Note: I received an electronic ARC of this title through NetGalley
Warning: Do not read past the first paragraph of the Goodreads plot summary. It is rNote: I received an electronic ARC of this title through NetGalley
Warning: Do not read past the first paragraph of the Goodreads plot summary. It is rife with major spoilers, and I think even encompasses events that are going to happen in the next book.
What do you get when you throw together a runaway pirate girl and the assassin sent to kill her, then send the odd couple on a quest through a Middle East-inspired fantasy world to break the curse that ties them together? An entertaining, action-packed read that will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you wanting more.
This book hooked me from the beginning. The world is vividly drawn. Though we are given tantalizingly few details about some elements, I can tell that Clarke has fleshed out her world enough that she could potentially set several series in its vast makeup, and I'm confident that more details will be revealed in future books.
I really adored our two central characters, pirate-on-the-run Ananna and scarred young assassin Naji. Instead of being the cool, smooth, and sexy love interest we're used to in YA these days, Naji is, while a skilled assassin, extremely self-conscious about his scarred face and more than a little clueless when it comes to interpersonal relations. However, he's still interesting enough that Ananna's growing attraction to him is understandable. Ananna is a no-nonsense, kick-butt sort of individual. Despite the fact that Naji is the assassin, Ananna, with her background in piracy, plays the role of rescuer more than once. And when Naji is being stupid, Ananna feels no compunction about informing him of his errors. Bluntly. Sometimes with her fists.
Despite its many fine qualities, however, this book also has flaws. It's hard to know just how long a book is when you're reading an eBook, but this one felt really, really short. I'm not sure if it's because the book is actually short or because the pacing is off. Either way, I didn't feel like the book really picked up steam until Ananna and Naji left the city where the book opens, and by the time that happened, I was already close to halfway through the book. I started to feel like my e-galley might be missing a chunk. That impression stuck around right up until the end. The ending left me totally underwhelmed. It felt to me like the end of a chapter, not a novel. The tone of the last pages was out of character for the rest of the book, and left me wholly unsatisfied. (view spoiler)[Ananna bemoaning Naji's cluelessness about her feelings for him and dreaming of true love's kiss? Seriously? Ananna just doesn't seem like the lovelorn, languishing type to me. Maybe for a little bit, but then she'd snap out of it and get back to business. By ending the book with what amounts to a sigh of longing, Clarke has undermined a lot of the work she did to build Ananna's character throughout the novel. I disapprove. (hide spoiler)]
If you like pirates and/or assassins (and who doesn't?), this book is well worth the read. However, you may want to wait until the second book is released so you can read them both at once, because this book really doesn't function as a complete, self-contained novel.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Note: I received an e-galley of this title from the publisher through NetGalley.
So, when I blurb this book using the sentence, "The most badass magicaNote: I received an e-galley of this title from the publisher through NetGalley.
So, when I blurb this book using the sentence, "The most badass magical potioner in the kingdom, who specializes in poisons and potion-aided fighting, goes on a quest to kill her best friend, the princess and heir to the throne, in order to save the kingdom from total destruction," you probably wouldn't think that I would also describe the book as a fun, lighthearted fantasy romp. But, well, there you have it.
Kyra could have been, and to a certain extent is, the "badass fighter on a grim mission" sort, all darkly brooding about the fate of the world and the horrible guilt she'll feel once she succeeds (she's pretty confident in her ability to succeed). But Kyra also has a wry sense of humor and a great sense of the absurd:
Kyra's left hand cramped as she reached for the next shingle. What she wouldn't give for a sturdy length of rope to climb. She cursed quietly. What was she doing wishing for rope? If she was going to wish for something, it should be something really important. Like pie.
And she also finds herself in some pretty ridiculous situations:
How had she come to this? How had she ended up a hungry, friendless fugitive in the middle of a frigid river wearing completely ridiculous lacy underthings? With a pig balanced on top of her head?
That's right, that reads "pig." Because there's also an adorable animal companion, a cute little pig whom Kyra needs for tracking purposes but who quickly becomes a beloved pet. D'aww.
And there's also Fred, a handsome, smart-alecky traveling companion whom Kyra can't seem to shake despite the fact that she doesn't have time for romance and can't afford to have someone close to her when she's on a mission to kill the princess and the whole kingdom is on the lookout for her after her botched first attempt.
This was a fun, quick read with a solid protagonist and a great supporting cast of characters. It's sort of an Ella Enchanted for older readers, or a fluffier Graceling or Poison Study. Definitely worth checking out.
P.S. I just learned that the author of this book passed away from cancer in May 2011. I'm so sad that we won't be seeing more from this talented writer, but glad that her debut novel is appearing despite her passing--I'm sure she'd be thrilled. It looks like she was planning a sequel to Poison. I wish she were still here to write it, but while a second book would have been wonderful, this one can certainly stand on its own merits....more
3.5 stars. I really enjoyed this novella, getting more insight into the aloof and perfect Alodia and seeing Elisa through her eyes. I was surprised th3.5 stars. I really enjoyed this novella, getting more insight into the aloof and perfect Alodia and seeing Elisa through her eyes. I was surprised that Elisa was actually correct about Alodia's feelings toward her, at least up to the point of the novella. I assumed she wouldn't be quite so dismissive of her sister. It served as a nice opportunity for character growth though, and I liked that we saw peeks of character growth for Elisa as well, hinting at the strength of character that won't become obvious until well into The Girl of Fire and Thorns....more
I don't know what other people see in this book that I don't, but I'm a couple chapters in and just can't take it anymore. The writing is sloppy (so!I don't know what other people see in this book that I don't, but I'm a couple chapters in and just can't take it anymore. The writing is sloppy (so! many! exclamation! points!), and the main character disgusts me. I'm sorry, you've spent how long slaving in salt mines, but when you're dragged out of them to go to your possible death and/or further torture, all you can think about is how beautiful you used to be and how grimy you are now, and you're spending your time evaluating the relative attractiveness of the men? What?
Nope. Can't do it. I was so looking forward to this one too. *sigh*...more
Oh, Alethea Kontis. When I read "Sunday," the short story on which this novel is based, I was charmed. It was a lighthearted fairytale that didn't preOh, Alethea Kontis. When I read "Sunday," the short story on which this novel is based, I was charmed. It was a lighthearted fairytale that didn't pretend to be weightier than it was, and it was just a really fun story.
However, the light, charming short story should never have become a novel. This story feels like it struggled to become a book. The plotline was disjointed and drawn out, and there were so many threads that never seemed to really connect, or didn't connect in a way that was emotionally resonant. I didn't like any of the characters except maybe Sunday's sister Saturday and Rumbold's friends, who don't get full-fledged subplots as I felt they ought. All the other characters, including protagonists Sunday and Rumbold, felt like archetypes rather than people.
This novel read like a short story writer's first attempt at a novel, and I would be surprised if this weren't the case. None of the characters were fully realized, plot threads weren't properly woven together, and it was just overall more of a parable than a book with characters who you could relate to and fall in love with. Enchanted is the sort of book that should have been tucked away somewhere and not shown to others, while the author went on to write a second book using the knowledge and skill gained on her first one. Someone, somewhere along the way, should have told Ms. Kontis that this novel just wasn't meant to be. But no one did, and that's a shame, because really, I'm confident that Ms. Kontis can do better.
If you read (or started) Enchanted and liked Kontis's ideas and her tone and approach to fairytales, I'd highly recommend you check out some of her short fiction. Her approach serves her much better in that medium than it did in this book....more
(view spoiler)[Though I am quite glad that Marillier bypassed the easy-out magical healing of a disabled character thing. If that had happened--and it quite nearly did, I bet in an earlier draft she was magically healed--I would have wanted to throw the book across the room. So whew, glad we avoided that disaster. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book gets four stars on pure originality. There is nothing else like this in YA right now, and considering the genre is so bloated, that counts fThis book gets four stars on pure originality. There is nothing else like this in YA right now, and considering the genre is so bloated, that counts for a lot.
There were worldbuilding holes I would very much have appreciated being filled in. For example, how the heck does reproduction work in a world where there are a set number of souls? What happens if someone gets pregnant when there's not a soul available? I NEED TO KNOW.
The book also had a few pacing issues, and there were times when I wanted to punch Ana and/or Sam in the face for being stupid.
...But the premise is so original. I'm excited to read the next book just because of that--I'm not sick of books like this yet, because there aren't any others. (I just hope Meadows explains reproduction for me.)...more
3.5 stars. While this book has its charms, it's overall a disappointing followup to its brilliant predecessor, Touch of Power. While I adored the firs3.5 stars. While this book has its charms, it's overall a disappointing followup to its brilliant predecessor, Touch of Power. While I adored the first book, this follow-up frustrated me for three primary reasons: 1. Avry has no flaws. She is brilliant, brave, witty, great at making friends, a fantastic teacher, and of course an excellent healer. I think that Ms. Snyder intended her character flaw to be "too selfless"--she's always wanting to rush out into danger in order to help others. But, uh, what the hell kind of flaw is that? It's like in job interviews when they ask for your weaknesses, and the stupid candidates say something like, "I'm just too darned hard-working!" No. Just no. 2. The first book was in first person from Avry's point of view. In this book, she tosses in a third person narration so she can follow Kerrick on his adventures in the north. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY? It seems like every other book I pick up these days alternates between first person and third person, and I HATE IT. It's either a crutch, as in the case of this book where Ms. Snyder wanted to maintain her first person narration while not losing Kerrick, or it's done for no reason whatsoever that I can discern. Advice to authors: If you have to follow two or more characters, YOU DON'T NEED TO USE TWO DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW MODES. REALLY. If you can't make your narrators different enough so that we can tell who the focal character is, you aren't doing your job. 3. While Maria V. Snyder has always prided herself on her cliffhanger chapter endings, for the most part, her books have been fairly self-contained. I approve. Every book should have a book-level plot arc that's wrapped up by the end, regardless of the continuing series arc. In this book, she breaks that wonderful streak by ending with the cliffhangeriest cliffhanger ever. *sigh* I am so disappointed in you, Ms. Snyder. There was no reason to do that.
So while there were parts of this book that I enjoyed (3.5 stars isn't terrible, after all), I was really disappointed that the book didn't live up to my expectations....more
This, unfortunately, is one of those books that I like less and less the more I think about it. While I was reading it, there were parts I adored. I sThis, unfortunately, is one of those books that I like less and less the more I think about it. While I was reading it, there were parts I adored. I still adore the premise. I mean, assassin nuns who serve the god of death? Yes, please! And I certainly enjoyed it enough to keep turning pages. It had a decent plot arc, and I might even be willing to pick up the second book. Maybe.
However, what let me down, and angers me more and more as time goes on, is the main character, Ismae. She was trained for years at the convent of the assassin nuns, taught everything from garotte techniques to seduction methods, with a specialization in poisons. She knows dozens of ways to kill, can kick ass in a fight, and should, by all rights, be TOTALLY BADASS.
But...she isn't. She is one of the least badass characters I've ever encountered. When I was reading, once the "ZOMG WHAT AN AWESOME IDEA THAT IS TOTALLY BADASS" initial impression wore off and the plot got going, I became more and more troubled by Ismae's total lack of skill. Despite her supposed training, she can't seem to do anything right other than straight-up fighting. She can kick ass, sure, but assassins also need to be sneaky and full of subterfuge. Ismae was about as subtle as a crossbow bolt to the neck fired in the middle of a party in full view of all the guests (um, spoiler?). If Ismae had been portrayed as a fighter, I'd probably like this book a lot better. But Ismae was supposed to be an assassin, and apart from knowing dozens of ways to kill someone, Ismae had no assassin skills whatsoever.
I really wanted to love this book, but I'm left with just disappointment and a present but fading appreciation for the amazing premise. I'll wait to see what my friends have to say about the sequel before I decide whether or not to give the assassin nuns of supposed awesomeness a second chance....more
I wanted very badly to love this book. In some respects, I did. It had almost the feel of a Regency romance--gowns and ballrooms and tea in p3.5 stars
I wanted very badly to love this book. In some respects, I did. It had almost the feel of a Regency romance--gowns and ballrooms and tea in parlors and ladies talking of marriage, etc.--which was fun for me. Regency romance + fight scenes + magic is honestly pretty close to my ideal genre. There was plenty of action to hold my interest throughout the book, and I really enjoyed most of the conflicts.
The thing I hate about this book is Kiaran, our protagonist Aileana's faery ally/instructor/guide/love interest/whatever. He was the most prominent secondary character, and I despised him. And I hated Aileana when she interacted with him--I lost a lot of respect for her over her constant and instant forgiving of Kiaran's repeated assholishness. If he hadn't been in this book, or if he had been a different character, this might have been a 4.5 star read for me because I really did love the world and the premise and the tone and literally everything else. But Kiaran was so omnipresent throughout the text that my reading experience was just dragged inexorably down as soon as he was introduced in I think the second chapter.
The other characters were pretty cool. I loved Aileana's friend Catherine and Catherine's brother Gavin. Every time Catherine appeared I just wanted to steal her away and make her my best friend because Aileana didn't deserve her. And Gavin! He was the guy I was swooning over, personally. (view spoiler)[And I was pretty disappointed that Aileana didn't share my affection for him--apparently she's one of those girls who only likes "bad boys" who treat her like dirt? Whatever, girl, I'll take him if you don't want him. (hide spoiler)] Honestly I would rather read a book about Gavin and Catherine in which Aileana and Kiaran are just side characters, ha (spin-off? please?).
So, in the end, I very much enjoyed the Kiaran-less parts of this book, perhaps enough to pick up book two. I'm just hoping this doesn't turn into another Charley Davidson scenario where I become less and less tolerant of the asshole male lead as the series progresses until I just have to throw in the towel and wait for the author to write something else. Kiaran had better shape up in book two or I am so out.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
4.5 stars. Maria V. Snyder's last few (er, five) novels have disappointed me, but she is back to nearly Poison Study levels of awesome in Touch of Pow4.5 stars. Maria V. Snyder's last few (er, five) novels have disappointed me, but she is back to nearly Poison Study levels of awesome in Touch of Power. I couldn't put this book down. I'm pretty upset that the next book won't be out until 2013, but at least this book didn't end on a giant cliffhanger. It wrapped itself up quite nicely, but still leaves plenty of room for future books. I love it when authors actually conclude their story arcs in one book, regardless of the length of the series. A+ to Ms. Snyder on that front.
I hope to be able to write a more review-y review later, but with the insane levels of busy I've been lately, I don't know that it's very likely. But this book deserves a full review. You should read it....more
Note: This review is based on an electronic ARC of this title received from NetGalley.
This book was a lot of fun. I devoured it in more or less one siNote: This review is based on an electronic ARC of this title received from NetGalley.
This book was a lot of fun. I devoured it in more or less one sitting (technically, it was three sittings, because I had to break once for sleeping and once for eating). Bits of it reminded me of McKinley's Pegasus: two intelligent species struggling to understand one another and overcome ignorance and prejudice in order to ensure the survival of both species. This book was ten times better than Pegasus though. For one thing, it had an actual plot. Where McKinley spent her entire novel being all, "Oooh, and here's another awesome thing about pegasus society! Isn't it shiny?", Hartman provided insight into the thought processes and prejudices inherent in both humans and dragons, introduced us to a host of characters who were actually significant to the story, gave us tantalizing glimpses into human cultures other than the one where the story is set (dare I hope we will be given the opportunity to explore these worlds in future books?), and provided a heavy dose of intrigue, plotting, adventure, and romance.
Seraphina was a wonderful character. She had her genius musical ability and magical talents, but she wasn't superwoman, and her reactions to certain situations were endearingly awkward and relatable. I especially loved that she was reluctant to admit to ignorance, because it's a trait I possess myself. Her internal struggles and trust issues made this book. Seraphina is awesome.
The reason this book wasn't a five star read for me is that while Seraphina is amazeballs, I felt pretty disconnected from every other character barring perhaps one (dear, dear Orma!) for at least half of the book. Partly this was intentional, I think, a result of Seraphina's necessary (at least, so she thinks) relucance to become close to anyone. But it made for some fairly boring reading early on. It wasn't until we were launched into intrigue and action that the other characters really came alive for me. But they did come alive, and I loved the second half of the book wholeheartedly.
For fans of high/historical fantasy a la McKinley, Pierce, and Cashore, this is a must-read....more
I wanted to love this book. It had a cute format, told through letters, autobiographies, encyclopedia entries, etc., and each character had a unique vI wanted to love this book. It had a cute format, told through letters, autobiographies, encyclopedia entries, etc., and each character had a unique voice. However, the format also served to distance me from the characters a little, and while the external plot was fairly sound, the characters themselves didn't seem to go through much transformation at all. I would recommend this book to people who are fans of diary-style fiction and lighthearted reads, but there's not too much substance here.
Also? Least satisfying romantic plot ever. The jacket blurb makes this book sound like it will be a cute and happy story with a strong romantic plot. Ignore that....more
I have the same major criticism for this as I did for Karen Healey's previous book, Guardian of the Dead (which was nevertheless one of my favorites rI have the same major criticism for this as I did for Karen Healey's previous book, Guardian of the Dead (which was nevertheless one of my favorites read that year): the build-up is too slow. The characters are introduced. The characters come together. Something is Going On. The protagonists investigate. The protagonists investigate. The protagonists investigate. One protagonist figures out part of the mystery, but the others don't buy it. And that's when the book really gets good, roughly halfway through. This book is definitely a worthwhile read, and it's not something you see in YA literature every day. Just make sure you hold out for the good stuff--it's there, I promise. (Though I still like Guardian of the Dead better.)...more
2.5 stars. I was tempted to give this three stars, because a lot of my reaction wasn't that these stories were bad, just that they weren't for me. But2.5 stars. I was tempted to give this three stars, because a lot of my reaction wasn't that these stories were bad, just that they weren't for me. But boy, were they not for me.
My first exposure to Kelly Link's writing was through her YA collection Pretty Monsters: Stories. I loved it. "Magic for Beginners" is still one of my all-time favorite stories. So I was excited to read her two adult collections, this and Magic for Beginners. I started with this, her earlier collection, and proceeded to be extremely disappointed.
For the most part, these stories reminded me unpleasantly of my least favorite literature classes in college, the ones where all the pretentious English majors would say things like, "I loved how the diamond motif perfectly reflected the unyielding nature of the protagonist's attitude toward motherhood," and I would be all, "Uhh, I liked the bit with the dog. It was funny and sad at the same time, which is, you know, cool." Which is to say, these stories weren't fun to read. They were work, full of clever symbolism and literary styling, but not entertaining. And most of the time I felt like the stories were going right over my head, which is a pretty depressing reading experience.
There were a few stories I thought were okay, and one, "Vanishing Act," that I really liked a lot, but overall, I'll leave this one to the pretentious English majors.
This collection can be downloaded for free from the publisher's website here....more