I’ve always thought the tell of a good horror or thriller is not how many cheap screams or shocks it gives you while you’re in the moment, but how it...moreI’ve always thought the tell of a good horror or thriller is not how many cheap screams or shocks it gives you while you’re in the moment, but how it haunts you afterwards. Elizabeth Wood’s Choker is nothing if not deeply unsettling, and it’s the sense of disquiet that lingers long after its conclusion that speaks of Wood’s talent for bringing on the creepy… and boy is she talented.
The Story After Cara nearly chokes on a chunk of carrot in front of the entire student body, her high school nightmare goes from bad to worse. The resident mean girl labels her ‘Choker’, and she’s teased mercilessly. Cara’s parents are absent, and she has no real friends to speak of. So she’s overjoyed when her best friend, Zoe, who she’s not seen in seven years, shows up at her house, begging for a place to stay. With Zoe’s help, Cara’s life is getting better. She’s making friends, the boy of her dreams notices she exists, and Cara feels good… then things start getting out hand—girls showing up dead, out of hand—and Zoe’s behaving weird. Cara has her suspicions, but Zoe couldn’t be responsible... could she?
Thoughts Choker promises creepy, and it delivers. From the moment the mysterious Zoe shows up in Cara’s life, things start getting out of hand, and as the ‘out of hand’ escalates, so does the tension and the frightening. But it takes a while to get to that point. I struggled through the beginning of Choker, not entirely due to pacing, but a combination of elements from characters, though to writing. Cara should be easy to empathise with. She’s unhappy, and her misery and loneliness seep through the pages, but I struggled to actually like her. As—understandably—unhappy as Cara is, she’s very introspective and introverted, to the point she comes across as self-centred. When Zoe first shows up, telling a horrifying tale of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather, Cara’s reaction is, “Well, I’m so glad you’re here, because I really want someone to talk to.” (very paraphrased!) I found this... uncomfortable, to say the least.
But despite initial issues with Cara, Choker gets good. The tension builds to fever pitch, and the story becomes outright frightening. This leads to my biggest disappointment with Choker. Predictability. After chapters of build, tension, and nail biting, it ends... predictably. In the way I guessed it would in the prologue. But even despite the predictability, I couldn’t reconcile the Big Twist to events throughout the story. I simply wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief. With the best of stories, the believability of the impossible doesn’t come into question, unless questioning the presented reality is the point. Choker presented me with this quandary over and over again. Choker is creepy. It is, at times, outright terrifying. But a number of irritatingly implausible plot points left me frustrated.
The Verdict: I’ve rarely been as conflicted over a novel as I am with Elizabeth Wood’s Choker. On one hand, it promises disturbing and creepy, and it delivers. On another, it left me disappointed. For all its disturbing, I found it predictable, and—in places—implausible. Nevertheless, Choker is not without its appeal, and once I got past a slow start, I found it riveting. Despite some issues, Choker is creepy, dark, at turns outright frightening, and a gripping read. (less)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a rare creature indeed. It's storytelling at its best; its most potent, born of a kind of dark, seductive magic—complex,...moreDaughter of Smoke and Bone is a rare creature indeed. It's storytelling at its best; its most potent, born of a kind of dark, seductive magic—complex, multi-tonal, beautiful—from the mind of a true writer. An artist, a creator. Laini Taylor is a craftsman, and her creation, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, is nothing short of magnificent.
The Story: Karou belongs to no-one, and no world. A beautiful, tattooed, blue-haired girl, she’s an enigma, even to herself. Her friends think her wild stories and extraordinary sketches of half-man, half-beast creatures are fiction—exactly what she allows them to think. Just like she lets them think she colours her hair blue, when it in fact grows that way from the roots, thanks to a wish she made at the age of seven. Her friends don’t know she speaks twenty-seven languages, only one of them learned, and not all of them human. Her friends think the Wishmonger, Brimstone—part man, part lion, part bull—is a fairytale, when in fact, Karou was raised in his fantastical shop in ‘Elsewhere’. A shop where he grants wishes to humans in trade for teeth—both animal and otherwise. The door to which opens to cities all over the world...
But the world is changing, and war is brewing. Karou will be forced to choose between the human world, and the mysterious ‘Elsewhere’ she barely understands herself... and after seventeen years, Karou must finally learn who—and what—she is.
But this is not just her story... meanwhile, beautiful, tortured Akiva flies on fiery wings around the world, determined to put an end to Brimstone’s ‘evil’, and forever close the doors to Elsewhere. He never counted on encountering a strange blue-haired girl. A girl he cannot understand, yet who feels strangely familiar. A girl from who he cannot stay away...
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”
This is such a strange book to review. To talk of any one aspect, in isolation from half a dozen others, seems to do it a disservice, as it’s the sum of so many different shades and layers of creativity that blend to make it such a dazzling whole. To talk of strange, lovely Karou, without talking of beautiful and mysterious Akiva, or to talk of her ‘Chimaera’ family, such as the Minotaur-esque Brimstone, or adoptive mother-figure Issa, half-snake, half-woman, is to tell only a fraction of a story. To isolate any one aspect of Karou’s splendid self is to show a shimmering thread, but not the glorious tapestry: Lovely, but abstract, lacking the meaning it deserves.
It’s the context of every strange little quirk of Daughter of Smoke and Bone that makes it shine. Nothing within its pages is inessential. Every fleeting, ephemeral detail combines to form a masterpiece of fiction.
“Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.”
So perhaps we should talk of its creator. Laini Taylor. Taylor is nothing short of an artist. She has a way of presenting the bizarre in so matter-of-fact a fashion one can’t help but be charmed, and she tells her story with an imagination as brilliant and twisted as the inimitable Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling, or, dare I say it, Neil Gaiman. It’s this kind of imagination that breathes life into new worlds, gives breath to strange, beautiful new creatures, and forms a reality distinct and separate from our own, yet achingly familiar. The kind of world and reality you fall into, that immerses you, and that you find yourself shocked to be torn from. Taylor forms a place as real and magic and wonderfully make-believe as the Narnia and Hogwarts of a million charmed childhoods.
“For the way loneliness is worse when you return to it after a reprieve - like the soul's version of putting on a wet bathing suit, clammy and miserable.”
While every glittering facet of the glorious gem that is Daughter of Smoke and Bone shines, its characters need to be dwelt upon. A mystery even to herself, Karou is strange, beautiful and compelling. She has no family, beyond the peculiar creatures who raised her in Brimstone’s curious shop, and she has no attachments to the human world, beyond the fact that she is human herself. Her whole life, Karou has felt unwhole, as though she is missing something, and, as such things often come to pass in such stories, she is. But despite her missing something, Karou is a whole and splendid character, as colourful and vibrant as her peacock-blue hair. Karou is imperfect, but it is her imperfections, her mistakes, and her occasional selfishness that makes her innate humour, selflessness, wit and intelligence shine. Her every word, thought, and secret longing burns with the glorious intensity of the sun, and she is a joy to read, to know, to learn.
“This new thing between them it was... Astral. It reshaped the air, and it was in her, too—a warming and softening, a pull—and for that moment, her hands in his, Karou felt as powerless as starlight tugged toward the sun in the huge, strange warp of space.”
When we finally meet Akiva, haunted and broken, Karou’s world starts to make sense. Akiva holds the keys and answers Karou and the reader do not. Akiva is as beautiful and compelling in his own ways as Karou, but infinitely more bitter and broken. When the two meet, they are drawn together, a force of nature, a gravitational pull, like the moon and the earth—undeniable, elemental and unbreakable. Their story is as dazzling as starlight, as lovely as the moon, and as vast and breathtaking as the night sky with her entire treasure of sparkling jewels. As Akiva’s back-story is revealed slowly, in parallels with his and Karou's present, it's as beautiful and heartbreaking as the rest.
“Love is a luxury.” “No. Love is an element.” An element. Like air to breathe. Earth to stand on.
The Verdict: I’m hardly sure of where to start, or, for that matter, where to finish. The vibrant characters? Taylor’s stunning, lyrical prose? Misty, mysterious and lovely Prague? Brimstone's wishmongery, bizarre and eclectic in the elusive ‘Elsewhere’? Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a thing of overwhelming beauty. Every detail of it is rendered with a true craftsman's attention to detail, and the world that results is vivid, strange, and strangely real.
As Daughter of Smoke and Bone drew to its inevitable close, I longed for it to continue. But just when Karou and Akiva's story ends—for now—it begins. Its closing pages are filled with beauty and anguish, glorious joy and fierce pain, heartbreak and tragedy, but a beautiful one. If Daughter of Smoke and Bone is just an opening chapter, what follows promises to be a truly extraordinary journey.
Throughout Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Taylor’s writing shines, her creativity glows, and I was repeatedly teased with chills; caught up in such sweeping, overwhelming beauty my chest ached. It’s a story of true scope, real brilliance, and unique vision. It could have been told by none less than Taylor, just as Harry Potter could have been told by none but J.K Rowling, Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, or Narnia born of any imagination other than C.S Lewis’. It is thrilling and lovely and strange, and utterly distinctive. It’s beautiful. It’s dark. At its ugliest it’s resplendent. For me, Daughter of Smoke and Bone was perfect.(less)
It's no secret the greatest love story ever told is no love story. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy—a tale of bigotry, and murder; a story about a thirte...moreIt's no secret the greatest love story ever told is no love story. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy—a tale of bigotry, and murder; a story about a thirteen year old girl and a fickle, capricious boy, ending in suicide and tragedy for all. But what if it was wrong? Or not the whole story? Turns out... it’s every inch as heartbreaking, and if Rebecca Serle does one thing magnificently, it’s laying on the heartbreak. Grab your tissues and your comfort food, and prepare to fall in love... You know what comes next.
The Story: Rosaline Caplet's final year in school should be perfect. And it is, for a time. When her best friend and next door neighbor, Rob Monteg returns from Summer break, things start to change between them. Despite reluctance to damage a cherished friendship, Rose follows her heart, and, when the two kiss, the stars align. Or so Rose thought. The next day, Rose's more or less estranged cousin, Juliet Caplet returns to town, and the day after that, Rob's love, his lips, even his friendship aren't Rose's anymore, no. They belong to Juliet. Because for Rob and Juliet, it was love at first sight, and like those star-crossed lovers with such similar names, so many years ago, it can't end well. As Rose struggles with her shattered heart, people start whispering of Juliet's instability. Will she take Rob with her when she falls? And will Rose get her own happily ever after?
My Thoughts: Going into an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is challenging. Knowing the story can only end poorly, it’s difficult to let go of a certain reticence to become fully engaged. Yet it quickly becomes difficult to keep When You Were Mine from getting under your skin. With a charm uniquely its own, warm, vivid characters and sweet first love, it all comes together, feeling so, so right... Before it all goes so, so wrong.
Here's where, enter, stage left, comes our heroine, Rosaline Caplet. Sweet, quiet, and, well, ordinary. Rose is the perfect girl next door to Rob Caplet's Romeo. She has a simple kind of strength of character that shines through ‘ordinary’, making her engaging and easy to like. It's from Rose's outside point of view we watch her first love and best friend fall for another girl, and it's Rose who brings the tragedy home. Because it's not just the pain of two young, promising lives derailing so swiftly and violently. It's what comes before and what's left behind, and Rose feels it all with heart-wrenching intensity.
As I followed fair Rosaline’s journey, I longed for it to change, for Rose to curse the inauspicious stars, to fight their pull, and to choose her own adventure; to make things right in the world and to prove that fate isn’t sealed in the cold, cruel lights in the sky, It’s hard to trust the very wise Ms Serle when she says “No love story ends or begins out of accordance with how it needs to go,” but it’s well worth the risk. This is a book designed to make you feel, and oh, does it succeed. From the depths of grief and despair, to the soaring heights of creeping, hateful hope, Serle plays the heart strings with graceful perfection.
From the sweet, giddy breathlessness of first kisses, to the depths of despair, Serle doles out heartache, heartbreak, and emotional intensity with a calm, measured efficiency. And it's the emotional impact of When You Were Mine that is its greatest strength. Even in its darkest moments, Serle reminds us there is always light in the darkness. Whether the incandescent warmth of true friendship, the love of family, or the pinpricks of light in the night sky, the sadness in When You Were Mine is always tempered with something more: with hope, with friendship, with the spark of something new and exciting, after the loss of something old and precious.
With the stage is set, the players enter, and events are set in motion. The show goes on. And it’s this relentless march towards the inevitable that lends When You Were Mine such poignant tragedy: the simple knowledge that a few small choices would provide such a vastly different fate for our star-crossed lovers. But this is the question: choice, or fate? Serle examines fate, destiny, and choice, and lets the reader have the final say, lets them choose. It is not a story of blacks and whites, but one of greys and shadow; of loss, of endings, and of new beginnings.
It’s worth noting When You Were Mine’s slow, steady start, but certainly not as a criticism. Though Serle does have a tendency to overload, at times, on what could seem insignificant details, it comes to feel measured, deliberate. Serle takes her time presenting her players. She lets them fall in love; lets the reader fall in love with them, all before tearing them apart and setting her tragedy in motion.
A glooming peace this morning with it brings; The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head: Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things; Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished: For never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo. Romeo & Juliet, Act 5, Scene 3.
The Verdict: When You Were Mine is not quite the love story, or the tragedy, you remember. Once again, in a cruel play of fate and synchronicity, the stars align in exactly the wrong way to cause catastrophe. A string of small coincidences, combined to cause something profound. Once again, politics come into play, and lives are destroyed, and ultimately, all are punished.
When You Were Mine isn’t quite Romeo and Juliet, but truly, it is not exactly aiming to be. It is not Romeo's, nor Juliet's story, it's Rosaline's. It's about the girl left behind, forgotten, and learning to live with heartbreak. It’s a retelling, and a reimagining: something slightly different, and, in its own way, something more. It's not entirely a tragedy, and despite its heavy subject, avoids being bleak. It's tempered with something more: hope. It’s not precisely the same love story you know, but if you have one, it will break your heart.
Brutal, uncompromising and black as pitch, Dreamfever, the Fever series' fourth, and penultimate installment, pulls no punches, and I'm starting to th...moreBrutal, uncompromising and black as pitch, Dreamfever, the Fever series' fourth, and penultimate installment, pulls no punches, and I'm starting to thing Karen Moning takes a kind of malicious glee from torturing her characters and readers alike...
Dreamfever is a very different creature from its forebears. Dublin has fallen. The walls dividing our world from Faery have come crashing down, and nightmares no longer hide their faces as they stalk post-apocalyptic city streets. Goodbye world, hello Unseelie wasteland. But the hunt for the Sinsar Dubh is not over, and all the major players have survived the cataclysm. The events of Faefever cost Mac terribly, but with the deadly tome still on the loose, she can't afford to wallow in her pain. Mac is back, baby, and this time, she has a gun.
Black Mac: Mac couldn't have survived Faefever and come out the same. After the tragedy and perverse torture she survived, she's a very different girl. Princess Pink is gone, and replaced with, as she calls herself, 'Black Mac'. Watching the evolution of Mac over the course of the series has been a painful, beautiful thing. Darkfever Mac is no longer recognizable in the raven-haired, leather-clad woman in Dreamfever's pages. She has finally graduated into the action-chick she was always destined to me. Mac has truly evolved, and is still evolving. Literally. In surprising and inexplicable ways...
The Rest: I could wax poetic about the delicious, cryptic, maddening Barrons for hours, but with Mac’s evolution has come independence. While not always making the right decisions, Mac is making her own, and it means Barrons is getting less page time… while still somehow playing an even larger part in the story. And the threads of a love triangle have solidified, in the sense that intentions have been declared. Fae Prince V’lane, and whatever-the-hell-he-is Barrons both want Mac… and have made it very clear. But, once again, after Faefever, things have changed. The world is unrecogniseable, and so is Mac… the relationship between Mac and Barrons is more intense and raw than it ever has been before. The strain and tension between the two is at fever pitch.
Young Sidhe-Seer prodigy, Dani, plays a much larger part in this book than ever before. In fact, for the first time, we get chapters from her point of view. The high-speed teen is fascinating, and the bond she shares with Mac is warm and sweet… but she’s hiding her own mysteries. And, of course, politics finally come into play with the Sidhe Seers, and Mac finally uncovers a couple of truths about her past. The Side-Seers play a far larger role in Dreamfever, and each of the pieces in the vast, complex game Moning is playing are moving into their final places, waiting for what can only be an epic conclusion in Shadowfever.
Riddles, Wrapped in Mysteries: Dreamfever is one of the most surprising and cryptic installments in the series yet. Once again, I’m left with a myriad of questions. Not just who is Mac, but what? We finally learn something about her past and family, but precious little, and it leaves more questions. We get a tantalizing clue about the ‘what’ of Barrons, which creates still more questions. What the hell is the Sidhe-Seers’ part in this all this, and what is the, frankly pernicious Grand Mistress, Rowena, hiding? What does the Sinsar Dubh want, evil, sentient book that it is... And Barron's eight? Who and what the hell are they? What’s with the Keltar druids? What’s happened to Christian MacKelter? For all the questions Moning finally answers—or at the very least alludes too—we’re once again left with a dozen more.
The Verdict: If the cliffhanger of Faefever was shocking, Moning’s done it again with gusto. Shocking hardly comes close. I’ve so many words for Dreamfever: deeper, darker, more complex, dangerous, beautiful and broken. It’s exactly what the series was always meant to be. Moning has finally pulled everything together and we’re just starting to see the bigger picture. Where Moning could possibly take the next book, I can hardly imagine. Old enemies remain, and new dangers in the form of shady allies emerge. The stakes have always been high, but the danger and forboding is a constant in Dreamfever. The world has changed, and so have the rules. Dreamfever is one big infuriatingly cryptic riddle. The answer to which is just within sight.(less)
4.5 Stars It's NOT a perfect book. But it's one I loved so, SO much, and loved the series so much, and am so absolutely CRAZY in love with, it gets rou...more4.5 Stars It's NOT a perfect book. But it's one I loved so, SO much, and loved the series so much, and am so absolutely CRAZY in love with, it gets rounded up to 5.
Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow(fever) Buckle up, girls and guys. Shadowfever’s here, and Moning finally delivers everything she’s promised... and then some.
With three billion people dead, the walls still down between Faery and earth, Mac has lost everything. Her sister, her home, her identity, her world, and now it seems the one remaining thread tethering her to what’s left of it. Bitter, jaded, and now as ruthless as her mentor, Mac will stop at nothing to find the cursed Sinsar Dubh, and bring an end to the Fae madness that has taken over the planet. But nothing’s as easy as it seems, and Mac must get to the bottom of a million-year old network of lies, deceit, prophecy and mythology to discover who she is, and who to trust, all while fighting to stay alive long enough to complete her task. More than ever, Mac must uncover answers: Who and where is the Unseelie King? Where is the Seelie Queen? What really happened to the concubine who set this whole series of tragedies in motion, and caused the Sinsar Dubh to be brought into creation? Mac may just be the only person with the answer.
With the final page closed on the Fever series, and looking back at the journey as a whole, I can honestly say I’d never imagined it would wind up here. When Pink Mac, or Mac 1.0, as she calls her old self, first stumbled, grieving her sister, through the craic-filled streets of Dublin, I don’t imagine she did either. I remember that Barbie-girl, and I remember wanting to shake her. Shallow and selfish, over-confident and outright silly, that girl is gone. Mac is battle-scarred, jaded and bitter, but she’s learned that “Hope strengthens, [and] Fear kills”, and she clings to that adage. Mac’s been brutalized, tortured, betrayed, and manipulated countless times, but rather than letting it destroy her, she’s let it build her, shape her into a stronger, better, version of herself. I can’t believe the girl I could barely stand in Darkfever is now one of my favorite characters. Mac is one of the best examples of character growth I’ve seen in literature. Ever. She’s unrecognizable from her old self.
That’s not to say this book isn’t a journey for her. When we open the page on Shadowfever, we find a stricken, broken woman, overwhelmed with towering grief and fury. That fury and grief turns to cold resolve, and that resolve leads to one hell of a journey.
In Shadowfever, the players become clear. We finally see the true faces of the good guys, the bad guys, and the questions we’ve been asking, the riddles we’ve been agonizing over for four long, brilliant books are finally, finally, finally answered. Infuriating, cryptic Jericho Barrons. Pernicious Sidhe-Seer Grand Mistress, Rowena. Fae Prince, V’lane. Mac herself. Who and what she is. All is revealed. And despite an obsession rivaling Mac’s own when it comes to the question of Jericho Barrons, it’s perhaps the question of Mac herself that is Shadowfever’s biggest mystery and revelation.
And finally, after hundreds and hundreds of pages of the most electric, palpable, frustrating sexual tension I’ve ever read, we get satisfaction. Real satisfaction. I almost expected disappointment. How could anything possibly live up to the towering build-up? Disappointment? Not a drip, not a drop. Jericho Barrons is neither hero nor anti-hero. He just is. One of the most prickly, acerbic, powerfully sexual and utterly compelling characters I’ve ever read, well, I never expected him to break my heart. Barrons and Mac are a match forged in the fires of hell, and cooled in the springs of heaven. Believe me when I say the wait has been worth it.
The Verdict: Through five books, and over many hundreds of pages, Karen Marie Moning has built a world as dangerous, broken and terrifying as it is seductive, beautiful and compelling. She’s populated it with characters I love and loathe. She’s given it depth and painted it in colors beyond imagination. With the dozens of questions, cryptic clues, and frustrating mysteries she’s created over the series, I wasn’t sure how she could possibly wrap the series up, and deliver a satisfying dénouement. I don’t know what to say beyond, well, she does. Has Shadowfever left me with questions? Of course. Good books allow you to think for yourself. To imagine futures, and worlds and possibilities beyond a final, finished page. But has Moning delivered the satisfaction I longed for? The answers I needed? Yes, and then some.
The most sexually-charged installment of the series on a whole, Shadowfever delivers. I can’t possibly imagine the series ending any other way. Mac’s world will never be the same, nor will she. Yet despite unimaginable loss, tragedy, and heartache... they might just be better. Five books, one apocalypse, billions of dead, and an inter-dimensional war later, I still have the Fever. (less)
You know the story: girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a vampire, girl/vampire romance ensues and girl’s best friend stops at nothing to split them u...moreYou know the story: girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a vampire, girl/vampire romance ensues and girl’s best friend stops at nothing to split them up... hang on. Team Human is a fun, satirical romp in a world where vampires and humans peacefully co-exist, but not everyone believes inter-species romance is quite so romantic...
The Story: Mel Duan is staunchly Team Human. She doesn’t hate vampires, she just doesn’t understand why anyone would want to be one. Risks of dying in the process—or turning into a mindless, rotting zombie then dying—aside, why would anyone want to live a life without laughter, sunshine, and worst of all, chocolate? Needless to say, she’s horrified when her best friend, Cathy, falls for a one. A stuck up, pasty, humourless relic of a bygone era named Francis. She’s even more upset when Cathy announces she’s planning to become a vampire for the chance to share immortality with him—after less than a month. Mel sets out to change her mind. Which shouldn’t be too hard, because she knows Francis is up to something—why else would a supercentenarian seventeen year old boy start going to high school?
But Mel has other worries. Her friend Anna’s mum—their school principal—has been acting strange. Then again, what’s ‘strange’ when your husband, the vampire counsellor, abandons your family to run off with a client. Mel's drowning in drama, and for the first time in her life, may not have the answer to all her friends problems... but Francis’ human ward, a teenage boy named Kit, might.
The 101: Going into Team Human, I expected a light-hearted, satirical look at the earth-shattering, all-encompassing love we all bemoan—yet still adore—in young adult paranormals. I expected to laugh. I didn't expect to cry. But Team Human has heart: at its core, it’s a story about friendship, what it means to be human, and acceptance. It’s a book very aware of what it is—more on that later—but it’s much like a good mediator: it doesn’t take sides, and is able to see all parties’ points of view.
Mel is a truly terrific heroine. Irrepressibly snarky, and unshakably loyal to her friends, she’s bloody minded, determined, and hilarious. Mel’s also tremendously opinionated, but she has a good heart, and always the best of intentions. Her concern for—and unshakeable resolve to 'help'—her friends is part of what makes her so likable, however misguided her actions are at times. Her terror at losing her closest friend to vampirism—afterall, transitions only have an 80% success rate—is palpable, and while Mel can be intolerant, it’s not difficult to see why.
Think of Cathy as your typical, infatuated, desperately in love vampire novel protagonist... on crack. Within a month of meeting Francis, she’s making preparations to transition. Cathy is, in ways, a romantic, taken to fancy, but before you roll your eyes, remember she's viewed through Mel's (very) opinionated lens, and she’s also intelligent, thoughtful, and thorough.
As Team Human progresses, there’s a gradual shift in roles, towards understanding and acceptance. Behind the story’s sparkling humour and vibrant characters is a much deeper message of acceptance and tolerance, one which Larbalestier and Brennan handle with skillful subtlety. Fear not if this is sounding heavy: Team Human is a very funny novel, and Larbalestier and Brennan poke fun at all parties with irreverent glee. Cathy and Mel serve as wonderful counterweights to each other, and this is why Team Human works: it is not a parody, but a humorous look at both ‘Team Human’ and ‘Team Vampire’ stereotypes.
The Verdict: Irreverent, funny and clever, Team Human is immensely entertaining, with unexpected heart. Its vibrant personalities, the very sweet romance that develops between Mel and Kit, the mystery that runs through it with heartbreaking conclusion—it’s Team Human’s surprising nuances that make it something very special indeed. It doesn’t parody the Stephenie Meyers, Rachel Caines and Claudia Grays of this world—it celebrates them. Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan are a dream-team I truly hope we see more from.
“Evil books and mysterious players and plots within plots, and now prophesies, too,” comments Mac at one point in Faefever. And, well, there you have...more“Evil books and mysterious players and plots within plots, and now prophesies, too,” comments Mac at one point in Faefever. And, well, there you have it. Evil, sentient books, cryptic players—both good and bad—and, yes, now we have prophesies, too. Once again, Karen Moning has upped the stakes, intensified the fever, and, after this, MacKayla Lane will never be the same again...
Mac’s search for the ancient, evil book, the Sinsar Dubh continues in Faefever, but, as always, she's not the only person on the hunt for it. With enemies who should be allies, and allies who could as easily be against her--and just may be--she doesn't know who to trust. And the cryptic, mysterious Jericho Barrons and Fae Prince, V'lane, are both vying for trust, loyalty, and something much more personal.
But time is running out. More Unseelie, the evil 'dark' Fae, are slipping through cracks between our world and theirs, and their prison may not hold. Mac's world is crumbling, and not even her powerful Sidhe-Seer abilities may be able to stop it.
The End of the Rainbow... I thought Darkfever was dark. I thought Bloodfever was darker. If they were dark, Faefever reaches pure obsidian. No longer ‘Miss Rainbow’, Mac's grown, and become more independent. Rather than simply reacting to what's thrown at her (which is a LOT, give a girl a break), she's starting to make her own moves, plans, and she's asking questions. Yes, Mac's always been curious, she's always asked questions, but she's starting to ask them of herself. In Faefever, Mac is really asking who she can trust. And the answer she comes up with? Herself.
Mac finally puts her foot down, refuses to be a pawn to the players around her, whether Barrons, V’lane, or Sidhe-Seer leader, Rowena. But my delight in her backbone is coupled with frustration: I’m desperate for her to look beyond words to actions. I want her to trust someone, and Barrons has been the only constant, the only one to prove his concern--far beyond the simple protection of his ‘investment,’ over and over again.
The Players: As the plot thickens, so does the complexity of its players. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this means you’ll get answers, though. Seelie Prince V’lane returns with a far larger role to play, determined to insinuate himself into Mac's life (and bed), and we see more of cold, calculating Sidhe-Seer Guild Mistress, Rowena. We finally meet other Sidhe-Seers... though not without great cost to Mac. Teenage faerie-hunter, Dani, pops up again, and it’s delightful seeing some light amongst the darkness of Faefever, in the form of a sisterly-bond they develop.
Mr Dark, Dangerous, and Infuriating But once again, there’s one other ‘player’ who leaves me desperate for more, flicking scenes, pages, and whole chapters ahead: Jericho Barrons. The Fever series’ biggest riddle, we’re no closer to any answers. Who is he? What is he? Once again, the cryptic, inscrutable man gives away nothing, but for the first time, we’re given clues. Tiny hints about what he is, plenty of red-herrings, and still absolutely nothing remotely satisfying. The push/pull between Mac and Barrons intensifies, and I smell jealousy. Present in Bloodfever, it’s intensified, and now unmistakeable. Barrons’ poker face is slipping. I loved it. The nuances of Barrons' and Mac's interactions are fascinating. None of their words are what they seem, and it's a reflection of the complexity of the series on a whole. Layer upon layer upon layer of meaning tied up in a sentence, and an expression. The unresolved sexual tension between Mac and Barrons is electric and scorching and maddening as ever, and I may just immolate if they don’t.
The Verdict: It’s hard to look past the end of this book, the darkest hour, to the light within, to the detail, to its subtle nuances and how crucial it is to the series on a whole. Faefever is a key point, an essential fulcrum, to the progression of the series. The myth and folklore deepens, and we get closer to some long-awaited answers, including the origins of the sinister Sinsar Dubh. More questions are asked, and, of course, fewer yet are answered. Plots deepen, already complicated characters become infinitely more complex, and if I felt the previous two books in the series were dark, Faefever is dark, darker, and darkest still.
By the end of Faefever, Mac’s taken to places so dark, I don’t see how she can come back again. Surely she can’t walk away from this unbroken? Big, dark, cataclysmic things happen in Faefever, and the ending of this book was difficult to read. I’ve grown to love this girl, and my heart was torn open, shred apart, and swallowed whole by the fate she suffers. Fever fans, brace yourselves. And have book four handy.
Faefever is the first book in the series to end on a real cliffhanger, and its shocking conclusion left me horrified, shaken, and sick to my core. Easily the darkest place the series has reached so far, it’s also the most complicated, the most compelling, and once again, it’s left me desperate and feverish for more. (less)
In Darkfever Karen Moning brought us a world of secrets, lies, and psychopathic faeries. You know, the kind where the tooth fairy beats you up, then w...moreIn Darkfever Karen Moning brought us a world of secrets, lies, and psychopathic faeries. You know, the kind where the tooth fairy beats you up, then wears your molars around on a necklace made from your intestines... or, more accurately, where beautiful, ethereal princes take you to bed until you’re screaming for mercy and death. If you didn’t think it was possible, she ups the stakes even further in Bloodfever, and the pages are dripping with menace, action, and repressed sexual tension. Buckle you seatbelts. It’s gonna be one hell of a ride.
Mac’s back. she’s accepted what she is: a powerful sidhe-seer. After narrowly escaping death in Darkfever, she’s now waiting for inevitable backlash, in the form of a murderous fae, recovering from her injuries, and still bent on enacting bloody, violent revenge on her sister’s murderer... while she’s convinced she now has the murderer in her sights, she’s no closer to that revenge than before. Gone are the sunshine and rainbows, and sunny outlook the previously characterised Mac. They’re still there, to an extent, but they’re tempered with an edge of... well, let’s just say it can’t really be called pessimism, if it’s true. While Darkfever was about her discovering what she was, Bloodfever is more about discovering who she is at her core, what she’s capable of, and can live with... and deciding who to trust. A decision she still hasn’t come to by the book’s resolution, despite the so-far unflinching fidelity of a certain, infuriatingly cryptic ‘man’.
While Mac’s a little darker, she still carries an air of hope, and, for the sake of her own preservation, we hear Barrons remind her again that hope is essential to survival. Without it, you’re already defeated. I love that the series holds these surprising little insights and pieces of wisdom. Some occasional frustrations with Mac’s previous denial, current trust issues (however warranted they may be), and the numerous unanswered questions I was left with aside, there’s something I’m finding compulsively readable and utterly addictive about the Fever series. Though it is worth mentioning that, despite enjoying Bloodfever immensely, I was left feeling it hasn’t progressed the overall plot a great deal, and I’m desperate for answers to Darkfever's questions. Instead, I'm left with more than when I begun.
Ah, but there’s one question I want answers for most of all. One particularly cryptic, compelling aspect of the series. The one that just may drive Mac and me to the brink of madness: Jericho Barrons. The man is dark, cryptic, seemingly omniscient, and utterly infuriating. Incapable of a straight answer, it’s Barrons that keeps me flicking pages ahead, hanging on his every word, and hungry for more... despite the fact that he scares the hell out of me. The repressed sexual tension he and Mac share is scorching-hot, and I can’t wait for the moment it consumes them both.
The Verdict: Where Darkfever built the theatre, set the scene, and positioned the players, Bloodfever is the dress rehearsal. We’re still building up to the main attraction, and the atmosphere is buzzing with foreboding, anticipation, the promise of action, and the absolute assurance of blood. People are beginning to take their places, and it’s getting (even more) interesting.
Blood fever is a book of questions: who is Mac, really? Who is the Lord Master? Who killed Alina? And O’Duffy? What on earth is going on with the Fae, and what do they really want? And perhaps the biggest question of all: what the hell is Jericho Barrons? Don’t expect answers. Yet Moning has a knack for making the journey every inch as exciting as the destination. the mystery thickens and deepens in Bloodfever, and it will leave you feverish for more. (less)
Darkfever lives up to its name. It's dark, disturbing, and, once making it past some initial issues, I read it compulsively, with a feverish intensity...moreDarkfever lives up to its name. It's dark, disturbing, and, once making it past some initial issues, I read it compulsively, with a feverish intensity. Karen Moning creates a vividly imagined world, where monsters walk city streets, hidden in plain sight, and she's here to tell you that if you see faeries in the bottom of your garden? Run like hell.
After MacKayla Lane's sister is brutally murdered in Dublin, far from her home in Georgia, Mac's happy, sheltered world falls apart. Her mother and father are crippled by grief, and the Dublin police have given up hope on the case. Naive and determined, Mac travels to Dublin to do what the police can't or won't do: find Alina's murderer. She quickly finds herself out of her depth, and rescued by Jericho Barrons. A man as frightening and dangerous as the monsters hiding in Dublin's shadows. Monsters straight from the folklore Ireland is famous for. Mac discovers she has secrets not even she knew, and Dublin's monsters are not half as benign as the fairytales claim...
Mac... Like the Burger Dark, twisty, and seriously sexy, I wound up being utterly enthralled by Darkfever, but it took me a good third of the book to get to that point. A slow start was a small part, but my major stumbling block was rather singular: Mac. Our charming Southern belle is blonde, busty, and her fashion icon seems to be Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods. Think pink. Despite the plastic sorority-girl persona, Mac is highly intelligent, but at first her narration grated at me, and her voice came off as patronizing. Her blend of naïveté and self assurance made it hard for me to connect with her, yet she's worth sticking with. The POINT is that Mac is naive and sheltered, and as she's forced to shed her Barbie facade, look her world in the eyes, and confront an uglier side to it than she ever thought to imagine, she reluctantly changes. She grows. Her optimism gives way to a darker version of herself, and her naïveté crystallizes and cracks into a more brittle, jaded outlook.
There is real character growth over the course of this book, for better or worse, and despite my earlier issues, I wound up quite liking the brunette-verses-blonde, dark-verses-rainbow version of MacKayla Lane. The naiveté and innocence became endearing, as it becomes clear she's clinging to it in a desperate attempt to hang on to a tiny part of herself, after everything she's lost. While certainly no action-chick, Mac is getting there by the end of Darkfever, and I saw shades of Kristy Swanson-esque Buffy in her: reluctant, smart-mouthed heroine, who's just as likely to kill the bad guy as she is to cry over a broken nail (hey, she even has the sickness and cramps when she gets too close to the bad guys!).
A Riddle Wrapped In A Mystery... One of the aspects of Darkfever I enjoyed immensely was the banter between Mac and her mysterious and cryptic rescuer/mentor/bane of her existence, Barrons. I know what you’re thinking, but this is not a love story. It's not a romance. Far from it, though it's fairly clear where this will progress with time. Barrons isn't sweet. He isn't kind. He's compelling, and seriously frightening. He's not sexy or attractive so much as carnal and pure masculine power. To me, Barrons was like watching an accident: a strange cocktail of disturbing and frightening, but compelling in a way that wouldn't allow me to look away.
Sleep With Your Lights On: Mac's growth, outlook and voice colour and guide us through Darkfever, but the real sparkling star is the world Moning has built within its pages. Vivid, dark and terrifying, the Dublin she's imagined exists alongside our own, its frightening secrets hidden beneath fey glamours, and the simple ability of the human mind to ignore what it can't quite grasp. The imagination that has gone into raising its buildings, paving its streets and populating its darkest corners with walking horrors is immense, and the creativity with which Moning has woven Gaelic folklore and legend in with her own twisted imaginings of the Fae creates something perverse and addictive. Uh, death-by-sex fey, anyone? The monsters in this world—both the fey kind and other—are scary, rattling, and wanting to sleep with the lights on.
The Verdict: Nothing is as it seems in Darkfever. Not Dublin, not Alina's murder, not the enigmatic, compelling, frankly frightening Jericho Barrons, not even Mac herself. It's certainly not a perfect book, but there's something deeply compelling, if not outright addictive, about Darkfever. While it ends without resolution, and I'm glad I have the rest of the series on-hand, it's certainly not in a dissatisfying way. Dark, twisty, perverse and sexy, Karen Moning has created a world dripping with menace, mystery and danger--one I can't wait to dive back into.(less)
I’m in shock. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has nearly left me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Is Post Unbreafreakinglievable Book Disorde...more4.5 Stars
I’m in shock. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has nearly left me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Is Post Unbreafreakinglievable Book Disorder a thing? Well. Mara Dyer is a rare beastie indeed. Twisty, dark and haunting, Michelle Hodkin’s remarkable debut left me guessing from the very beginning, to the very end, and long, long past that.
I’m not joking about the state Mara Dyer left me in. Shock is the only word for it. Or perhaps a quivering ball of nerves. I wish you could have seen my face as I read the final chapter of the book. A tap-dancing tortoise bursting into my living room to the tune of Hey Ya! could not have elicited as strong a response. Hauntingly reminiscent of a teenage Shutter Island, Mara Dyer has garnered a lot of gushing reviews. It deserves them all.
Mara We join Mara as she wakes in a hospital room. She doesn’t know where, how or why, and so, from the very beginning, we’re thrown in the deep end along with her. Mara’s friends are dead in an accident she doesn’t remember, but miraculously survived. Her world’s turned upside down, and she’s now suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To pre-empt her psychologist mother having her put in a residential care program, Mara herself suggests they move. A fresh start. Move from the memories and shocking events. And so, before we know it, we find ourselves in Florida along with Mara.
Mara is... sick. Truly. Suffering the effects of her PTSD, she experiences waking dreams and hallucinations. She’s haunted by the memories—or perhaps ghosts—of her dead friends. As the book blurs from dreams to reality and back again, the narrative flows so smoothly, you’re given the sense of hallucinating right along with her. Mara is unravelling, and struggling, and there’s this eerie feeling of menace—of being watched—hanging over her throughout the book. My oh my is she a splendid protagonist though. Intelligent and wry, the book sparkles with Mara’s wit and humour, despite it’s incredibly heavy subject and increasingly dark tone. Despite Mara’s emotional and psychological fragility, she’s brave, stoic, and desperately trying to play with the cards she’s been dealt. She’s compelling, and her, well, unbecoming is fascinating and frightening.
Nearest and Dearest As you’d hope with a book named after her, Mara is extraordinary. Layered, nuanced, unpredictable, but always believable. I loved this. But one of the brightest lights in the story are Mara’s friends and family. From Mara’s lone new friend at high school, Jamie, to her mother, amazing older brother (I WANT Daniel as my older brother!) and adorable and hilarious younger brother, Joseph, there is a cast of supportive, well rounded characters in this book. And they ground it. Whether endearing or contemptible school bullies, I was engaged, I cared.
Noah. Effing. Shaw. You’ve no doubt heard about Noah Shaw at this point. Perhaps even warned. Mara was, and it didn’t work. It didn’t work for me, either.
Gorgeous. British. Badboy.The chemistry between Noah and Mara is electric, and the teasing and banter between the two is delicious. But this is not the dreaded insta-love. There is an instant flirtation, yes, but that’s it. As Noah carefully insinuates himself in to Mara’s life, and the two get to know each other, we watch another part of Mara unravel... but in a good way. Oh Noah was a delight. Layered, cheeky, reckless, beautiful, and just as broken as Mara in his own way, Noah has secrets of his own—just as big as Mara’s. And that’s... pretty huge.
A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma Oh my word Mara Dyer kept me guessing to the last page. Every time I thought I’d figured a mystery out or gathered a clue, it blew up or slipped away. Masterfully crafted and impossible to pin down, the mystery is far larger than one book, or, it would seem, one broken girl. As Hodkin carefully offers ephemeral clues and small scraps of information, she deliberately muddies the waters. For every question answered, she creates several more bigger, trickier, even more terrifying. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is clearly the first in a series, and I’m unbelievably excited and terrified to see where this goes. There is a bigger game being played in Mara Dyer... and I still have no idea what it is.
The Verdict: Gathering my scattered thoughts enough to create a meaningful sentence renders this the hardest review I’ve ever had to write. It left me speechless. Guys, that doesn’t happen often. Getting better and better as it goes along, it’s a slow build from strange to stranger to ‘OH MY GOD WHAT’S GOING AND HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE OR BREATH OR FUNCTION WITHOUT MOREMOREMORE RIGHT NOW.’ The mystery within its pages had me guessing and grasping at straws, and the ending—well, the entirety—has left me in shock. I raced through its pages with my heart racing, and its haunting me now it’s over. Confusing, disturbing, dark and twisted, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is extraordinary. It should come with a warning: This book will mess with your mind. (less)
Beautifully written, Avery Williams’ debut, The Alchemy of Forever is a sad tale, quiet in tone, and simply told in a way that lends it a painful poig...moreBeautifully written, Avery Williams’ debut, The Alchemy of Forever is a sad tale, quiet in tone, and simply told in a way that lends it a painful poignancy. It’s a story of hope, redemption, loss and the weight and cost of forever.
London, 1349, fourteen year old Seraphina Ames shares a stolen moment with the sweet, beautiful son of the Alchemist, Cyrus. Then she is stabbed. Dying in a dark street, Cyrus cannot let her go, and miraculously saves her life. Cyrus and Seraphina will live forever. But forever comes at a cost. Sera must take another person’s body to survive, and she must do so every ten or so years. In the process, the host’s soul dies, but Sera lives.
Six hundred years pass, and it is no longer her and Cyrus alone. Sera’s now part of a coven of ‘Incarnates’, immortals Cyrus has made like them. And Cyrus is no longer the sweet boy she once knew. Twisted and warped by six centuries of life, he’s cold, controlling and abusive. Sera longs for escape. To finally die. She’s on her way to do so, when she witness a horrific accident. Desperate to atone for her crimes, Sera attempts to save a girl’s life, but in the process, takes her body by accident. Sera becomes sixteen year old Kailey Morgan.
Once prepared to die, Sera finds herself living a life she’s maybe not so willing to leave. Sera may have moved on... but Cyrus has not.
Seraphina: Sad, trapped and introspective, Sera has this quiet inner strength I loved. At the start of The Alchemy of Forever, she’s resolved to leave her ‘coven’ and go to her death, and she does so with a quiet dignity and steely resolve. Despite the ennui and weight of six-hundred long years of half-life, she’s scared and uncertain. She’s flawed. She’s fragile. She’s spent almost her entire existence sheltered and oppressed for by the controlling—and frankly psychotic—Cyrus, her once-beloved saviour turned captor. Despite her long existence, she sounds young. While world-weary, she’s retained a sense of wonder in her life, and she sees beauty in the world in a way Cyrus cannot. I loved looking through her eyes, and I enjoyed her wry humour.
Heartache and Heartbreak: As Sera finds herself assimilating Kailey’s life, she learns to love, and to really live again. She allows herself to hope that she can make this life work. It’s both bitterly beautiful, and overwhelmingly sad. For hundreds of years, she’s survived at the cost of others. What didn’t occur to me prior to reading the book is the simple fact that Sera has stolen a teenage girl’s life. As she walks around day to day, wearing her skin, and occupying her world, my heart ached for the loss Kailey’s friends and family don’t even know they’ve suffered, and the pain that will inevitably come when Sera must leave. It’s amplified by the fact that Sera is aware of this, and grieves it herself. She hates the heartache she’ll cause, and she comes to love Kailey’s people like her own. It hurts even more as a sweet, tender, tentative romance builds with the boy next door, Noah. The Alchemy of Forever is certainly not a romance, but this very subtle, realistic affection develops in the background, giving it yet another layer of sadness and heartbreak.
Black, White, and A Hundred Shades of Grey... But. I found it hard to swallow it’s taken Sera six hundred years to try and leave Cyrus. Six hundred years of watching him lie, cheat, steal, manipulate and murder, and she’s only leaving now... and it leaves Sera in a kind of grey area. While Sera refuses to accept a body that is not close to death, or hasn’t been courting it, she is, for all intents and purposes, a killer. A killer with a conscience, yes, but not an utterly blameless victim, either. It’s fascinating, and Avery Williams doesn’t skirt the issue; she simply lays it out as it is for the reader to make up their own mind.
The Verdict: The Alchemy of Forever is a beautiful story. It’s filled with moments of love and wonder and the joy of those first moments of new love... and tempered with a constant sense of loneliness and sadness. While Cyrus is physically absent for most of the book, the story has this feeling of constant menace and forboding, as he is always present in Sera’s mind. Despite the cliffhanger the book ends on, I found myself satisfied. It leaves a myriad of unanswered questions that both demand answers, but work unanswered.
But as much as I enjoyed the book—and I did—I found myself struggling to connect. It’s a surprisingly short novel—only 250 pages. So much is contained within, so much history, so much longing, hurt, happiness and anger... but I didn’t always feel these things as intensely as I’d like... perhaps distanced by Sera’s own distance from a life she’s living, but doesn’t truly know herself.
Despite a couple of issues, this is one of those stories I’ve turned the final page on, only to find it haunting me days later. It takes a magnificent imagination to birth a story which such a perfect blend of magic and science, beauty and brokeness. One thing is for sure: I can’t wait to see what Williams does next.(less)
First thoughts: I LOVE. Hannah's a truly amazing writer, and Speechless is just... Impossible not to like. The characters--especially the secondaries-...moreFirst thoughts: I LOVE. Hannah's a truly amazing writer, and Speechless is just... Impossible not to like. The characters--especially the secondaries--are a delight, and she handles deeper, darker issues with real sensitivity and insight. I adore.
In Saving June, a story essentially about loss and grief, Hannah Harrington showed us light, hope and joy. So it comes as little surprise that her sophomore offering, Speechless, a story about a shallow, nasty mean-girl has unexpected depths, its own heartbreak, and a moving, poignant message that may just you speechless.
The Story Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret. Hell, even if it's not a secret she revels in being the first to know and passing it on. Until now.
At a drunken party, Chelsea sees something it’s not her business to tell a soul. But she does. The next thing she knows a boy’s nearly killed, two of her friends are in jail, her best friend hates her, and she’s gone from popular, untouchable princess to loathed social pariah.
Chelsea knows her mouth got her in trouble, so her solution? Keep it closed. Taking a vow of silence, Chelsea starts to change... and begins to realise maybe she hasn’t lost so much after all.
The 101 Chelsea Knot is... difficult. Selfish, nasty, and sidekick to a mean girl who makes Regina George look like an angel, she’s difficult to like... but then she’s not. Chelsea’s not a character you can dive straight into, and connect with from the page one, but nor should she be. Harrington doesn't ease you into her characters. She doesn't compromise authenticity for likeability, rather allowing empathy to be a force that builds. And it does. Chelsea grows from a cruel, self-righteous, self-centred girl to someone more: Someone innately good, while losing none of her defining fire; someone deserving of empathy, and her own story. She grows throughout Speechless, and that growth is wonderfully rewarding as a reader
“Even in the movie of my own life, I’ve never been the heroine. I’ve never been Action Girl. I’ve only ever been Kristen’s supporting character.”
At her lowest, though, Chelsea is never irredeemable. She makes mistakes—big, potentially life threatening ones—but makes difficult choices to right them, her vow of silence amongst these. The vow lends Speechless an introspective tone and a unique view on a number of its aspects. We see Chelsea’s growth intimately and clearly as the story progresses—even when she does not—and it allows Harrington’s marvellous secondary characters to shine.
Harrington’s characters are imperfect. They have rough edges, flaws, and foibles, and it makes them magnificent. It’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for telling a story, whether it be a—rightly so—angry guy named Andy, the unexpected, lovely, quirky new friend, Asha, or something more: a special, sweet, unfathomably nice boy named Sam.
“Who you love... that isn’t important. It doesn’t change who you are, or how much we love you. Nothing could change that.”
Harrington doesn’t tip-toe around the very real issues she sets out to address, and Speechless is a story as much about the evils of ignorance, bigotry and hatred as it is friendship, love and acceptance. She approaches the insidious nature of homophobia with sensitivity and bravery, questioning casual acceptance of the status quo, and examining what ‘love’ really means.
“Hate is... it’s too easy,” he says. “Love. Love takes courage.”
The Verdict: Speechless is a tale of many things: love, hate and acceptance; the power of words, forgiveness and friendship. Harrington’s writing and insights are a joy, as are her cast of characters; their ‘AHA!’ moments resonate deeply, and fans will enjoy a brief but charming cameo from Harper and Jake, the protagonists of her superb debut, Saving June. Sweet, funny, poignant and heartbreaking, Speechless is a remarkable offering from an inimitable talent.
“I was never happy before, and I never even realized it. I know now. You can be surrounded by people and still be lonely. You can be the most popular person in school, envied by every girl and wanted by every boy, and still feel completely worthless. The world can be laid at your feet and you can still not know what you want from it.”
Cinder is not the fairy tale you remember. Dark and strange—as all proper fairy tales are—it seamlessly blends old and new with a future so b...more4.5 stars
Cinder is not the fairy tale you remember. Dark and strange—as all proper fairy tales are—it seamlessly blends old and new with a future so bizarre it would not seem out of place alongside the twisted stories of the brothers Grimm.
The Story Linh Cinder is New Beijing’s most talented mechanic. Broken androids, hovers, ports, she’s your girl. Yet despite her reputation and skill, Cinder is a cyborg—a human ‘repaired’ with robot parts following a horrific accident—for all intents and purposes, a slave. Reviled and subjugated by her stepmother and stepsister, her closest friend is an android with a faulty personality chip. But Cinder’s problems are about to get worse. The world is being torn apart by a devastating plague, and the Empire lives in constant threat of war with the strange race of—wait for it—moon people, called Lunars. When Crown Prince Kai turns up at Cinder’s shop with a broken android she finds herself thrust into political intrigue, betrayals and secrets that could change not only Cinder’s fate, but that of two worlds.
Once Upon A Time, There Was a Girl… She was fair and kind, but she had a wicked stepmother who… hmmm… Let’s start again.
Cinder is not Cinderella. Resigned to a life of injustice and hard labour, Cinder is no damsel in distress. She longs for something more, certainly, but she harbours no expectations or dreams of a knight in shining armour, or a happily ever after. The life of a cyborg is hard and cruel in Cinder’s world, and they’re treated as second-class citizens or tools at best, and reviled and used as test subjects at worse. But Cinder isn’t a tool, and she isn’t an object. She’s a very real teenage girl trapped in a shell of flesh and fabrication, one who feels with the intensity of any other, holds the capacity to love, dream and learn. Cinder isn’t the sobbing scullery maid of folk tales gone by—in fact, she’s physically incapable of tears—she’s something more. Something stronger, tougher. Pieces of her are forged steel, and they’re not her prosthetic limbs. This steel is tempered with fragility, and an aching longing for something more that makes her sympathetic, while never pathetic, or pitiful. Perhaps best of all, Cinder is smart. She’s intelligent, resourceful, and she has real skills and a trade. She’s an admirable and genuinely likeable character. Her humanity makes her relatable, and Cinder is, for all intents and purposes, as human as you and me.
Humans and Cyborgs and Androids, Oh My! It’s the question of Cinder’s humanity that drives a crucial part of the book’s plot. Alongside the prince charmings, wicked stepmothers and extravagant balls is a completely different moral story. The legal standing and recognition of cyborgs in Meyer’s world mirrors our own world’s civil rights shame, but in this world, there is no Martin Luther King Jr, no Ghandi, no Dalai Lama. There is no champion of equality, of the downtrodden. The towering sense of injustice is crushing and infuriating, and it lends Cinder a gravity completely separate from its classic roots. There is hope in this world, though. In one Prince Kai. While it would not be hard to wax poetic on the young prince’s many positive attributes, it’s sufficient to say that yes, he is a perfect Prince Charming, but more so, he’s the face of hope. He’s more than a happily ever after, if he is that at all, he’s the face of change, or a better future for his people.
The Verdict: Cinder (the book, not the character) is like the classic Cinderella you know and love in many ways. Except it’s not. Meyer’s writing has a dreamy, faery tale-like quality which perfectly complements Cinder’s faery tale premise. An odd, quirky world perpetuates the folk story feel, and it’s dark and twisty in a way stories like Cinderella traditionally were, pre-Disney. Yet it’s gritty in a manner these stories weren’t. Meyer’s taken Blade Runner, stuck it in a blender with Ever After—hell, why not add some Sailor Moon, too—to create something different, and wholly unexpected.
Cinder is tantalisingly familiar, but filled with archetypes, not clichés. Loathsome characters are tempered with touches of humanity, and the ‘good guys’ have faults that go beyond mere foibles. While one character in particular could go down as being all bad, it is diabolically well done.
Sci-fi for people who don’t ‘do’ sci-fi, Cinder has something to offer everyone: action, romance, politics, pending interplanetary war and cyborgs. Compelling and gripping from start to finish, Meyer has cut a rare and sparkling gem. Shining and multi-faceted, Cinder is rich and colourful. It’s not the faery-tale you know. It’s something more.(less)