**spoiler alert** Somewhere in a land called Ravka, where the kingdom has two kinds of army supporting its survival - a proper military force called F...more**spoiler alert** Somewhere in a land called Ravka, where the kingdom has two kinds of army supporting its survival - a proper military force called First Army and a sorcery-based group called the Second Army, otherwise known as the Grisha - two orphans came to live at a Duke's holding. One of them, Alina, is a plain-looking girl with a hidden gift. The other, Mal, is a sweet boy with a charming personality. Inseparable since childhood, the pair of best friends grew up to be strong teens in the war-torn land. They knew mostly hardships and took solace in each other's company.
One day as their regiment moves through a deadly zone called The Fold, a dark place filled with volcra, flesh-eating creatures that were born from a magician's greedy ambitions in the distant past, Alina and Mal discovered horrors that resulted in consequences beyond their expectations. Alina shows her hidden gift, receives the favor of the mysterious and alluring Darkling (a sorcerer, leader of the Grisha) and was whisked away from Mal's side and her unrequited crush for the boy who's tumbled with so many other girls.
The strength of Shadow And Bone lies in the fantastical setting that Bardugo created. Using inspirations from Russian culture, Bardugo built a world of magic and monsters, as well as a politically-charged structure of society, that reminds me of - dare I say it - the grandeur of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials universe. While it seems like Bardugo has only presented us with one facet - and merely the surface - of her Grisha universe, I have no doubt that there will be more to discover in the subsequent books of what is meant to be a trilogy.
In unveiling this world, Bardugo also developed her characters in a way that make us root for the heroine, Alina. What's delicious about Alina is that she is awkward throughout the story. There is not one moment where she doesn't sound like someone who has been yanked from a mundane existence and thrust into a world of adventure. Therefore, her observations of her surroundings sound very intriguing, as if she is learning things for herself (and on our behalf) but unable to decide whether she likes it or not. Her desperation comes through in various moments, not just when she literally spells it out for us in her first narration. She's by no means clueless and she does come into herself a little bit, but her voice is stable throughout the story - and that is, the voice of a stranger living in a weird world that she can barely understand. And this is the kind of voice I can very much relate to.
There are plenty of other things that Bardugo subtly brought forward in the story - and ones she not so subtly inserted, although I'm certainly not going to list them all in this review. For example, the issue of beauty. It is necessary for a Grisha to appear presentable court and there is 'magic' apparently that can alter a person's appearance. Alina is reluctant to use this sort of magic but she eventually relents out of necessity. To me, that is the kind of thing that sparks further thought about our own society. I believe we don't need make-up to look beautiful but I recognize the need of it in certain occasions. So what is the right answer? Aline didn't seem to know, neither do I. But it's one of those small things that nag at the back of my mind.
Thinky thoughts aside, the population of this story is rather colorful bunch. None of them is strictly good or bad, there are always grey areas, but the most curious one for me is the Apparat, the king's advisor who lurks in corners and stalks our heroine. His motive, journey and ending are unclear, which is why he immediately caught my attention and made me wish Bardugo would uncloak him further. That is not to be in this book, so I suppose this is another thing to look out for in the sequels.
Of the love triangle trope (because every young adult novel these days just HAVE TO have one), I would say it is disappointing in its complexities. Or should I say, severe lack thereof. It is my least favorite element of this story because, very clearly, we can see from the beginning to whom Alina's heart calls out. I wish Bardugo had dispensed with it altogether and focus on Alina's struggles to find herself in this world of hers.
Having said that, it is rather gratifying to see this theme of "we find our way back to each other" between Alina and Mal.
Fast-paced, bleak and intriguing, Leigh Bardugo's debut young adult novel is a delightful fantasy read that will also resonate with adult fantasy fans. But the book is hardly the multi-dimensional splendor of its counterparts in the pure fantasy category. Here's to hoping that Bardugo will expand and elaborate on her universe in upcoming books.(less)
Probably my favorite of the three Peter Grant books by Ben Aaronovitch so far. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year. Mostly because there's...moreProbably my favorite of the three Peter Grant books by Ben Aaronovitch so far. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year. Mostly because there's plenty of Nightingale appearances here, and also because Peter has become a lot smarter. (His new friends are very exciting as well - particularly Kumar the BTP officer and Zach Palmer.)
And is it just or is Aaronovitch is just a massive fanboy? There were references to Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, Doctor Who, Dungeons and Dragons, and plenty of other things. It also made me happy that the second chapter was named 'Baker Street', the name Sherlock Holmes cropped up a few times, and the cover actually contained the names of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation. It even covered one of my current interests: modern art. Perfect.
As usual, the mystery was slow-burning, the investigation carried out in the proper 'policing manner'. Aaronovitch's humor becomes witter, but also subtler in that the jokes don't make me laugh outright but instead it makes me grin throughout the book (at one point, I was also hiding myself behind it because I was afraid people would think I was a loon.) And once more, the author came up with many quotable lines and paragraphs.
An anglophile would've been crazy not to read the Peter Grant series because this book has a very distinct 'British' voice. Some words, I didn't even understand when I read for the first time and had to look up on the Internet. Like the previous books, Whispers Under Ground is yet another scenic installment of the Peter Grant saga - the geography of the story is laid out very carefully and, I'd like to think, realistically. For get your A-to-Z - one could probably do a tour of London using these books as a guide.
(I do believe, however, the entire sewer scene would not help with the tourism. And I may have been entirely turned off from taking the tube.)
There are still so many things to say about this - I haven't even gushed about Nightingale yet, or complained about the typos and missing punctuation marks in my copies - but so far this is all I've got for Goodreads. A more complete review may come later (or not). But whether or not that happens, Aaronovitch's third novel in the Peter Grant series is not a disappointment.
Now, when is the fourth one coming out again?(less)
Ben Aaronovitch's second book about the wizard apprentice PC Peter Grant's roller coaster ride with magic and mayhem is neither as charming nor as fun...moreBen Aaronovitch's second book about the wizard apprentice PC Peter Grant's roller coaster ride with magic and mayhem is neither as charming nor as funny as the first one. Moon Over Soho is, unfortunately, the inferior book compared to the series opener.
The story starts somewhat in medias res, which makes it impossible for new readers to grasp what's happening without knowing the prequel, and it starts in a rather depressing tone as Peter talks to his best friend who's so horribly disfigured that you just can't help but feel sorry for her. As the story progresses, you will find more blood, gore and convoluted ramblings on the topic of magical theories than you could have possibly asked for and not enough levity to counter these rather depressing parts.
But you know what the kicker is? I absolutely loved it to pieces.
It's not just that the way the story takes a new, darker edge that thrills me about it. It's the way Aaronovitch deepens his main character's understanding of how magic and magical politics work while at the same time bringing us along for the ride down the proverbial rabbit hole. This book is like a slide towards Wonderland and we have not even reached the landing yet. Not even close.
In the first book, many things were introductory. You meet the characters, you see them interact and figure out their dynamics, and you either find them sympathetic or abhorrent depending on whether you side with Peter Grant or not. It was all new and shiny back then; the adventure was exciting in the way a new playground is adventurous for a child who's exploring it for the first time. In this book, on the other hand, you've already known the players. You know what possible dangers they might face. If you stuck around for the second book, then you have probably known that these dangers were going to be much bigger than the first. In that regard, Aaronovitch did not disappoint.
One of the biggest appeals for me of this book - or of the series in general - is DCI Nightingale. Still convalescing from the injury he sustained towards the end of the first book, Nightingale didn't play as large a part as he did in Rivers Of London. That doesn't mean, however, that Aaronovitch put him on the sidelines. We get a glimpse into Nightingale's life in the past - during World War II - and the life of magicians in the past. There are clues dropped in about him but none of them really explained anything. If any, the more Aaronovitch wrote about Nightingale - and the more Peter got to know of his past - the less sure I am about who this man really is. It's simply intriguing how this character, whose use of the term "black magicians" was heavily protested by his apprentice, could evoke so much curiosity with so little words and so short an appearance in the entire story.
On the other hand, Peter Grant is blossoming into a more solid character. He has a real affair here in the story - involving sex and romance - so it's not just about river gods and monsters anymore. He's developed new relationships, both with newcomers (the jazz musicians) and previously existing characters (such as Stephanopoulos, who's not as scary as she looks). More light is shed on his home life and his father comes to the forefront, which I am glad for because he's one of the most amusing characters I've encountered in the series so far. I don't think he's become any wiser but he's more knowledgeable in the area of police work and magic... and definitely more interesting to 'listen to' this time around. He might just be on his way to becoming a major BAMF the way Harry Potter is!
The geography of the story itself is also another major appeal for me. Despite always dreaming of going to London, Soho is not one of the areas I've wanted to visit. And I shouldn't want to go there either after reading this book, seeing as how insanely frightening things happen there in the story, but I now wish I could transport myself to that part of London and have a walking tour with the book on my hand. One of Aaronovitch's strongest points is how he makes imagery so vivid in our minds that a place comes alive for the readers in the story. It's probably easier to do that with purely fictional places, like Middle Earth or Narnia, but to compete with a real place that exists in the real world? It's not something just any writer can do. But this one can and the book is all the more special because of it.
The punchline, though, has nothing to do with the mysterious cases that Peter Grant investigated in the story or jazz or Soho. It doesn't even have anything to do with the main story at all. The reason why I thought this book was like a blow to the stomach lies in two sentences at the last page of the book. Read them and you'll probably understand why the term "jaw dropping" was invented.
I might have been guilty of comparing Aaronovitch to other writers and these stories have been compared as well to other, more popular and successful works by various authors. But if one thing is clear after reading Moon Over Soho is that Aaronovitch's quill has its own brand of magic that's not only unique to the author, but also potentially more potent than what currently exists in the urban fantasy genre. I can't wait to see where he'll take us and what kind of place his bottom-of-the-rabbit-hole is like.
With that I hereby declare that I'm no longer a fan of Aaronovitch and the series. I'm now a devotee.
Of Peter Grant and Thomas Nightingale, too. So devoted I am that I might even start writing fanfiction. Or, maybe I'll start with the easier thing to do: read what other people have written for this gritty, intriguing magical saga that Aaronovitch has created. Surely, there are other people out there with the same devotion that I have for Peter and Nightingale's adventures... (less)
Ben Aaronovitch's River Of London is probably my favorite book of 2011. Well, don't count on it too much as I say this about a lot of books this year,...moreBen Aaronovitch's River Of London is probably my favorite book of 2011. Well, don't count on it too much as I say this about a lot of books this year, but it's entirely possible the book might take Favorite Fantasy of 2011 in my end-of-year list. I'm positively obssessed with it and I can't help but want to pimp it out to everyone I know.
Let me tell you how this obsession started. A couple of months ago a good friend of mine (who knows my reading taste very well) recommended the book to me, pointing to her very accurate review of the book as a sales pitch. Her review is impeccably written but, really, all she really needed was "it's Blaise Zabini joining the Filth" and I was sold.
Thanks to the Harry Potter reference and because of my own objection to reading mainstream books, especially ones that have the potential to be as lovable as the HP series for me, I waited for the printed paperback copy to arrive instead of getting an e-book. After months of waiting and shipment issues involving the bureaucratic customs process here in this country, I finally managed to bring in this book both for the store and for myself.
I didn't intend to read it immediately, wanting to keep it as "a read for rainy days", but then I got really bored and moody in the office last week and needed a pick-me-up. This book was sitting right in front of my computer and I grabbed and... well, I started giggling. I read a few pages and giggled again. Then I read and giggled, read and giggled, and read and giggled. I wasn't even sure why or what part of the story made me do that but I just did.
And it's a really amazing book. Not only does it suit my taste, but I think it's one of the more fun books in the urban fantasy genres in recent years.
Mostly, it's the mixed race hero (PC Peter Grant whose image in my head is stuck as a young Barack Obama, much thanks to Aaronovitch's character's own quip about him being able to be an Obama stand-in) that's been doing the job of keeping me interested with his keen observations on magic and magical theories and experiments and dry Londoner sense of humor. Emphasis on the magical theories part - this is probably the only book I've ever read where a character tries to explain magic through scientific methods and I'm in love with that. One of my biggest curiosities with the Harry Potter series was the magical theory part. Unfortunately, Rowling didn't get very deeply into that. Aaronovitch here didn't only delve into the theories of magic, going so far as to reference the literature related to the topic (whether the books he referenced were real or not, I'm not sure, but he makes it sound so believable), but he also got rather technical with it. For some people, this might be boring and unnecessary, but for me? It's food for the geek that occupy half my soul.
The mystery is also very intriguing and it has kept me guessing until the end. I won't say anything about it for fear of ruining the story, but Aaronovitch doesn't try to come up with his own monsters or villains. He makes good use of folklore, the commedia dell'arte and the city of London's geography itself to build his mystery. The kind of universe he creates is one that's familiar but at the same time also new because, as readers, we'd be looking at the setting from an entirely new viewpoint.
But rest assured, it's still London, the city, and it becomes a character itself. Or rather, several characters, because the title, "Rivers of London", refers to the various spirits/beings/genii locorum that represent the various tributaries of the River Thames. But even edifices and landmarks contribute in either assisting the characters' investigation and advancing the plot, so it's almost like the whole city plays a huge part in Peter's adventure as a sidekick.
Thanks to the above, the book serves like a guide book... if guide books are meant to show parts of London where dark, sinister, inexplicable crimes occur. This works very literally, too, because believe it or not, I know at least one person who's done a Rivers Of London tour based on the book. It's a clever way for Aaronovitch to promote the cities--anglophiles around the world must be screaming in joy at the idea of getting to know London through his stories.
And all of this? Recipe for making me a very happy reader.
Granted, I lowered my expectations for the ending (based on several reviews and people's warnings), and this is probably the right thing to do... but I think, even without the low expectations, I would've liked the ending all the same. I wasn't disappointed at all and was in fact surprised by the twists and turns the story took on the last quarter of the book. Granted, Peter became less funny as the action increased but there were still some really quotable passages there (if I had the book with me, I'd quote them here, but I left it in the car) to complement the resolution of the mystery.
Anyway. I can't say anything else for fear of spoilers but I really am pleased with this book. A lot of people call this book "dark urban fantasy" and at one point, I wondered why the word "dark" was attached to it at all when the tone is actually quite humorous... but then, looking back, I realized that there was a massive amount of gore and blood in it, which I don't normally enjoy. But here's what I love about British authors: they make it all look so classy instead of sensational. They write in such a way that I managed to read the evidence of the perpetrator's crime in this book (once again, it's all blood and gore and very horrific) and yet never got any nightmares from it.
I've heard the book being likened to The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, as well as Neil Gaiman's works. It's also been likened to CSI and/or NCIS (with magic! And in truth, it is rather like that, although a British version of it, not the American one). The book itself refers to various pop culture phenomenons in it: books, movies, series and yes, Harry Potter, too. So it's very modern, very relevant, very easy to get into.
One note of curiosity: correct me if I'm wrong, but this book was written before the recent 2011 riots in London, wasn't it? Well, I just can't help but think that Aaronovitch is rather psychic, having written about a great riot in the book and had it followed by a real one in the actual city he wrote in? Or is London a regularly riotous city? I actually don't think so because I don't often hear about it on the news. (Now, if we're talking about Jakarta...) So, there I was reading about the (probable) reason why the American publisher of the book (nice ol' Random House) changed the title for the American release to Midnight Riot and I thought, "Is Aaronovitch a mutant who can tell the future and write awesome books? He probably is!"
And because this review is not long enough, let me share with you some of the gems that Aaronovitch wrote that got me giggling in the middle of a crowded office, in front of my bosses. They're just too lovely to pass up!
He was about one-eighty in height - that's six foot in old money - and dressed in a beautifully tailored suit that emphasised the width of his shoulders and a trim waist. I thought early forties with long, finely boned features and brown hair cut into an old-fashioned side parting. It was hard to tell in the sodium light but I thought his eyes were grey. He carried a silver-topped cane and I knew without looking that his shoes were handmade. All he needed was a slightly ethnic younger boyfriend and I'd have had to call the cliche police.
When he strolled over to talk to me I thought he might be looking for that slightly ethnic boyfriend after all.
'What was I supposed to do?'
'You could have talked your way yout of it,' he said. 'What do you think Ty is - a gangster? Did you think she was going to "plug a cap" in your head? She pushed you to see where you'd go and you blew up.'
We ate our curries for a while. He was right - I'd panicked.
'It's "popped a cap in my ass",' I said. 'Not plugged - popped.'
'Ah,' said Nightingale.
'Cult of Neptune?'
'London Fire Brigade,' she said.
'The London Fire Brigade are worshippers of the god Neptune?'
'Have you met Neptune?'
'Don't be silly,' she said. 'There's no such person. Anyway, I feel bad about the hydrants, but it's Thames Water I'm worried about.'
'Don't tell me,' I said. "Worshippers of dread Cthulhu.'
(I laughed particularly hard at that last one. And, come to think of it, I might be in love with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale as well. He's like Albus Dumbledore, but funnier and probably gayer.) (hide spoiler)]
Finally, this review is long enough. I could go on and on about this book but I'll just let you read for yourself and decide if this is either the most brilliant thing you've ever read or the dullest thing to have been published in 2011 so far. For me, though, there will be no other adult urban fantasy book that is as fun as this and that alone is enough to warrant a second, third and fourth re-read before the year is over.["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"]>["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book. THIS BOOK! Why did I never read this before?
So sue me for not picking up this book earlier. I've known of its existence for a very long tim...moreThis book. THIS BOOK! Why did I never read this before?
So sue me for not picking up this book earlier. I've known of its existence for a very long time (ever since I started taking customer orders for my bookstore and everybody and their cousin wanted the book whenever it went out of stock from our shelves) and I do remember picking up a copy to read during lunch back sometime in the seven years I worked for my bookstore... but I can't remember the story until I seriously, properly read it yesterday. And yes, I watched the Game of Thrones TV series by HBO first before I was finally inspired to read the book seriously so you could probably accuse me of 'jumping the bandwagon' or some other thing like that. But to be honest the first person that put my actual reading of the book in motion was actually Jon Hodgman.
If you're unaware of that name I don't blame you. He's a comedian and he's popular only in the US - if 'popular' is the right word to explain this man's status in showbiz - and I knew him first from watching Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. But he's also a writer and he wrote some very nice words about George R. R. Martin in the author's TIME 100 Most Influential People List edition that came out several months ago. Basically, Hodgman wrote: "if you haven't read this book, shame on you."
Indeed I felt shame when I realized I'd missed out on the fun of this epic medieval fantasy for so many years because it truly is a delicious start of what I imagine to be a sprawling saga. Most of the time I hear the casual readers refer to it as "Lord of the Rings with dragons" and after reading this book, I now feel the urge to slap the face of anyone who's ever said that because the book is not about that at all. It's a book about the evilness of politics and the rottenness of politicians. The language is simple enough to follow but the intricate connections between the characters may give some people a headache but I like how the story is presented through various points of view. Some 'voices' were better than others - Tyrion Lannister's, in my opinion, is the absolute best - but the characters are also impressive and awe-inspiring.
By awe-inspiring, of course, I mean "they are so freaking annoying I want to kick them to hell and back". There are just some rotten people here. I would start by saying that Queen Cersei is the rottenest one in here, but truly none of these characters are purely nice or purely evil. They're all complex characters that could have done with better attitude adjustments. But that's also why I love the book - because it depicts so realistically, despite the fantasy setting, how the behavior of people how dwell in politics really are. If anyone wants to compare Martin to Professor Tolkien, I would say that the way Martin manages to present a story that is set in a fantasy world but rings true of our real world is the similarity they both share. Not the characters, not the setting... not even the genre they chose to write in. There's a same feeling of 'this story could happen at any period of the history of our world' in their writing that I enjoy very much.
Having said that, I do wish Martin wrote more beautifully. Sometimes his words are ridiculously simple that the magic is lost. I don't need fancy or detailed descriptions of places or people, but because of this simplicity I ran into some difficulty imagining a place or situation. If it weren't for the TV series, I wouldn't have been able to easily imagine the locations these characters find themselves in. King's Landing would've been just a name of a random city somewhere and the Northern part of Seven Kingdoms would just be... well, somewhere North. I choose to view this as a symbiotic relationship between the book and the TV series.
Another thing that strikes me as amazing is how many of the characters that I find interesting are the female characters: Cersei, Catelyn, Arya and Daenerys. Cersei and Catelyn are interesting because they are both dripping with vulnerability despite their apparent fierceness. But Arya and Dany both appear vulnerable when in fact they are actually very powerful women. This, I should say, has never happened to me when reading books in the fantasy genre. Most of my favorite characters in fantasy are male... and here I am now finding myself intrigued with the women because of the way Martin portrayed them.
I now can't wait to read the second book, A Clash Of Kings. What happens next to Jon Snow, Arya and Dany is the story I most want to follow. To a certain extent, I wish Robb Stark had his own POV... but I could live with reading about him through Catelyn, whose journey I want to follow, and other characters whose paths crossed with the eldest of Ned's children. And of course Tyrion... if there's anyone I would wish to appear as a hero in this saga, it's Tyrion. My fingers itch to start opening the pages of the second book but I think I'll wait awhile and savor the greatness of the series opener first.
After all, I've just had an intense 84 hours with George R. R. Martin's words and the TV series. I should rest my brain for a while before I immerse myself in the murkiness of human nature again.(less)
Rick Riordan has officially been promoted from "author whose story I'm only casually interested in" to "author whose story I'm freaking in love with"....moreRick Riordan has officially been promoted from "author whose story I'm only casually interested in" to "author whose story I'm freaking in love with". In other words, he has finally earned that Rowling-like status in my books. People may disagree (vehemently) with me and that's all right. But the fact is, I've never been so thrilled by a YA fantasy adventure book since Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows as I have been with The Son Of Neptune.
This book is flawless, from beginning to end. The multiple POVs of Percy, Frank and Hazel work. (I also have to say Percy sounds a whole lot better in third-person than first-person.) The change of point-of-view does not affect the story and in fact it enhances the story's suspense factor while at the same time moves the narrative along at the perfect pace.
The character development is wonderful. Although I liked the first book of this series, The Lost Hero, I realized that there was something missing that didn't give me the kind of thrill that I got from reading the first Percy Jackson series. Well now I realized what was missing: it was Percy Jackson himself. He has grown on me as a character so, because he wasn't around in the first book, it didn't hold that much interest for me. Now that he's back, my full emotional investment to the story has returned. It's also not just the fact he's back, though. It's how he's back... by showing that he's still the Percy Jackson we all know and love while then developing into someone we all come to admire. Because in this book, he seems to have grown into a character that not only kick-ass, he's also proving what a great leader and warrior he is. If you're a Percy Jackson, the god-like picture Riordan paints of this young demigod will definitely appeal to you.
Aside from Percy, his new friends Frank and Hazel are also equally important. I'm not going to spoil the details to people who haven't read the story but let me reassure you that these characters will not only grow on you, but you would probably end up - like me - rooting so hard for them. If you liked Leo Valdez from The Lost Hero, then be prepared to like Frank Zhang and Hazel Levesque. I can't believe how incredibly complex they are, so multi-dimensional even since the very beginning, and how amazing they come across. It's like discovering Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger in Harry Potter for the first time; Riordan had Frank and Hazel down since the word go.
I'm also in love with Frank's ethnicity. Chinese Canadian? YES. FINALLY. Another Asian on the series. (I was really ticked off about Ethan Nakamura in the first series. But Riordan seems to have redeemed himself with Frank. Unless he kills him off later on; then I'll probably hunt Riordan down with a spear.)
Also, thanks to Frank being Canadian, we are now being treated to some hilarious Canada jokes. Also Amazon jokes. (I'm not going to lie: I cracked up the hardest at the Amazon.com jabs.) The tongue-in-cheek is a lot more subtle in this book - a new thing from Riordan - and I think it's a way Riordan is showing how his characters are now more mature to fit some of his earlier readers who have grown up.
The ending is perfect. I'm in love with that ending. I may even give my firstborn to that ending. It's not a cliffhanger but it definitely gives a feeling of high anticipation for the next book. I came out of Lost Hero feeling, well, a bit lost. But coming out of this book gave me a thrill. I can honestly say that I can't wait for the next book to come out, but at the same time I'm fine with waiting for the next one because the conclusion to Son Of Neptune needs to slowly savored so you can truly feel the juice. Absolute perfection.
I have always underestimated the Percy Jackson series. I never took it seriously because I didn't think this was a book that would have a broad appeal to adults. The language, the tone, the plot... they were all rather juvenile (not in a bad way) in the first Percy series. That's why even though I liked them, I would never consider recommending them to fellow adult readers. It's great if there are adults who like them, but you would probably never hear me saying "hey, read this book because it's awesome" to another adult.
This time, however, I will. Son Of Neptune is an exhilarating and gratifying fantasy read that deserves its fans' adoration. The writing is masterful, the characters engaging and the plot clever. It's a Percy Jackson book like you've never read it before - it's no longer a witty attempt at incorporating Greco-Roman culture into an adventure story set in the modern world. It's a darker, more brooding and infinitely more captivating Bildungsroman with gods and monsters in the background. than anyone has ever known. If you haven't caught the fever yet, you should after reading this book.(less)
This is one strangely formatted book. Plot-wise, it's very complicated. And, continuing the trend that the author started in Book 4, there are more se...moreThis is one strangely formatted book. Plot-wise, it's very complicated. And, continuing the trend that the author started in Book 4, there are more separate story lines in The Warlock, which makes reading it require more concentration than usual. And not just separate story lines, there are two separate timelines as well.
At first glance, the book seems simply overpopulated. New characters keeps cropping up left and right and I had trouble keeping track of who is who. I know my myths quite well, but even some of the legendary characters that show up in the fifth still manage to make me wish that I had instant access to an encyclopedia while reading it.
Perhaps this is why I had a very slow start to read the book. It wasn't until halfway through the books, after the part where Perenelle Flamel went somewhat bonkers during her rescue attempt of her husband's life, that I found my stride. That was the point where I could finally see what exactly was happening and how the various story lines connected.
Many things are still left in the dark so don't expect to get answers to the mysteries that Scott has been laying out since Book 1. You will find instead a myriad of clues, which could further deepen the mysteries instead of answering them. For example, you still don't know which twin is the one that will save the world and which twin will destroy the world. This happens to be the question that run through the entire book but it is one that is not answered even until the end. You also won't know what exactly is Dee's planning to do now that he's fallen out of favor. You won't find out which side the immortals are on. In short, The Warlock continues the adventure but does not explain anything.
Also, Nicholas is missing for over half the book. This marks another departure for The Warlock from previous books, but in a more obvious way. Although I'm wary of Nicholas, I pretty much like his point of view, so I'm missing him a lot. I hope there'll be more of him in the next - and final - book. He is after all whose name is being used for the series in general. There should be more of him, period.
But despite the confusion that I felt, I am still keen to call this book my favorite. The reason for that is the surprising revelation of Niccolo Machiavelli and Billy The Kid's decision to turn against Dee and Dare. The Macchiavelli/Kid moments in the book make for a delicious read -- especially if you are fan of bromance, because there are plenty of those in these scenes. It's also interesting to see Josh Newman's hero worship of Billy The Kid. I expected Josh to start kissing the ground The Kid walked on. It was a rather charming moment in the midst of battle tension when The Kid looked sheepish at Josh's compliments for him.
Speaking of Josh, since I am firmly on his side as a character (I do so love my bad boys), I am happy to see that he gets to show off his powers as a Gold twin. He kicks some ass in this book that impresses even Virginia Dare. I enjoy seeing him in a state of conflict over his own feelings for Sophie. It's delicious to see him feel both hatred and longing for her. As far as sibling relationships go, reading about it through Josh's point of view makes it seem fun. Although, in the end, he doesn't let seem to let that get in the way of displaying his awesome Gold powers. I love seeing a kick-ass Josh.
Sophie, on the other hand, is highly affected by losing Josh. She distrusts Perenelle (who really does turn kind of dark in this whole story) and she wants nothing more than to see Josh again. I've never been overly sympathetic to Sophie but this time I can see her pain. It sort of hits home that Sophie might lose her twin and this makes me sad. Her feelings are still parallel to Schatach's feelings for Aoife although Scatty definitely didn't agonize on the same level Sophie did (for a male author, Scott sure does know how a teenage girl angsts. This is quite impressive.)
Then we arrive at the end. The last page of the book. And this is where the big twist comes in. You could say that The Warlock ends with a cliffhanger. But I say it ends with a SLAM -- as in I SLAM my head against my pillows because... WTF. The twist that Scott gives us there is too big and too important that the ending becomes a pure cliffhanger. (And he expects us to wait a year to find out what the heck it means?! Can he get any more cruel? Not even Rick Riordan, another author who loves to use cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, is that mean to his readers.)
I never would have guessed the ending. Almost 24 hours after I finished the book and found out the twist, I'm still even reeling from it.
So, if this book bores you in the beginning, do hang on to it until the end. It'll give you something so huge, you might not even survive the night.
Now all we have to do is sit tight and hang on until Scott deigns to enlighten us on the whole thing. That is, next year when The Enchantress comes out. Oh damn. Scott is good. He is very good. Is it any wonder these books are popular?(less)
I didn't hate this book and certainly it wasn't a badly written one but I couldn't connect with it either. I may come back and revisit the story so I...moreI didn't hate this book and certainly it wasn't a badly written one but I couldn't connect with it either. I may come back and revisit the story so I could write a more proper review. But at this point I just felt that the plot was so disjointed that I had a hard time getting into it. By the time I managed to find a comfortable place to sit in the story, it was over very quickly not long afterwards. I may have picked the wrong Jonathan Stroud book to familiarize myself with his writing; I should have probably started with the Barthimaeus trilogy. it could also be I have little patience for Viking stories as I'm not all that familiar with the lores (give me Greek and Roman tales any time and I'll bite into them in no time). In any case, this book falls short of my expectations and I will now take another long break from Young Adult fiction so I can forget my disappointment.(less)
There are already so many excellent reviews for the book so I don't think I need to add anything else. The one thing that I want to say about Ginn Hal...moreThere are already so many excellent reviews for the book so I don't think I need to add anything else. The one thing that I want to say about Ginn Hale's Wicked Gentlemen is that... I can't get enough of it. I wish there were more. After reading the last page, I decided I wasn't quite ready to let go of Belimai Sykes and William Harper yet. I wanted to see them again and again... so I am praying there will be a sequel soon.
The other thing that i want to say about this book is that I wish this book could be adapted into a movie. I don't think this book is too rich or overabundant in details that filmmakers couldn't make it... but I know it won't ever be a film (unless I can make it myself) but this would at least be just as interesting as, if not more, than some of the things filmmakers chose to adapt today. And most definitely, the romance between two males would make it a more interesting story than the other things that get adapted on screen today.
Absolutely loved this book. Worth the whole time I was waiting for it to come. And now I'm going to read it again...(less)
For a series debut, this book was infinitely better than Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. There were several twists that were unpredictable and...moreFor a series debut, this book was infinitely better than Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. There were several twists that were unpredictable and I was pleased with the characterization of the three main characters.
Speaking of characters, I like how Jason, the main hero of the book, is devoid of a solid personality - after all, he is suffering from memory loss. Piper to me is a lovely heroine, although if I were to compare her with Annabeth, I'm still more fond of the daughter of Athena than this new character. But of course my favorite is Leo Valdez. Hephaestus being one of my favorite Greek gods from the myth, I felt that it was high time his cabin had a solid representation at the forefront of the battles. And do excuse me if, for some reason, I am somewhat rooting for Leo and Piper to be a couple. *sigh*
But is the triple voices of the lead characters that interchange throughout the book a problem for readers? Yes and no. For me, I had no problem that the story was told from three points of view. It gave the book a different structure from the Percy Jackson series, which is a clever way for Riordan to distinguish his first Olympus series and the second one. However, some people might find it difficult to follow and my advice for these people is: hang in there. It will all be worth it in the end.
Despite liking this book quite a lot, I still feel that there's something missing, though. I don't know exactly what it is. The story is a little bit more mature than Percy's early books, but it wasn't quite the same page-turner as the first books were. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but The Lightning Thief was more exciting to follow than this one. There was no sense of anticipation I felt when I followed the story, knowing full well that everything is going to explained at the end. Perhaps it's the pacing, or perhaps it's merely a case of me being too familiar with Riordan's style by now, but my whole experience of reading this book was very mellow.
In any case, I will keep my excitement at bay for the series. Oh, I'm sure I'll follow the series with some degree of enthusiasm (and already I can't wait to read the second book) but it's not something that I will or want to take seriously for now.(less)
I just want to say how much I enjoyed this book, even more so than the Percy Jackson series. I love and am more familiar with Greek mythology, but Eg...moreI just want to say how much I enjoyed this book, even more so than the Percy Jackson series. I love and am more familiar with Greek mythology, but Egyptian mythology is my second favorite (I scored high points during my school exams many, many years ago, when we covered these two topics).
This book reminds me a lot of the Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott. Not just because the two main characters, Carter and Sadie Kane, are brother and sister like Josh and Sophie Newman, but also because the way Riordan ends his chapters in this book is similar to how Scott does it: by throwing us cliffhanger and/or 'epic revelation' moments.
And while it took me quite a while to get used to of the alternating POVs, it was all right in the end. I've decided I like Carter's voice better than Sadie's, mostly because Carter sounds a tad more vulnerable than his sister. Sadie sounds like someone with a lot of a guts, even though she's a girl and younger, but I thought she sounded 'unrealistic' for her age (although I think I remember myself, at 12, sounding in awe of a crush rather like the way Sadie sounds when she describes Anubis). Nonetheless, they're both likable characters and I was very entertained by their musings and narrations.
The book has some flaws but I don't want to focus on them. The most important thing about this book that I like is that it has a proper conclusive ending. The story is, while incomplete (because we know there will be sequels coming), nonetheless fulfilling. Carter and Sadie got the answers to their questions and I wasn't left wondering about anything (not even about the whereabouts of a certain character that the siblings are involved with because I'm sure we'll get to that later). I look forward to the next book, but I don't do so with urgency - it's not I'm capable of patience, but this book is wholly satisfying that I can put it down with a smile and not want for anything. For now.(less)
I heard this book's existence for the first time from one of my customers (I work in a bookstore) and found out that it was written by Stephen Gately,...moreI heard this book's existence for the first time from one of my customers (I work in a bookstore) and found out that it was written by Stephen Gately, the late member of Boyzone. I was not a fan of Boyzone although I did grow up to their songs and remember on a few occasions singing along to the more popular tunes. Ironically enough, my favorite song of theirs is the one they did with a French boyband called Alliance, Te Garder Pres De Moi. But I digress. I merely want to tell you that my reason for picking up and reading this book is not because I'm a die-hard Gately fan. I picked up and read the book because of its status a 'buzzing' book that is published posthumously. Written by a former member of a boyband, no less. If this is not something that would entice anyone to read, I don't know what is.
The story is simple enough: a trio of siblings - Josh, Michael and Beth - found a gateway to another world and soon became embroiled in the war politics and battles of that other world. In this case, the gate is called the Tree of Seasons, a tree that holds four doors to the winter land of Icefroztika (ruled by King Darkfrost), spring land of New Blossomdale (ruled by King Leafslear), summer land of Brightisclearen (ruled by Queen Glendalock) and the autumn land of Duskcanister, whose ruler is, well, evil. There are elves, there are goblins, there are ghouls, there are fairies and there is Forester, whom I suspect is a reincarnation of Tolkien's Tom Bombadil (if you'll excuse the parallel). Oh, there is also an evil gargoyle who is a sidekick to the head villain. In other words: Human children. Magical creatures. Welcome back to Narnia, Stephen Gately-style.
It would of course be too much to call this book the second 'Narnia'. Gately's writing is nowhere near as poetic or as imaginative as C. S. Lewis'. At times, the author didn't properly explain on circumstances, situations or even character backgrounds. The standard on-the-trail-of-important-magical-artefacts is also employed, making it not entirely original. So Gately's first book came across as, unfortunately, what it is: a debut novel. He didn't get it right the first time. Nor will he ever get it right... ever.
But beneath the quirks and kinks of this posthumously published book, that was completed not by the author himself but by two collaborators called June Considine and Jules Williams, lies a world of rich imagination that I am pretty sure, had Gately lived, he would've been able to develop into something more. The worlds Gately created may sound childish (Icefroztica? Brightisclearen?) but they also sound oddly charming. Each of these season-based lands is said to exist because of a Shard belonging to that world that carries the essence of each season, spring, summer, autumn and winter. I got teary-eyed reading how Gately, through Josh, Michael and Beth's voices, describing what the best things were with every season. They all sound so innocent, reminding me of the good things in life I used to enjoy when I was a child before I became a cynical adult that I am. So, the story may be single and the writing amateur, but the essence of the story is nostalgia for that wonderful childhood we all had when everything did seem that simple and that nice.
If anyone wants to accuse this book of following the standard mold of young adult or fantasy fiction of today, I would gladly point out several things that will make them think otherwise. First of all, Gately may have used fairies and elves, but remember what I said earlier? The villain's minion is a gargoyle. How many times have we read about gargoyles in fantasy books? I come across them very rarely (and definitely not in mainstream fiction; the last and only time in the last 5 years I read a book containing gargoyles in it is in m/m fiction). So kudos to Gately for bringing gargoyle from stoic anonymity to major villainy. And we even got to see some sylphs with dialogue in this book -- I don't recall ever reading a book where sylphs were talking. So Gately's choice of creatures is not exactly typical.
Furthermore, Winter is usually associated with evil. C. S. Lewis' The White Witch is the representation of an evil winter. But here, Gately used Autumn as the season most connected to evil. He used autumn's characteristics to show that cold is not bad, but rot and decay are. I should actually feel rather insulted by this as autumn is my favorite of the four seasons. But, strangely enough, it all makes sense.
Out of the children, I sympathize most with Michael, the middle child. Too bad he's not so much in the starring role as his older brother Josh or his younger sister Beth. He seems very much like the underdog here and was glad to see that he received some courageous moments. But on the whole, these three children have won my hearts because they reminded me so much of Enid Blyton's Famous Five characters Julian, Dick and Anne (and yes, I was very much Team Dick and not really on Team Julian). Beth is a lot more likable than Anne, though, as she is a lot more modern and seems to have that impish quality about her that I love.
Josh's story is a bit more complicated than that of his siblings', particularly because a real world rivalry between him and a schoolmate called Johnny Welts also factor in the story. Johnny and Josh brawl in school and they started out as enemies in the book. As it turned out, there is a reason for Johnny's unpleasantness and it has very much to do with Josh's own experience. Immediately from the start their relationship reminded me of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy's. It's hard not to go that way with my line of thought. I'm a major Harry Potter fan and their rivalry is similar to that (although it has a lot more violence). I suspect, had Gately been able to develop the story, there would be a more profound connection between Josh and Johnny.
In a way, I'm somewhat glad that the book is not... as developed as it should be. Other people may see this as a weakness but I always love a book that gives me a lot of room for the readers to imagine the world it is. Melissa Marr's faery series is guilty of the same thing. Although she eventually gave us a more in-depth look at the world of faeries, Wicked Lovely didn't start as a book you would call 'rich and detailed'. And yet, I love it anyway because I find the characters compelling and the story likable. The same is true of Tree of Seasons. Sometimes, you just have to use your imagination a bit more to get into the story and not depend solely on the writer's words.
I am quite satisfied with Tree of Seasons. I was entertained for the whole week while reading it (I would've finished this book in a few hours if it hadn't been for my busy schedule). If I were producer or director wanting to make a movie for a holiday season, I'd pick this book as a source material. It is a fun read and perfect for the summer and I'm happy.
So Gately had what would have been a solid start to a writing career. It's such a pity he couldn't have one. But to him, wherever he is, I would say, "Thank you, Stephen, for your contribution in this publishing world that is filled with vampires and werewolves. To have three kids, Forester, a gargoyle and several sylphs, you've made it look brighter even for a while."(less)
The first time I read the synopsis of this book, I suspected it might read like Tolkien's Two Towers, after the Fellowship was broken up and we had t...moreThe first time I read the synopsis of this book, I suspected it might read like Tolkien's Two Towers, after the Fellowship was broken up and we had to follow a few separate storylines. And I was right!
In this book, the Flamels and the Newman twins are separated from their allies from Paris, and their allies' and enemies' stories were all told separately. So we had to follow Sophie, Josh and the Flamels for one. Then we had to follow Scathach and Joan D'Arc in the other, with Palamedes, St Germain and Will Shakespeare having their own separate line. As if that wasn't enough, we also had to follow the villains in their own threads as well. This time, Dee teams up with Virginia Dare, a new character, while Machiavelli is with Billy The Kid.
Now you may ask why counting how many storylines is important. And the answer is, it's important because it affects heavily the flow of the story. I have to be honest and say that I struggled with the beginning because it was very confusing to focus on each character's journey because they were not all together anymore. The previous book of the series, The Sorceress, ended in a cliffhanger so naturally all I wanted to do was to jump quickly in and get some definite answers to my questions from the third book. Instead, the answer was not readily available in the first few chapters. So this threw me off a bit. However, after I realized what was going on - how Michael Scott divided the characters into separate threads - I decided to close the book and try again from the top. This worked and I ended up loving the pace of the story.
The Necromancer is like a mystery to unravel. The story is like a gift that is wrapped in several layers of paper and, to open it, we have to be patient because there are so many intricate details in the wrapping decoration. We need to savor the moment and read the story slowly so everything can sink it at the right time. Despite the urgency of the story and the impatience it brings in us, readers, to find out what is happening, this is a book to be enjoyed slowly.
I personally wanted to know what happens to Josh Newman. He's always been my favorite twin because Sophie has always been, since The Alchemyst, pictured as the winner - the more superior one compared to her brother. This makes Josh the underdog and I always root for the underdog. It's always been implied that Josh has a certain darkness in his heart, especially because of his ease in using the sword of the coward Mordred, who killed Arthur. In this book, I found out that Josh is indeed 'dark', in a sense. The twist in his fate is surprising but not completely unexpected. I had an inkling that he might either betray the 'good' side or be manipulated by the 'bad' side. And it so happens that he is both. But no matter what, I can't hate him. He's portrayed as someone who is protective of his sister's wellbeing and it's clear that he's not a selfish young man. He's a little stupid but it's only because of his age. So my heart is still with Josh and I still favor him over Sophie.
His twin does seem as much a victim as Josh is although she's portrayed having great power here. Apparently, the power the Witch of Endor passed on to her in the first book is probably not as brilliant as we all think it is. In fact, it might be very dangerous. So Sophie's fate is just as unclear as Josh's fate is. Despite of this, though, I find it very hard to sympathize with her in this story... mostly because her character is slowly evolving into something that I don't like. Granted, she's probably not herself entirely in this book, but the Sophie I knew and loved in the first two books are pretty much gone. Then again, this does present a great intrigue and it's one of those developments that I can't wait to read about further in the next book.
I could write about the other characters and their journey but I find that even the Flamels or John Dee's journeys are not as interesting as what is happening with Josh and Sophie. (Besides, if I were to write everything that happened in the book, I will go spoiler-y and I am trying to avoid that.) Sophie and Josh are most important than everything and everyone else because this fourth book in the series is, at its heart, pretty much about what it means to be siblings and twins.
Scott wrote parallels between Josh and Sophie and two other set of siblings. One - and this is the only pair I can spare to tell you without this review becoming spoiler-y - is of course Scathach and Aoife. They're twins and their dynamics - even without them being in the same place (or even the same time!) - was very interesting to read. We all know the legend, of how these two 'deities' in mythology and folklore, are romantic rivals. And here, while that legend is rehashed, it's not entirely the point of their relationship. I find it fascinating to see how Aoife views their conflict and I can't wait for them to be reunited, if ever.
As for the other pair of siblings... well, that is something to be read and discovered by every reader. This is a part of that 'gift to be unwrapped slowly' experience that I talked about earlier.
It's a pity that the book is so short and I feel that I didn't get enough of the story. For me the Flamel series by Scott has become akin - somewhat - to J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. It will of course never be as magnificent as HP but it is very close, especially in the way it manages to give me a reading addiction. It's also a book that inspires research - one that makes me look back into other books to get more information on the historical facts of the legendary characters that Scott is using in his series as his characters. The first three books have done this to me and the fourth is no different. So I'm sure it's not strange for me to want the fifth book, The Warlock, to be published already. I seriously can't wait for that. I really can't.(less)