In Raim's world, you tie a knot for every promise you make. If you break that promise the knot will burst into flames, scarring your skin, forever mar...moreIn Raim's world, you tie a knot for every promise you make. If you break that promise the knot will burst into flames, scarring your skin, forever marking you as an oathbreaker. Raim has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. No one seems to know where it came from or which promise it symbolizes, and Raim barely thinks about it at all. Especially not since he became the most promising young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard. But on the day that he binds his life to that of his best friend and future king, Khareh, the rope ignites and sears a dark mark into his skin. Scarred now as an oathbreaker, Raim has two options: run or be killed. He chooses to run, taking refuge in the vast desert among a colony of exiled oathbreakers. Will he be able to learn the skills he needs to clear his name? And even if he can, how can he keep a promise he never knew he made in the first place?
The Oathbreaker's Shadow is an adventure curious and dangerous, filled with tradition and secret magic. It's at times spiritual and complex, engrossing in setting, story, and character. Not necessarily about truth and lies but the power a promise holds over those that make it, the power of a vow spoken aloud, and the darkness that lies ahead if that vow is broken. But what if you don't know what the broken promise was? Then comes the search, quite possibly for everything.
Raim is a strong and loyal young man, not necessarily expecting to be a hero but hopes to be a protector of others. He has simple hopes for his future, to be one of the Yun guard, but being scarred as an oathbreaker alters the path before him, forcing him onto one he never hoped to walk. Now he must search for answers hidden and unspoken. Now he must discover who he truly is, he must discover the secrets of his past, the secret of the single knot that has been around his wrist since he was an infant. This is now what drives Raim, as well as his promise to Khareh.
In Raim's world, promises are different. They're important, vital things that cannon be brushed aside without a moment's thought. There are consequences to breaking a promise, painful ones, and oathbreakers are forced to suffer for their actions.
Another highlight of this book, apart from Raim and the mysterious magic of promises, is the world crafted by the author. The nomadic lifestyle, the portability of families and their possessions, the barest of breezes that drifts over the desert, the dry smell of sand, the intense heat of the midday sun, the sharp clash of swords. Raim's is a curious world, steeped in tradition. The reader is tossed straight in, of course, with some explanation and history, but for the most part they're left to walk along side Raim as he travels across the dry desert in order to discover the reason behind his broken promise.
A fresh new voice introduces readers to a world both lush and arid, a young man determined and strong, and a journey that sheds light and attempts to shatter hope. A tale filled with danger and dreams of redemption, the first in what will hopefully be an exciting duology.(less)
Two young women of similar age and standing have disappeared: one found dead and the other still missing. The only clue to connect them is a small Egy...moreTwo young women of similar age and standing have disappeared: one found dead and the other still missing. The only clue to connect them is a small Egyptian clockwork scarab. Only Miss Stoker and Miss Holmes are well-positioned enough, similar in age and stature as they are to the victims, to investigate. An unlikely pair, the fierce Evaline Stoker and logical Mina Holmes must follow in the footsteps of their infamous families, Miss Holmes has inherited her Uncle Sherlock’s keen investigative skills while Miss Stoker has accepted her family calling as a hunter of the undead. The partners must find a way to work together, while navigating the advances of a strange yet handsome American, a clever Scotland Yard investigator, and a cunning thief, to solve the mystery of the clockwork scarabs.
The Clockwork Scarab is intriguing, a unique twisting together of Victorian intrigue and secrecy, steam, Egyptian mythology, and even a bit of time travel. Two intelligent and resourceful heroines follow hidden clues and their own curiosity in order to expose a dangerous group responsible for the deaths of young, privileged women, hoping to keep anyone else from disappearing or dying.
Mina and Evaline, while brought together in order to uncover the truth, are by no means friends. In some situations, they're barely civil towards each other. To Evaline, Mina is an awkward but bossy young woman who spends too much time with her nose in a book, constantly taking charge and analyzing the situation just like her uncle would. Alternately, Mina sees Evaline as head-strong and impatient, more inclined to show off her fighting skills and toss caution to the wind, jumping in straight away without thinking of consequences. Both see the other as foolish and unnecessary, perhaps with potential skills that could assist the investigation. They're forced to work on the mystery with each other, two girls who exist both in and out of polite society because of their skills, and they must learn to work together to keep the rest of London safe.
I'm often pulled into books by creative and intriguing world-building. Here is a re-imagining of a known setting, the past setting of London in the late 19th century, but this isn't the London I'm familiar with. This is a new but old London that runs on steam and gears, that exists in different street levels one on top of the other. It implies a different sort of evolution of the UK, that this, perhaps, isn't the past we are familiar with, that this is more of an alternate history sort of book.
The author has paid a great deal of attention to the grandeur of the setting, the details of the new steampunk machines and vehicles, the thought-processes of a well-bred but unconventional young woman living in London. She is polite but head-strong, intelligent, inquisitive, resourceful, thoughtful, and witty, her corset hiding a strong will and a spine of steel. She is easily dismissed by male counterparts and authority figures but is willing to push forward, to break through society's norms and take matters into her own hands. Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker are the only ones able to unravel the mystery and they will not stop, even with inquisitive young men following them, poking their noses in unwanted places.
This is similar to Gail Carriger's Finishing School series, both in genre and it connecting to a previous adult series. This book is set some 60 to 70 years after Gleason's The Gardella Vampire Chronicles, but I'm not sure how loosely or tightly connected this series will be to it.
With re-tellings and re-imaginings, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required on behalf of the reader. In this book, with Sherlock Holmes being a real person, with Bram Stoker writing of vampires because he knew they were real, with London running on steam and mechanical devices, with someone travelling through time and ending up in this steam-filled city, I was both entertained and confused. As thrilling as the mystery and the plot are, as compelling as the characters are, as intricate as the world-building is, I still had a little bit of trouble suspending that much disbelief.
That being said, I did find this thoroughly enjoyable. The mystery and intrigue, the new-old London, the ways in which Mina and Evaline clash and work off each other, all of that worked for me. Considering where the book went and how it ended, I'm rather curious as to what will happen next, what mystery Mina and Evaline will have to uncover while keeping the bossy men in their lives at bay.(less)
Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life. And she’s really good at it. She and her t...moreCath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life. And she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words, and she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Fangirl is a humourous, entertaining, emotional, and compelling book. It's all about growing up, moving on, and living your own life instead of someone else's. It's okay to wonder what would happen if you could live inside the world of a book, if you could re-write it, but you can't forget your own life. It's the only one you'll ever get.
Cath is a very curious but very intriguing character. I fell for her awkwardness and her bookishness. This time at college, this time away from her sister and her father, is supposed to be about change. She's (sort of, because she's in a dorm) on her own, living her own life, but is she really? Can she move away from constantly spending time away from her twin and their father? Can she move away from Simon Snow and fanfiction? What intrigued me most about Cath was her staunch unwillingness towards most kinds of change. As the world around her changes, she retreats into herself, finding solace in fanfiction, in a world already created that she can manipulate. It's a coping mechanism, something familiar to turn back to when everything is frightening, when she can't control things. Like her sister. Like her father. Like her strange roommate and her boyfriend.
Fandom, being part of a fandom, is something I know, and so the book felt rather personal. I never lived in a dorm during university, I was never devoted enough to write fanfiction, but I've escaped from reality in order to immerse myself in books about world not my own. There's a certain kind of joy in having so much fun in a world someone else has created and meeting people who feel the same. It lessens the sting of feeling alone. Currently, it feels like fandoms are bigger than what they used to be, that the immediateness of the internet and social media has changed things. That science fiction and fantasy and comic book conventions (San Diego Comic Con, Fan Expo Toronto, WonderCon, LeakyCon, World Fantasy Con, Dragon*Con) are growing at a rapid rate. With this growth and popularity, it's no longer 'nerdy' or 'geeky' to be part of a fandom, no longer just for nerdy guys living in their parents' basements watching reruns of Star Trek over and over.
But being part of a fandom, living vicariously through fanfiction, isn't healthy. As a way to escape, to calm down after a stressful day, as entertainment, as a creative outlet, yes. For Cath and Wren, it became a coping mechanism for them after the abrupt departure of their mother. About a third of the way through the book, one character suggests that if you fall in love with the world you discover in a book, you can just write fanfiction in order to keep on living there. Another character replies, saying they "wouldn't call that living," and they're right. It's not. But sometimes it's hard to draw the line and separate fandom from reality.
When you hit college, when you're living in a dorm away from your parents, when you're suddenly gifted these new freedoms, it can be rather overwhelming. New routines, new people, new ideas, new places. Sometimes, it's new everything. Some can handle the change, some leave, some self-destruct. Everyone's time at college is different, and this is Cath's time.
This book is all about Cath, Cath figuring out the strange new world that is college, Cath figuring out boys and how they work, Cath figuring out that sometimes identical twins aren't that identical, Cath figuring out that change sucks and hurts but it has to happen. It's time to grow up, time to take that next step towards the rest of her life.(less)
Seventeen-year-old Paige is dead, the victim of a freak fall during Physics class. Now she's a ghost, permanently bound to the high school grounds. It...moreSeventeen-year-old Paige is dead, the victim of a freak fall during Physics class. Now she's a ghost, permanently bound to the high school grounds. It isn't all bad, she can discover everyone's secrets, which is amusing. For a while. But then she hears something that isn't funny: a rumour spread by the most popular girl that Paige's fall wasn't an accident, that she jumped on purpose. She's desperate to stop the gossip, but she can she do? Then, she discovers she can possess the living when they're thinking about her, and make them do almost anything. Maybe she can get inside the head of the girl who's responsible for the stories, and maybe she can have a little fun turning the tables.
Absent is a witty and intelligent exploration. An exploration of one teenage girl's death and the life she lives after it, an exploration of the truth behind her death, an exploration of those around her. While on the surface this is one ghost girl's mission to discover why she died, there's also a revelation of the hidden sides of the cliques and social groups that populate high schools, and that quite often people are more than the labels we put on them.
Paige is dead, which sucks. She doesn't want to be dead, she wants to be alive, to hang out with her friend Usha, to maybe secretly make out with a certain guy, but things don't always work out the way we want. Instead, she's a ghost who can't leave the grounds of the high school. At least she's not alone, she has Evan and Brooke, two misfit teens who also died in the school (plus so many dissected frog ghosts).
Along with a ghost story is a study on the differing social classes and social structures of the modern day high school setting. There are different personalities and likes and dislikes and character traits all coming together in one hormone-soaked mass, and they're all expected to get along, but they don't. It's like so much oil and water being forced together. But everyone has their similarities, their moments of teenage immaturity and vulnerability. They all wear masks, partially out of self-perservation but partially because of stereotyping. As unhealthy as it can be, everyone does it. We have to remember that behinds the masks and the labels, behind the pre-conceived notions about popularity and wealth and life choices, they're still people not that different from ourselves.
What if there was life after death? Paige's death gives her a chance to learn more about her fellow classmates than she ever would've learned while she was alive, and she'd be foolish if she didn't use that to the best of her abilities. Even if that ability involved a little possession now and then.(less)
Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years...moreListen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim's fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen!
The Story of Owen is entertaining, unique, and Canadian to the core. The dragons may come flying out of fantasy but this book is very present and relevant in a real world setting, a small down with real and intelligent people trying to protect it, a group of characters that can't help but make you laugh and cry and listen intently to the tales of their heroism.
Owen and Siobhan are both interesting in their own ways, Owen and his dragon slaying, his knowing that he will be a dragon slayer like his parents and his aunt before him, his acceptance and strength, and Siobhan with her understanding, her support, her attitude. It's a curious friendship they have, one that began because of proximity and continued through tutoring and her acceptance to become a bard. To tell the tales of Owen and his dragon slaying.
This story is told in such a compelling way, in a style befitting a bard. I couldn't turn away from this book, it was almost as if I could hear Siobhan recounting the tales of Owen and his father and aunt as she saw them, calling out to the good people of the town and sharing tales of bravery and fortitude. Or about how he was failing algebra and she was brought in to tutor him. Siobhan also provides historical backstories on the dragons, the men and woman that slay them, and the countries that try to protect their people and carbon emissions.
Because of the dragons, history as we know it has been altered, tweaked and played with. Dragons are seamlessly woven into our world until it becomes Siobhan and Owen's world. A world where dragons set barns and houses alight so they can feed off of the charred remains. A world where dragon slayers are recruited to do battle for their country, to face off against sharp teeth and burning flames.
While I knew this would take place in a small town, I didn't expect to get so involved in Trondheim and the politics of dragon slaying in a small town. It lead to the comparison of small towns and large cities, how both are important but the towns are often overlooked because of the needs of the cities. But it doesn't mean those small towns aren't important.
This book is so Canadian when it comes to humour and character, a little easy-going but practical and thoughtful. Almost every Canadian or Southern Ontario reference made me laugh, including the mental image of a dragon flying straight into Toronto during a hockey game. It's certainly an intriguing look at what it's like in a small Canadian town when everyone comes together to protect it, protect their homes. It's so Canadian, with the small-town hero and the people around him, and the one to tell his story (while being involved herself). I want more of this town, more of these characters, and more from this author. What an adventure.(less)
Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less...moreFive years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation). Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line, or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.
Reboot is dark, dangerous, and deadly. It's an intriguing look at humanity, what sets apart those with emotion and those without, and how both sides react in life-threatening situations. It's also a look at how far some will go, how far they will follow orders before they decide that the better option, the right option, is to keep those they are connected to safe. To follow or to fight back, that is the choice Wren is forced to make.
Wren's humanity was sucked away during those 178 minutes when she was dead. What was left behind was a fighting machine with no emotions, no desire to laugh or cry. She's practical, straight-forward, stoic, and doesn't take crap from others. Callum is a weakness in her eyes, dead only for a measly 22 minutes. He's nowhere near as strong or as fast as her, he'll never heal as fast as her, and the odds of him surviving long are stacked against him. But she doesn't necessarily want to see him fail. She doesn't want to see anyone fail. Wren might not be as emotional, or as human, as Callum or as some of the other Reboots, but she doesn't want to see anyone die.
When all the emotion and humanity inside someone is gone, what's left? Are they still human? Is that what makes us human, emotion and affection and laughter? If that's true, then what is Wren? No tears fall from her eyes, laughter doesn't escape from her lips, but she's still a seventeen-year-old girl struggling to live, fighting every day to keep living, fighting to keep the world safe.
To become a Reboot, you need to die and come back to life. But what are they? Are they zombies, the dead risen again? Or are they the next stage in evolution?
Action-packed, fast-paced, heart-pounding, this book was oh so thrilling. Besides Wren's normal Reboot life, besides the odd connection with Callum, something is going on under Wren's nose. Something is happening to the other Reboots, and Wren won't dare stop until she stops it first.(less)
Sarah would give anything to regain the power and wealth her family lost, so she makes a deal with Azrael, Lord of Darkwater Hall. He gives her a chan...moreSarah would give anything to regain the power and wealth her family lost, so she makes a deal with Azrael, Lord of Darkwater Hall. He gives her a chance to accomplish her objective, providing the time and the means, all in exchange for her soul. Fast-forward one hundred years to Tom, a young boy who dreams of going to Darkwater Hall School but doesn't believe he has the talent. Until he meets the new professor, Azrael, who offers him a bargain. Will Sarah somehow be able to stop Tom from making the same mistakes she did?
Darkwater is rather dark and mysterious, an exploration into the price of knowledge and the value of the soul. The book is two stories about two characters, two lessons that could lead to the same horrible outcome.
Both Sarah and Tom have their similarities, but they're not the same character. Sarah's on a mission to restore her family's former glory and Tom wants to find a place of his own in his small town and move on from the bullies while figuring out the odd situation his brother is in. Unfortunately for the book, I was far more interested in Sarah's story than Tom's.
Perhaps the biggest question in the book is who is Azrael. No one really knows what he's after. He's looking for someone to help him find something. That something is possibly scientific and almost definitely impossible, but that doesn't stop him. Anything can be discovered, given enough time.
The book takes place in two time periods giving it both a historical feel and a present day feel. Again, since I preferred Sarah over Tom, I preferred the historical setting more, but the present day setting felt more complicated. This is possibly due to every important character being there: Sarah, Tom, Tom's brother, and Azrael.
What is the price of knowledge and power? What must be sacrificed to have one of the other, or both? Would you sacrifice your own soul? (less)
There are a few things Grace knows for sure. One is that nothing will come between her and her best friend, Kya. They have a pact. Buds before studs....moreThere are a few things Grace knows for sure. One is that nothing will come between her and her best friend, Kya. They have a pact. Buds before studs. Sisters before Misters. But in the summer before senior year, life throws out challenges they never expected. And suddenly the person who's always been there starts to need the favour returned. Grace and Kya are forced to question how much a best friend can forgive, and the answer is not what they expected.
How I Lost You is a complex look at friendships and secrets, at dealing with pain and moving on, at knowing when to help when it's difficult to stay away. Friendship ties teens together, but any kind of strain on that connection is hard to deal with, especially when the source of that strain is an extremely painful secret.
Grace has goals for after high school, for college. Paintball is her life, she'd give anything to make a college team, but Kya is also her life. They share everything. Buds before studs, as Kya puts it. But Kya has her demons, her secrets, her way of coping that threatens their future plans, and it's getting harder and harder for Grace to stick by her. Because of Kya, Grace is something of a mother figure, a caregiver, but sometimes Kya doesn't want her help and goes off on her own, leaving Grace to deal with her aftermath. Some parts of Grace's life are also changing, separating the two of them. It's hard for Grace, but also for Kya. Both aren't quite sure how to move on from this secret.
This book highlights how complicated friendships can become, especially those between teenage girls. Once teen girls become friends, they will stay friends for the longest time, or they'll try to unless something big happens. Grace and Kya are always together, they're been friends for years, they've made plans to be together after high school and to be friends forever. But something big and secret hangs over them, weighing one of them down, and the other could be forced to make the hardest decision: to stick with her, even though it could mean being pulled down into her dark world, or to let go and live her life, continuing with her dreams.
As much as this is about friendship, it's also about moving on. About coping, about accepting. Kya has the darkest secret, suffers from the darkest pain, and struggles to find a way of moving on. Grace finds her method to be unconventional, to be dangerous, and wishes Kya would stop changing.
Heartbreaking and emotional, both girls also have their exciting moments. Both come alive when they compete together, when they are together, but something is slowly pushing them apart, slowly pushing them to accept that both of them are changing. Great insight into teenage girls and how valuable that best friend really is.(less)