And I wonder […] if the planet does not mind that we wound her surface or pillage her bounty, because she knows we silly warm things are not even a bAnd I wonder […] if the planet does not mind that we wound her surface or pillage her bounty, because she knows we silly warm things are not even a breath in her cosmic life. We have grown and spread, and will rage and die. And when all that remains of us is our steel monuments and plastic idols, her winds will whisper, her sands will shift, and she will spin on and on, forgetting about the bold, hairless apes who thought they deserved immortality.
I very rarely write reviews of a third book in a series/trilogy. I think it’s a combination of laziness and also a surety that my star rating is the only thing people are looking for anyway at this point. I mean, if you’ve made it to Book 3 there’s not much more I can say to convince you of anything. I also have to toe the line of how much I spoil. Has the reader of this review already read Book 2? Can I safely refer to the spoilers in that book at least?
I know I go on and on about Darrow and what a putz he is, but this series has been a really unique reading experience for me in that regard. Pierce Brown is an undeniably talented writer. He has created a fascinating world colored with some amazing characters I grew to care deeply about (Ragnar, Sevro, Victra, etc.). Not only are the action scenes written really well, but there’s so much meaty emotional stuff here, too. (I mean my heart still hurts thinking about that whipping scene in Book 1). So many great character dynamics and arcs.
Brown knows his stuff. So, why doesn’t Darrow work? Why is he such a Gary-Stu? IS he a Gary-Stu? Wouldn’t Sevro have been a more interesting character to follow and rally behind as a reader? And what was it that Brown did to make me finally care about Darrow as a character (because, reader, I do). I see a lot of people on Goodreads who don’t pursue the rest of the series because they don’t like Darrow and can’t get past it. I guess now that I’m on the RR fangirl train and gave this book 5 stars that I have to address it.
When you have this larger than life character, this One Great Hope, this almost spiritual figurehead, I think as a reader you need to be one step removed from them for it to work. There needs to be a mystery there for me to buy it. In the Red Rising trilogy you get to have these really human moments with Darrow inside his head with his doubts and fears and quiet thoughts and then on the next page he does a 180 and is giving a moving speech to “his people” talking to them like he’s a god. This line in Golden Son killed me:
“Fight for each other,” I say over the com to those at my side in the riverbed. “Or me.” I would have snorted into my com if I’d been by his side in that riverbed.
But I have come to the conclusion that at least 70% of Darrow hate would be erased simply if he weren’t written in first person. Take this section for example: I pace my bridge like a caged wolf, his meal just beyond the bars. The kindness of me hidden again behind the Reaper’s savage face. “Virga, are the Howlers in position?” I ask.
It is instantly more palatable in a different narration style: Darrow paces the bridge like a caged wolf, his meal just beyond the bars. The kindness of him hidden again behind the Reaper’s savage face. “Virga, are the Howlers in position?” he asks.
I literally can’t handle Darrow referring to himself in his head as a hungry caged wolf or having a “savage face”. But have an omniscient narrator (or another character) do it and I am genuinely creeped out a bit.
Now having said all that, with Morning Star I felt the warmest I’ve ever felt towards Darrow. To say the novel opens with him at an incredibly low point in his life would be an understatement. Darrow is broken emotionally, physically, mentally… and when you have your perfect god-characters broken, it’s certainly a sight to see.
Tears leak from my eyes, not from the pain, but from the casualness of his cruelty. It makes me feel so small. Why does it take so little for him to hurt me so much?
You can tell that Brown took pains to further prove how human and fallible Darrow is, to humble him as a character as well as elevate the secondary characters as truly heroic ((view spoiler)[ It is Sevro who shows up when all hope seems lost to help save the day. It is Cassius who turns the tide by switching sides. It is Mustang who becomes the next leader of the people. (hide spoiler)]). Yes, Darrow still comes up with the Best Plans Ever and rarely seems to break a sweat, but he only succeeds because of the people he has around him. It’s a team effort, and more so than the other books, you truly feel that. You believe Darrow’s need and love for these other strong characters, so it’s ok to just roll your eyes every once and awhile when he makes a dumb speech. His heart is in the right place and he’s damn good at his job. I’ll give him a break.
Things that were great: 1. Sevro. Bloodydamn Sevro. One moment he’s dropping gems like these: “If there’s two things in this world that can’t be killed, it’s the fungus under my sack and the Reaper of bloodydamn Mars. Haha!” And the next moment I’m ugly crying inside because Darrow refers to Sevro as his “mangy little guardian angel” and it’s just too true. (view spoiler)[ And that whole sequence of Sevro paralleling the whipping scene from Red Rising had me dying. My little Goblin has grown up so much!! (hide spoiler)] 2. Ragnar. RAGNAR. 3. Victra, Cassius, Kavax….just all of the intriguing side characters and their quirks and personalities. 4. World-building is even more fleshed out. Did you always wonder why they didn’t just invent robots to do the Reds job and thought it was a plothole that they didn’t? Well, jokes on you, because the rebels thought the same thing. There’s some really neat deconstructing of the Golds and their society that they have created, including the intentional stagnant nature of it. As a huge nerd, I really dug all of that. 5. This subtle love letter to the fans who hated Darrow in book 1: “Shit, I was a little idiot. You would have hated me. I was comfortable and arrogant and selfish on my knees. I liked being blind to everything because I was in love. And I thought for some reason that living for love was the most valiant thing in all the worlds. Even made Eo into something in my head that she wasn’t. Romanticized her and the life we had—probably because I saw my father die for some cause. And I saw all he left behind, so I tried to cling to the life he abandoned.” Preach, Darrow, preach! 6. Managed to nicely wrap up the series, while still leaving pleeeeenty of room left to explore in a continued or connected series. 7. Pierce, let's be friends. I like you a lot.
I always wondered how I survived the Institute. It damn well wasn’t because of my father. He was a gentle man. Mother is the spine in me. The iron. And I clutch her hand as if such a simple gesture could say all that. --- Absent love, fear will do nicely in a pinch. --- Her head is caved in. I stare at it. Wondering why I’m not horrified at the scene. Some part of me has died. But when did it die? Why did I not notice? --- I thought being a man was having control. Being the master and commander of your own destiny. How could any boy know that freedom is lost the moment you become a man. Things start to count. To press in. Constricting slowly, inevitably, creating a cage of inconveniences and duties and deadlines and failed plans and lost friends. --- I’m a bloodydamn Helldiver with an army of giant, mildly psychotic women behind me and a fleet of state-of-the-art warships crewed by pissed-off pirates, engineers, techs, and former slaves. ...more
I hate how my body shivers at the idea of glory. There’s something deep in man that hungers for this. But I think it weakness, not strength, to abandoI hate how my body shivers at the idea of glory. There’s something deep in man that hungers for this. But I think it weakness, not strength, to abandon decency for that strange darker spirit.
So two years have passed, and we open upon Always Perfect Darrow failing at something and causing the metaphorical space shit to hit the fan. WHAT A DELIGHT. I don’t consider that a spoiler, I consider it a neon sign incentive beckoning you to the glory that is Golden Son, because that’s only the beginning. Y’all, Darrow is a great leader, he’s a great orator, I’m not trying to hide his bushel under a basket, but as a reader when I don’t worry about my protagonist’s success or well-being, then we have a problem. I worry about Frodo Baggins, because he is a smol hobbit who is brave and pure but inexperienced and in a dark world. I am concerned for Harry Potter, because he is a slacker who needs to copy Hermione’s homework, but tomorrow he might need to fight the most powerful wizard of all time. I root for Katniss Everdeen, because she never believed her own Mockingjay hype and all she ever wanted was to be an introvert in the woods with her family.
So when you have Darrow—he of the perfect planning and hidden cards up his sleeve and never breaking a sweat—it’s hard to become invested, it’s hard to care. You know all of his plans will eventually work, you know everyone will eventually realize how brilliant he is. In fact, you will even hear Darrow describe himself TO HIMSELF as being this revolutionary, cosmic, world-shaking titan of change. My eyes will detach if they roll back any further.
I didn’t know if I could survive another whole novel of that (as much as I enjoyed most everything else about Red Rising). So to say I was pleasantly surprised when Darrow epically failed at something one chapter into Golden Son would be an understatement. Reader, I felt hope! Darrow just may be human after all! I may need to start worrying! I might become…invested!!!
But ok, does Brown eventually resort to his old tricks and take advantage of the two year time jump to cheat a little by having Darrow hold back key information AGAIN from the reader in order to shock us later (a pet peeve of mine)? Yes, but I’ll admit it’s a great scene, a BANANAS scene. And from that scene on the book takes a sharp turn to Crazy Town (like the Passage scene in book 1), and things only get better.
Not only does Darrow continue to improve as a character, but certain themes and plotlines from Red Rising that I wasn’t that fond of (vague to avoid spoilers) are revisited/expanded, and provide the reader with more meat to chew on. I appreciated that. “Remember that character who did this awful thing that at the time we kind of brushed under the rug? They’re actually still awful and it’s a pretty big deal! Realism!” Pretty much all of my non-Darrow criticisms from Red Rising are addressed (which is no small feat as I am the queen of Cynicism).
Praises: we have more Sevro! We have sweet friendship! We have sassy villains! There's duels, double crossing, betrayals. There's people firing themselves into space onto other ships or even shooting themselves onto planets. Cranky old war vets! Family and friend reunions! Sadistic torture! Complicated love lives! SUPER CUTE LOYALTY! Death & despair & sadness :(
And if none of the above convinces you to keep at it with this series, just know that you’ll miss out on reading about my main man….Ragnar. The coolest, scariest, sweetest, Grootiest Viking prince my heart will ever know.
Oh, and the cliff hanger to this book is insane.
Wrapping up this review by saying thank you to Pierce Brown. Brown, you listened. You heard the criticisms of Red Rising and you learned, you grew, and you wrote a stellar sequel. I love your writing, I love your brain…onward & upward, my friend. Onward & upward.
How cruel a life, that the sight of my dead wife means hope.
“I will die. You will die. We will all die and the universe will carry on without care. All that we have is that shout into the wind - how we live. How we go. And how we stand before we fall.”
That's what Society does--spread the blame so there is no villain, so it's futile to even begin to find a villain, to find justice. It's just machinery. Processes.
And what is the bloodydamn point of surviving in this cold world if I run from the only warmth it has to offer?
Modern war is fearing the air, the shadows, fearing the silence. Death will come and I won't even see it....more
3.5 stars. I feel as I normally do when I give a lower rating than I expected to a sequel (of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed) even though I’m still3.5 stars. I feel as I normally do when I give a lower rating than I expected to a sequel (of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed) even though I’m still looking forward to the next book. That feeling is guilt. Like, somehow I personally failed this book as a reader. What’s my problem?? Let me defend my case!!
I never wrote a review for The Passage, so let me do a super mini one now. It was slow going at first. Very literary. Which isn’t a bad thing, but when you’re reading a doorstopper of a book, you kind of want the pace to pick up (especially if it’s a supposed post-apocalyptic vampire horror adventure novel). But there was a certain charm that developed in the first third of the novel. It does its job of setting up just how the “end of the world” came to be and introduces some important characters and storylines that, believe it or not, come in to play after the 100 year time jump takes place for the remainder of the novel. Everything ends up coming together beautifully and you appreciate the whole journey it took to get there. Plot-wise, after the 100 year time jump I was in heaven. The pace ramps up, the actions does too, and you follow this colourful cast of characters on a very entertaining and harrowing quest. The world-building is delicious, the characters memorable. I was delighted when I neared the end and realized it was actually being set up for a sequel (although, IMO, it could still be read as a great stand-alone). So imagine my surprise when I finally got my hands on the sequel and…it just didn’t hit all the same high notes. In fact, the few things I didn’t care much for in the first novel are almost exaggerated in the sequel.
The novel begins and we’re back 100 years previous to before the vampire virus outbreak following a few new sets of characters. This immediately puts the breaks on your anticipated-sequel-momentum as a returning reader. In the grand scheme of things it feels redundant, but I’ll admit on a smaller scale I can appreciate it for Cronin’s skills as a writer. Each window into a character feels like a short story piece and Cronin does a fine job of making them interesting and empathetic. But I kept wanting the “real” story to start. I literally flipped ahead in the pages to see when Peter & Alicia & Amy and the old gang were going to show up. Comforted that they would indeed, I slogged on through the first section.
Some Annoyances (really One Glaring Annoyance that I will spoiler cut)
(view spoiler)[ In The Passage it gave me pause when Sarah and Hollis ended up together. He is stated as being quite a bit older than her, so I was a little skeeved knowing a grown man wrote these characters, but I set that feeling aside, because I can’t be too big of a hypocrite since I like older guys myself….but it still stuck out to me. Not to mention the whole slightly weird vibe I got between Adult Peter (19? 20? Idk) and 100+ year old Amy who happens to look like a 12 year old. I blamed that one on myself. Like, of COURSE it’s not sexual/romantic, they just have a transcendent bond, get your head out of the gutter, Jessica!!! Peter loves Alicia (my fave). And the ending pretty much confirms all of this.
Then here comes The Twelve and right out of the gate you get this dude named Kittridge who is a grizzled 35yr old military guy who meets an 18yr old named April right after the virus outbreak and….they have an intimate conversation alone together while on watch duty and multiple times in his head Kittridge waxes poetic on how ~mature~ April is for her age, how ~beyond her years she is~, how ~knowing and intelligent and wise and what an old soul~. So, of course you know they’re going to have sex later and it’s beautiful and pure and destiny and the ONLY point of that entire plotline is that April is the ancestor to my favorite character 100 years later, Alicia. So, already I got a bad taste in my mouth. Like, was this really necessary, Cronin?
Then I started getting these weird vibes as I continued reading that…wait a minute…is Peter…is he…..is he in love with AMY? Does she love him? Is this, like, a thing? Doesn’t she LOOK 13? Isn’t Peter 25+ right now?? What happened to his love for Alicia and their tragic will they/won’t they? I knew immediately that something mystical was going to happen to age Amy up. I didn’t know what, but I was sure Cronin was going to pull some BS to make it happen. AND I WAS TECHNICALLY RIGHT. Through some extremely vague and confusing transformation process Amy magically turns into a WOMAN, and everyone is in awe and Peter has heart eyes and Alicia basically tells Amy that she can have Peter. GAG ME. Other things happen that give me hope that all of it wasn’t a total loss, which I’ll choose not to spoil, but still. (Btw, I could totally deal with Amy loving Peter because in her own mind she is much older and it isn’t her fault she looks like a child. I still think it’s weird, because at her age I’d think she has evolved beyond romantic/sexual love to some degree, but whatever. The reverse though, Peter loving Amy, is inexcusably gross.)
Oh, and I am not even going to TALK about Alicia’s horrible, offensive rape plotline. Can’t be a strong female character unless you’re horrifically raped I guess. (hide spoiler)]
These problematic plotlines are just glaring reminders to me that I am reading a novel written by a man. A man who clearly has issues with women being WOMEN and not girls. So yeah, that kinda killed my buzz a bit.
The good? Listen, I LOVE LOVE LOVE when Cronin writes about and describes these post-apocalyptic colonies. I loved them in The Passage and I love them here. Kerrville, the oil refinery, that psycho Holocaust-esque work camp. I eat it all up. I think (view spoiler)[Sarah (hide spoiler)] (who has never been in my top list of characters) and the sections at the work camp and the rebellion were the strongest & most engaging of the entire book. I couldn’t wait to return to them.
Stick to your strengths, Cronin! Quit being so artsy-fartsy and lofty and ~literary~ with this mystical prophetic mumbo jumbo. Quit focusing on boring pre-apocalypse stuff. Give us The Gang, give us colony life, give us survival, give us action and horror and rebellion. It’s what you’re great at, whether you like it or not. ...more
“Only one way to win when you're being chased by someone bigger and tougher than you. Turn straight around, punch their teeth out, and hope the gods a“Only one way to win when you're being chased by someone bigger and tougher than you. Turn straight around, punch their teeth out, and hope the gods are fond of you.”
I almost rated this book 4.5 stars, but then I checked myself before I wrecked myself. Did I love this book as much as or more than Lies? No. Was it still one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years? AYE! If only all the books I read could be this rich & fun & nerve-racking!
This review will attempt to be as spoiler-free/plot detail-free as possible.
Before I read Red Seas I skimmed a few reviews here on Goodreads and was distressed to find that, unlike the first book, readers were clearly varied on their opinions of this sequel. I saw a lot of 3 stars and a LOT of 4 stars. However, I think that reading these books back to back helped me actually see through a lot of the criticisms those readers had (readers who probably spent a few years waiting for the sequel, building it up in their heads, waiting for perfection).
People like to give Lynch crap for his pacing. Even with Lies there were the naysayers who claimed all his flashbacks and “exposition” chapters took away from the momentum of the plot. I never had an issue with that. Everything always informed something else, there was no added fluff or needless distraction. Every story shared was entertaining and enlightening. Interestingly enough, in this sequel we get no such childhood flashbacks and very little exposition interludes. (There are a few “flashbacks” in the beginning that cover what all has happened in the two years that have passed since the ending to Lies). The complaints of pacing in this novel are now what some people consider a cobbled together narrative of two different stories: one Oceans 11 heist novel and one Pirate/war novel. (First of all, I see no problem with having both of those things in one book. More fun for me!!! Two of my favorite things!!) But also, people are acting like this is something new and not exactly the type of thing Lynch does in his stories. In Lies we begin with a con that the Gentleman Bastards are pulling on a rich noble family, which soon becomes halted/changed by the much bigger events happening concerning the Grey King and the Capa. The con on the nobles later becomes entwined with their dealings with the Grey King, but for a long while it DOES take a backseat. We have the same thing happening in Red Seas. Crazy fun heist is suddenly halted as our Gentleman Bastards are thrown into something far messier and even more dangerous. But the initial heist is not forgotten and comes into play later. Basically, all these critics need to calm down.
And concerning our supremely lovable protagonists, Locke & Jean, Lynch does an excellent job developing their (already incredibly layered) characters. I just LOVE seeing Locke get out of a tight corner with just his wits, but I think I love it even more when he finds himself in situations he can’t snark his way out of. (view spoiler)[When they were only given a month to train to be “seamen”, when they were told it would take a normal person 5 years at sea to get caught up, I almost rolled my eyes thinking how unrealistic it was going to be when they finally got out to sea and managed to fool everyone into thinking they were expert pirates or whatever. Needless to say, their epic failure was actually much appreciated. The moment the kitten thing became an issue and then Caldris bit it (RIP), I was like OMG THIS IS THE WORST. I love reading a book and having ZERO ideas about how the characters will get out of a mess. (hide spoiler)] AND THERE WERE SO MANY OF THOSE MOMENTS THIS GO ROUND. I was on the edge of my seat!! How are these brilliant IDIOTS surviving THIS?!
And now, re: women, wish fulfilment, and feminism. My ONE and ONLY complaint about Lies is that there are no major female characters, and that the one with the most potential gets fridged very early on (and the second most influential female character isn’t introduced until halfway through the novel). However, I appreciated the mentions of all of the female guards, fighters, thieves, nobles, artisans and such that are clearly commonplace in this world. You rarely read a sentence that goes like “the men were all lined up…”, instead it will read “the men and women were all lined up…”. Such a simple thing can mean so much to readers like me. But it still felt a little more like talk rather than action. Kind of pseudo-representation without any actual bite. So color me shocked when I read Red Seas and half, if not over half, of the people Locke & Jean interact and deal with are women! These women are guards, assistants, black alchemists, locksmiths, assassins, pirates, gamblers, you name it! Not only that, but some of the major players, several of my absolute favorite characters, are women and they are given plenty of moments to shine (and also interact with other women!). I almost feel as if Scott Lynch, a feminist, read criticisms of his first novel and he thought, “Dang. People missed that I’m a feminist? Let me be extra clear.” And he addressed the issue intentionally. And I love him for it. It doesn’t feel forced to me at all. It feels true to this world and true to the story Lynch is trying to tell.
Please, oh please, treat yourself to this excerpt of Scott Lynch LAYING IN on some misogynist online who criticised Red Seas for having characters who are “unrealistic stereotypes of political correctness”--because women pirates can’t exist--and “unrealistic wish fulfilment” (this dude should never read a history book, btw):
Lynch: You know what? Yeah, Zamira Drakasha, middle-aged pirate mother of two, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy. I realized this as she was evolving on the page, and you know what? I fucking embrace it.
Why shouldn’t middle-aged mothers get a wish-fulfillment character, you sad little bigot? Everyone else does. H.L. Mencken once wrote that “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” I can’t think of anyone to whom that applies more than my own mom, and the mothers on my friends list, with the incredible demands on time and spirit they face in their efforts to raise their kids, preserve their families, and save their own identity/sanity into the bargain.
Shit yes, Zamira Drakasha, leaping across the gap between burning ships with twin sabers in hand to kick in some fucking heads and sail off into the sunset with her toddlers in her arms and a hold full of plundered goods, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy from hell. I offer her up on a silver platter with a fucking bow on top; I hope she amuses and delights. In my fictional world, opportunities for butt-kicking do not cease merely because one isn’t a beautiful teenager or a muscle-wrapped font of testosterone. In my fictional universe, the main characters are a fat ugly guy and a skinny forgettable guy, with a supporting cast that includes “SBF, 41, nonsmoker, 2 children, buccaneer of no fixed abode, seeks unescorted merchant for light boarding, heavy plunder.”
You don’t like it? Don’t buy my books. Get your own fictional universe. Your cabbage-water vision of worldbuilding bores me to tears. […] As for claims to “realism,” your complaint is of a kind with those from bigoted hand-wringers who whine that women can’t possibly fly combat aircraft, command naval vessels, serve in infantry actions, work as firefighters, police officers, etc. despite the fact that they do all of those things— and are, for a certainty, doing them all somewhere at this very minute. Tell me that a fit fortyish woman with 25+ years of experience at sea and several decades of live bladefighting practice under her belt isn’t a threat when she runs across the deck toward you, and I’ll tell you something in return— you’re gonna die of stab wounds.
What you’re really complaining about isn’t the fact that my fiction violates some objective “reality,” but rather that it impinges upon your sad, dull little conception of how the world works. I’m not beholden to the confirmation of your prejudices; to be perfectly frank, the prospect of confining the female characters in my story to placid, helpless secondary places in the narrative is so goddamn boring that I would rather not write at all. I’m not writing history, I’m writing speculative fiction. Nobody’s going to force you to buy it. Conversely, you’re cracked if you think you can persuade me not to write about what amuses and excites me in deference to your vision, because your vision fucking sucks.
So yeah, another winner in my book. Heists, badass lady pirates, Locke & Jean’s beautiful friendship, PIRATES, kittens, swag, poison, JEAN IN LOVE AND IN LOVE WITH EZRI WHO IS THE BEST. (Seriously tho, Ezri and Jean, two huge nerds that could also kill you in like 30 seconds. Gah, I was literally blushing they were so cute together.) (view spoiler)[ I SO CALLED HER DEATH. As soon as she agreed to run off with Locke & Jean and have a happy ending together I almost started crying because I knew that sealed the deal that she would die. The only other alternative would have been her saying she couldn’t leave her pirate life behind for Jean, but as soon as she said she would it was like a nail in the coffin. We can’t have nice things!!! (hide spoiler)] Literally starting book 3 today!
And of course, quotes:
“When you can't cheat the game, you'd best find a means to cheat the players.”
“You are beyond mad," said Locke after several moments of silent, furious thought. "Full-on barking madness is a state of rational bliss to which you may not aspire. Men living in gutters and drinking their own piss would shun your company. You are a prancing lunatic.”
“Gods, when did we discover how easy it is to be cruel to one another?”
“I'll wager I would have screwed things up regardless. But. . .can you imagine those poor bastards grappling their prey, leaping over the rails, swords in hand, screaming, 'Your cats! Give us all your gods-damned cats!”
“Maxilan, darling." Locke raised one eyebrow and smiled. "I knew you were driven, but I had no idea you could smoulder. Come, take me now! Jean won't mind; he'll avert his eyes like a gentleman.”
“It had the expression common to all kittens, that of a tyrant in the becoming.”
“Gods. So this is what a command is. Staring consequences in the eye and pretending not to flinch.” ...more
Y’ALL I ended 2015 with a bang in book world! This book was 5 stars from start to finish. No warm-up period, no moments of doubt, no dumb ending. ThisY’ALL I ended 2015 with a bang in book world! This book was 5 stars from start to finish. No warm-up period, no moments of doubt, no dumb ending. This was a glorious fantastical trainwreck of fun times that made me feel feelings again! BOOKS ARE AWESOME ISN’T IT GREAT??
You like heists? You like snappy dialogue and colorful ensembles of 3-dimensional characters? You like Victorian London vibes and self-reliant orphans and rags to riches tales and gangs and just a dash of magic? You like being on the edge of your seat and honestly not knowing how your characters are getting out of this one again? You like character arcs and surprises and literary sleights of hand? You like moral ambiguity and bands of misfits?
Yeah, me too.
Synopsis: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone…. Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.
Word to the wise: there is no info dump introduction chapters setting up this world & easing you into anything. This is a pre-established world Bardugo has made and there are a couple times you’ll be like, “wait, what?” at some reference or slang word. Tolkein has Middle Earth, Bardugo has the “Grisha” universe. She has written and published a separate “Grisha” trilogy with different characters that takes place a couple years before the events of Six of Crows. That series would definitely benefit a person in familiarising them with this Grisha world before reading Six of Crows, but it’s not necessary. Six of Crows is the first book by Bardugo I have ever read and I (clearly) enjoyed it. And you can guess what I’LL be reading until the Six of Crows sequel comes out next year! She has also written several “Grisha” short stories.
But back to Six of Crows. Amidst all the action and intrigue and twists and turns, Bardugo still manages to bring to life six incredibly rich characters. These characters are layered and they grow and they are given individualized character arcs all their own. Each one is even set up wonderfully for the sequel & I am beyond excited to see where Bardugo takes them. This was a strong first book in a series & I have high hopes for the sequel, Crooked Kingdom.
(huge spoilers: (view spoiler)[ Kaz setting aside his vengeance—the one thing that has driven him from the beginning—in order to pursue something entirely new, a love that isn’t possible with his condition. Will Dirtyhands finally remove those gloves for good?
Inej finally facing the one person who made her feel helpless and then getting the best of her—only to have her dreams of vigilante pirate justice snatched away as she is taken hostage. Will the Wraith who has conquered her fear save herself or need saving? (Little nervous about this one; Inej is not some Damsel in Distress and she better have agency in the sequel—but I trust Bardugo.)
Nina making the ultimate sacrifice to protect her friends—will the addiction claim her or will her brief stint on the dark side mar her newly restored relationship with Matthias?
Matthias making the hardest decision of his life by betraying his country and brotherhood and beliefs—how will he deprogram and relearn a new way of viewing the world?
Jesper finally coming to terms with not only his abilities but also his gambling problem—will he step up his game or run even farther from his problems?
Wylan changing his whole effing appearance and choosing the gang over his family—will he be able to go up against his father and potentially even have to kill him himself? Also, will he finally get his own chapters? (hide spoiler)])
One thing to nitpick? (view spoiler)[ The first book ends by setting up the sequel as though it will be an even bigger, crazier, more impossible job than the first…but how is rescuing someone (an insanely talented, deadly someone) from some random rich guy so much harder than infiltrating and escaping the most highly guarded and secretive military establishment ever? I don’t know… GUESS I JUST NEED THE SEQUEL RIGHT NOW. (hide spoiler)]
Please go read this book so we can talk about it! ...more
I was totally expecting this to be a letdown 2 or 3 star sequel, based on all the negative reviews & comparisons it gets to Poison Study, but I'mI was totally expecting this to be a letdown 2 or 3 star sequel, based on all the negative reviews & comparisons it gets to Poison Study, but I'm glad I didn't listen to the haters, because I really liked it!! Totally solid sequel. Lots of character growth for Yelena, plenty of action, I had no problems with how take charge & fearless she was, and I dug that Valek actually only played a small part in the last third of the book. This isn't some plotless YA that is just an excuse for the lovers to gaze at each other all mopey while nothing really happens, this is YELENA'S journey and crap is going down and evil is afoot and sometimes a girl has to rely on herself and her own abilities! ...more
Was this book heavily inspired by Harry Potter (The Goblet of Fire in particular) and The Hunger Games? Yes. Was all of the the foreshadowing super obWas this book heavily inspired by Harry Potter (The Goblet of Fire in particular) and The Hunger Games? Yes. Was all of the the foreshadowing super obvious? You bet. Was there a love triangle? No, there were two. Did An Ember in the Ashes consume my thoughts for the several days it took me to read? Surprisingly, yes!
Book synopsis: Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom.
I don't know what it is that captivates me about certain books. Books like Harry Potter & Hunger Games that I could read again & again. That transport me to their worlds so easily and so completely. I ache for the characters, their struggles & hero journeys. These books feel like home. That's the simplest way to describe it. We all have favorite books that speak to us that way.
An Ember in the Ashes does not fall into that revered category for me. I don't know why. Maybe the writing style wasn't just right (it had its moments). Maybe it took me a little too long to take to certain characters. Or maybe this was the first time in a while I've read such a "hyped" book after it was already hyped. Oh, and did I mention the two love triangles?
So let's talk about what this book got right.
Elias. He isn't a cocky, angry douchebag (with a secret heart of gold)--although we DO get one of those, I'm looking at you, Keenan--and he also isn't a brooding mysterious psychopath. He's a young man with a horrific upbringing who is wrestling with the tension often found between self-preservation and doing what's right. I really enjoyed Elias' chapters. I found that tension intriguing. I loved that he had complex thoughts & feelings and that he was on a journey not just to free his body, but his heart & soul, too.
Laia. I know, I know, I wasn't crazy about her at first either. Mostly because I knew she was intentionally being written as overly-cowardly in the beginning so that her ~growth~ would be more pronounced. But I did enjoy her quiet strength. Her unwavering loyalty to her brother. (view spoiler)[I seriously loved that her ultimate motivation for saving Elias in the end was for her brother, not twu luvv for someone she's spoken with like 5 times. You go, girl!! Blood before studs. (hide spoiler)] Her non-fierceness was a fresh change from most YA with their Tough Girl characters (although we DO get one of those--I'm looking at you, Helene). Although she did suffer from multiple instances of injured-damsel-needs-to-be-carried-by-a-hunky-babe. But let's be real. If I ever found myself in one of these dreadful dystopian/fantasy worlds, I would way more likely be a Laia rather than a Katniss (or Helene in this case). I couldn't fight my way out of a paper bag, but you can bet I would sneak my way out meekly. Warrior Fighter Babe is the dream, and terrified yet determined weakling is the reality for most of us.
Gripping story, and while there are mild annoyances (the transparent foreshadowing I mentioned being a big one--so many times I wanted to shake the main characters and go "DUH, honey! It's so obvious, please put it together!"), this book never made me angry or offended me. Even the love triangles are done well! As realistic as a love triangle can be, really. A genuine feeling out of two different people, comparing/contrasting the dynamics. Is this lust or love? Attraction or a connection? Comfort or compatibility? Head or heart?
Overall: Tense, scary, shocking, disturbing...I stayed up past my bed time several nights in a row. I love riddles & trials & destiny & free will & rebels & empires. I got it all. Needless to say, I'm frothing at the bit for the sequel. Which comes out in August. Of 2016. Ten burning hells!...more
This book was a nice little treat! Was I on the edge of my seat throughout or an emotional mess near the end? No. But I did look forward every day toThis book was a nice little treat! Was I on the edge of my seat throughout or an emotional mess near the end? No. But I did look forward every day to stealing some time away after work at night to read. And I find myself thinking about it at random points in the day & have already purchased the sequel. This book is not pulse-pounding, gut-wrenching fantastical escapism. It is a fairly simple story that does several key things very well, and that can really be all you need in a good, light read.
(fyi: The pacing, plot, etc. feel like YA, but the characters are all older (20s, 30s) which was refreshing, and it also dealt with some really “mature” themes (rape, abuse, etc.). So, I might classify this book more as “New Adult” or just plain adult. Whatever who cares.)
Plot: About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...
Things I liked:
1. The protagonist. Yelena is a smart, intelligent, proactive fighter. She is open to learning & wants to improve. She desires to trust & open herself to relationships despite her tragic history. This is not a shy wallflower who sits around waiting for things to happen to her. She's like, Someone’s trying to kill me? Better train up & learn how to defend myself. I like you, Yelena. She’s not a perfect snowflake from the beginning, she has to work hard to get better at her skills. Her training motivated me to get off my butt IRL, I won’t lie. What an inspiration.
2. Valek. One of the FIRST times in YA that I haven’t seen the love interest coming from a mile away. (In large part because Yelena did NOT go into exhaustive detail about how chiselled his physique was & how piercing his eyes were & how honey blonde caramel frappuccino his hair was the minute she laid eyes on him). In fact, I thought Valek was possibly going to be a mentor figure or something until like a third of the way through the book when Yelena caught herself admiring him, and I was like OOOoooohhhH. Then by the middle of the book I was crushin’. (but OK, I just finished watching Netflix’s Daredevil, and you can’t blame a girl for picturing Charlie Cox/Matt Murdoch as Valek in all his assassin/black-clothes wearing glory. I AM WEAK.) But anyway, BLESS Snyder for creating a romance between equals. People who value one another’s talents & abilities & who challenge each other. AND MY GOSH they can actually function as individuals with their own desires, plans & goals.
3. I’m just going to go ahead and say that the characters in general were great. Some of the villains were a little too hammy & one-dimensional, but overall everyone was pretty layered & real. Janco & Ari are mah boyz.
4. The world was intriguing enough, I want to see more & spend more time in it. It didn’t drown you in exposition & world-building, and I’m glad. There’s a lot of sequels, we have time for that.
5. All dat castle drama & political scheming.
6. Attempts at addressing female equality (yes it’s a sexist world, but the new Commander encourages women to work in all areas of life, including the military), and there is a trans character which I’ve never come across in historical fantasy before.
A drawback of this book though? All of the “foreshadowing” was painfully obvious. No twist truly shocked me. There was a couple, “duh, Yelena, put it together” moments. A pity. I hear the sequel is hit or miss. We’ll see. Even if it’s lame, I think I’ll read the third one anyway. Such is my thirst for Valek. ...more
This book was bananas and so much fun. CRAZY SCIENCE. Much robots. Very clones.
Not gonna lie, I also chose to read this book because it appears to beThis book was bananas and so much fun. CRAZY SCIENCE. Much robots. Very clones.
Not gonna lie, I also chose to read this book because it appears to be a standalone and I didn't want to start a new series, but that "epilogue" had cliffhanger all over it. WHY. But I would totally read a sequel tho.
Shout out to the author for passing the Bechdel Test with flying colors AND having a WOC lead. I NEED MORE OF THIS PLEASE & THANK YOU.
And my mind is still reeling from those last few chapters, so sorry this review is basic & lame. ...more