps a little earlier than one would hope. All these things, however, mold Alek into a whiny pathetic mess of a boy, who in one chapter realizes his arrogance has given his fugitive party away and in the next returns to being his princely self. If I didn’t have this book on my Kindle, I would have thrown it at the wall by now.
Deryn, on the other hand, is amazing. She’s fourteen and sneaked her way into being an airman on the ship Leviathan. She holds her own as she pretends to be a boy, and she keeps her place on the ship when all but one of her peers are removed. Her father died years before in an accident, and her way of mourning him is to keep doing what he loved. Flying. She has to make hard decisions aboard the Leviathan and she does them with grace. I would add her to my list of my favorite females in fiction in a hot second. I hope that she straightens Alek out at some point.
A problem I had with this book is a problem I have with a lot of fantasy and sci-fi. Fantasy authors really enjoy describing outfits and traveling (sometimes endlessly), but they really enjoy writing fight scenes. Sci-fi authors really, really, really like describing their various machines and technology. I usually skim these parts, because honestly, I don’t care about tunics or landscapes or computer programs. The problem with Leviathan is that not only do Alek and his party travel in a giant machine, but they have a lot of fights, and Westerfeld goes on at length about joysticks and hydrogen and stuff I don’t want to read about. The same goes for Deryn on her ship (only it’s sadder because her ship is half whale). If I skim these parts, I have to skim two or three pages at a time. There’s a reason I prefer character-driven sci-fi over “hard” sci-fi. In other words, I like The Handmaid’s Tale more than Ender’s Game (and yes, I do realize that EG is not the hardest of sci-fi by a long shot).
So, in the end, my personal preferences forced me to give this book only two stars. I’m not sure if I’ll be reading the sequel, Behemoth, but if I do, you’ll find my review here!(less)
So this is like my perfect book. Historical fiction + paranormal + interesting heroine = my kinda drug, you know what I mean? Natalie St...moreNose in a Book
So this is like my perfect book. Historical fiction + paranormal + interesting heroine = my kinda drug, you know what I mean? Natalie Stewart is the daughter of an upper middle class father who is heavily involved in the new Metropolitan Museum of Art (which I love!). Ever since her mother died, Natalie has been unable to speak, prompting her father to send her to an “asylum,” which is really a boarding school for deaf and mute girls. At the beginning of the book, she comes home for a holiday and we learn that Natalie has has a connection with the supernatural since she was a child. She calls it The Whisper, and it does exactly what it says on the tin.
We meet Evelyn Northe and her niece, Maggie, in the first chapter. Evelyn is a wealthy widow who collects objects of occult value, because she is a spiritualist. We learn that Evelyn knows sign language and can communicate with Natalie in way very few people can. Evelyn sees a kindred spirit in Natalie, one Evelyn doesn’t see in Maggie. Evelyn and Natalie are basically perfect in the beginning of the book, all fire and curiosity. Evelyn manages to buy the Denbury portrait out from under some of her enemies, Natalie begins seeing things, and everything starts getting weird.
This book has an Alice in Wonderland feel and that appeals to me too. Natalie is pulled through the painting, into Denbury’s world. He’s drawn to her as much as she is to him, and here is the first time I am yanked out of the story: she keeps referring to Denbury’s accent as “British.” But…there is no universal British accent, is there? There’s English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish accents, but what is a British accent? So that annoyed me and when I mentioned it to my boyfriend, he said, “Well, is it ignorance on the character’s part?” And you know what? No, it isn’t. Natalie knows Denbury is English, but she still refers to his accent as British. Anyway. That’s probably really picky of me.*
The reason this book is four and not five stars is somehow Natalie went from badass who takes no crap to consistently “pressing her face into his lapel” so that Denbury can protect her. She falls into the classic Victorian damsel-in-distress role really easily. Like she only needed to take care of herself until a man came along to care of her instead. This book also has some interesting religion, and sometimes I wondered if it was preaching at me, but I find myself wanting to defend this book. Natalie says some decidedly unfeminist things, typical of her time, but I took them that way–as a sign of her times. She does a lot more than most women in that era, but she has some really traditional thoughts on love. Let me be real: if a heroine talked the way Natalie does about men and love and bodies in a modern paranormal romance, I would be pissed and the book would probably lose another star. This book just really stuck out to me as historical fiction, and Natalie’s conservatism worked here for some reason.
This is apparently a series, but the book doesn’t leave a ton of loose ends, so no cliffhanger. I think the makeouts in this book are really, really hot and I love their formal speech. I recommend this one to anyone who likes historical fiction, paranormal romance, English accents and pretty words.
*Heiber contacted us and apparently there is a thing called a "British accent," though from what I understood, it's an acting thing.(less)
This book. This book! From the very first paragraph, I was sucked in and lost to the beauty that is Russia in the l...moreOriginally posted at Nose in a Book
This book. This book! From the very first paragraph, I was sucked in and lost to the beauty that is Russia in the late 1800s. Katerina Alexanderovna, known to her friends as Katiya, is a young girl who is a part of the Romanov court, though she wants to be a doctor. She is dragged along to balls she finds silly and is happiest when she is given a book of anatomical sketches by Da Vinci. She is clear-headed and smart, and the world she moves through sounds ethereal, both beautiful and deadly. Because Katiya has a secret–she’s a necromancer. She lives in fear of her ability, which she calls a curse, and tells no one about it. Despite her secrecy, a few of her peers–some Montenegran princesses, who Katiya is convinced are witches–and some of the adults in her life hint around it. The Empress of Russia is also a Faery Queen of the Light Court (Queen Titania, anyone?), and Katiya’s mother is involved in supernatural activities and seances with the Dark fae, while her father is more practical. Katiya’s brother is in the military. Things are going swimmingly for Katiya (minus the meddling Montenegrins) until her cousin, Dariya, is poisoned.
Sadly, Katiya is no urban fantasy heroine, is really upset about her ability, and cries at the thought of killing anything. She believes in the occult one second, then thinks it’s all madness the next, even though she is proof that the occult exists. She can raise the dead, but she resists the idea that vampires could exist. This is more understandable in this historical novel than it would be in, say, a Kate Daniels novel, as Christianity is still a ruling power and science is just beginning to sink its hooks into the masses. Katiya, a girl who has loved science her whole life, has to try and reconcile her supernatural abilities with her devotion to science, all while balancing her belief in God. That’s tough, and she reacts accordingly. I never thought less of her for her reactions or thought her over-dramatic. I think she’s a perfect picture of the world at that time. The only thing that really annoyed me was when she was given a book on the history of necromantic powers, she refuses to use it. She thinks she’s raising the dead willy nilly without knowing how she’s doing it, but she refuses to read the book as it’s “unholy.” Girlfriend, you know your precious Tsar is in danger and you’re quite possibly inflicting revenants all over St. Petersburg, and you won’t even try? That bothered me a lot. She’s smarter than that, but she can be really self-absorbed sometimes.
One of the best parts of this book is the lush description of the landscape, particularly Russia in winter. I’m not normally a girl who loves description; dialogue is more my thing. But this book is different! The descriptions aren’t endless, so they actually contribute to your understanding of the story. I have a picture in my head of the Black Ball and it is breathtaking! The images invoked by descriptions of monsters is pretty awesome too. I like the idea of vampire being an overarching term, at least in this novel, for no real reason other that I enjoy the idea of beautiful women turning into large, moth-like creatures to suck the blood of men.
With any other novel, that second paragraph would have made me drop a star, but not this one. This one is compelling even when irritating. I couldn’t put it down even if I wanted to! I love it beyond words. If you’re a fan of the Romanov era, with Nicholas II as a teenager supporting character; if you love Victorian Russia; if you like lush descriptions and powerful magic, this is the book for you.(less)