Never Never confirms what I’ve always suspected – that Peter Pan is a twisted and evil little psycho! Even as a little kid watching the Disney movie, I always felt something was off about him. Seriously, why does everyone love Peter Pan? He’s kind of a dick.
Actually, now that I think about it, it’s a wonder how I haven’t come across a book like this sooner. I’ve always had a penchant for interesting and imaginative retellings, and Peter Pan stories are my weakness. I can never resist them. There’s just something about the original tale which lends itself to so many interpretations, and the nature of Neverland as a boundary-free and adventurous place in the minds of children, never the same from one person to the next, strikes me as whimsical and yet a bit unnerving at the same time. I find that aspect very interesting, and as it happens, Never Never makes use of it to good effect.
So, clearly I didn’t need much more incentive to check out this book. But the main draw of it and what eventually sealed the deal for me was the fact this story isn’t really about Peter Pan. It’s about James Hook. Never Never presents an intriguing scenario. What if the relationship between Pan and Hook went back much further than we thought? What if Hook wasn’t from Neverland, but instead grew up in London where he was whisked away from Kensington Gardens like all of Peter’s other Lost Boys?
Unlike the others though, James actually wanted to grow up. As a boy, he thought going to Neverland with Peter Pan would be the greatest holiday adventure, but soon discovers that the place is not all it’s cracked up to be. Peter is an arrogant and heartless tyrant, keeping the Lost Boys under his thumb, never allowing anyone to leave, and even the island’s weather is subject to his whims. Worse, the little maniac’s favorite pastime is killing pirates, which doesn’t sit right with James at all. James has always had a soft spot for pirates; in his old life, being the captain of a pirate ship was one of his greatest dreams.
So, James grows up. In a world that hates grown-ups. He manages to escape Peter’s attempts to kill him, after it becomes clear that James is becoming a man. But even after all these years, James cannot forgive Peter’s lies, or the fact that he stole his life away from him, trapping him in Neverland forever. And so begins the eternal game of cat-and-mouse between Pan and Hook.
First of all, I like getting into the heads of villains. The problem is, these kinds of books are always a bit tricky to pull off. However, Brianna Shrum gives us plenty of good reasons for us to understand why Hook hates Pan, and to be honest, after reading this book I probably wouldn’t say no to a chance to strangle the fairy boy myself. The question is though, does Never Never make Captain James Hook a more sympathetic character?
My answer is: it’s complicated. To understand why, you also have to understand how James Hook is portrayed in this book. The character starts off as a twelve-year-old boy, bamboozled into following the older, cooler Peter Pan to Neverland where he is trapped and grows up to become a man. Physically, James ends up being about twenty-years-old or thereabouts. But mentally (at least to me) he stays twelve, still the little boy who misses his home and his parents, who dreams of becoming a pirate captain, and no matter how much he hates Peter Pan, he still has trouble imagining himself taking a life. The story is in essence a giant tug o’ war with itself, because James is constantly going back and forth in his mind, wanting badly to kill Peter but also not being able to bring himself to do the deed. He’s indecisive and unsure of himself, like a little boy. It’s what sets him apart from Peter, the one is entirely unprincipled and has no morals.
This also makes Never Never tough to categorize. It is a Young Adult novel and goes into some mature themes – coalition killing among the residents of Neverland, pirate debauchery, a hand getting cut off and fed to a crocodile, and so forth – but the tone of the writing feels younger, almost like middle-grade, owing to James’ perspective and the fact that, trapped in this place of dreams, his mind never really had the chance to catch up with his body. It’s a very interesting contrast to see some of these horrible things through the eyes of someone who is technically still a child, and interpret a lot of the other situations in this light. For instance, it struck me that a couple of the pirate characters, like Starkey and Smee, were effectively surrogate parents. They berate James and then tolerate his subsequent tantrums, while in truth, deep down the captain craves nothing more than the approval of his first mate and cook. So yeah, not gonna lie, sometimes sharing James Hook’s headspace can be frustrating as hell, but now and then it can also be quite fascinating.
Ultimately, it’s probably easiest to describe Never Never as a coming-of-age tale. This kind of style is not going to work for everyone, but if you’re a fan of Peter Pan retellings, it might be worth checking out for a different perspective. The book isn’t heavy on plot, placing more emphasis on the protagonist’s internal dialogue and growth – no pun intended. Admittedly, the writing and plotting could do with more polish, but it is nonetheless impressive when taking into account the fact we’re talking about a book from a small independent publishing house. Bottom line, this was an enjoyable story and I really liked how there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface than meets the eye, and it’s not just a tick-tock croc! I had a good time....more
It’s been a while since I’ve read a satisfying maritime fantasy. “I wish you luck, love, and adventure,” says a character to the protagonist in the beginning of this novel, and incidentally that’s exactly what we get. Starring a princess masquerading as a young man, along with pirates, magic, a secret map and untold treasures, perhaps the “adventure” part is what we get the most of all in this story that takes place mostly on the high seas.
Princess Clarice is the daughter of the Duke of Swansgaarde, the eldest of twelve girls (I know…YIKES!) and one boy. While the arrival of a son and heir apparent was a much celebrated event, this left the family with a dilemma – they cannot possibly secure the futures of Clarice and her eleven sisters, as that many royal dowries would surely bankrupt the already small and modest Duchy. The girls, therefore, were raised from an early age to be able and independent, preparing for the day they would be expected to make their way into the world and find their own fortunes.
Sometimes, I get the feeling that a book really wants you to get into the action right away. These books tend not to weave the world’s history into the story and instead the authors push everything you need to know right up front. Readers of House of the Four Winds might find its prologue and the first couple of chapters to be exposition-heavy, outlining the Duchy of Swansgaarde’s circumstances and thus also explaining Clarice’s fighting prowess and motivations for traveling on her own to see the world. Granted, it’s not the most subtle way relaying the information, but it’s efficient and fast, and looking back, the introduction gave the book an almost fairy tale-like “Once upon a time…” quality, which was actually quite nice.
Then we get to the meat of the story, an action-adventure tale with a bit of romance thrown in. As the first princess to seek her fortune, Clarice has decided to play to her strengths as a sword fighter, and intends to hone her skills in the New World across the ocean. Disguising herself as a young nobleman named Clarence Swann, she is charmed by the charismatic and handsome navigator Dominick Moryet and books passage on his ship the Asesino, sailing under Captain Samuel Sprunt who is said to be extraordinarily lucky. There might have been more to Sprunt’s “luck”, however, as the unfortunate crew come to discover when tensions mount and an uprising becomes inevitable.
If your fancies run towards the nautical, then you’ll be in for a treat. Your journey will start with the down-and-dirty details of everyday ship living, as well as meeting the various crew members and officers, all of this seen through Clarice/Clarence’s eyes so it is all very natural and relevant to the young princess’ learning. The authors make it a fascinating experience and the story only gets better as the events unfold, leading to a mutiny and the discovery of a hidden island controlled by pirates and an evil enchantress. Pirates, of course, are always a fan favorite. The plot is also kept fun and lighthearted with the protagonist’s efforts to keep her disguise a secret, even as she begins to fall for the winsome Dominick. Mistrust between the factions aboard the ship keep the story interesting, not to mention the possibility of the crew of Asesino turning privateer themselves.
My only issue with this book involves certain aspects of the writing, especially when we are reading about significant events that I feel should hold more weight and suspense. In my opinion, these scenes weren’t very well executed. Deaths of important characters were glossed over unceremoniously. Fight scenes were cut-and-dried without much sense of urgency. And of course, the prime example was the critical and inevitable moment when Clarice’s identity is revealed to Dominick, and the result was a fizzle at best. There was no outrage and no shock of betrayal, and even if Dominick were the most understanding person in the world, I would not have expected his response to be “OMG I LOVE YOU TOO!” Things tied up just a little bit too neatly. Considering how Clarice kept the truth of her identity from the whole crew for pretty much the whole book, with everyone believing she was a man this whole time, I would have expected a more realistic reaction.
These tiny quibbles aside, The House of the Four Winds is a fine tale of swashbuckling adventure. The story is to be taken lightly and enjoyed at face value, and the book is the boisterous seafaring romp it was meant to be. As another bonus, it wraps up nicely with satisfying ending. This conclusion along with the series name of One Dozen Daughters leads me to wonder if future books will focus on Clarice’s sisters’ individual journeys instead, rather than continue with Clarice herself. If that turns out to be the case, then there’s no telling the places this series can go; the possibilities are exciting and endless. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing more....more
The adventures of Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko continue in Silver Mirrors, but the second novel of the Apparatus Infernum series takes a decidedly different tack. Of course, our two CID investigators have another mystery to solve, but their mission this time takes them across the ocean, over the treacherous peaks of the mountains, and deep into the fire elemental mining tunnels of the north.
Needless to say, I found Silver Mirrors to be a much more exciting novel than the first. The premise of the story – that the world’s elementals are unsettled and running amok as a result of the destructive events of the last book – is perhaps tenuous at best, but it hardly mattered. The important thing is, we get to go on an adventure out of the city and onto the high seas with our two protagonists. And thar be pirates!
Also threaded into this thrilling ride is the ever-present romantic side plot, with the sexual tension between Ritsuko and Mikani about to boil over and explode any second. Seriously, these two have it BAD for one another. And of course, everyone sees it except for them. If you prefer slow-burn romances and delayed gratification when it comes to love stories between characters, I can’t recommend these books enough. But it also behooves me to say it probably wouldn’t hurt to be prepared for how oblivious they are. Reading about the two of them dancing and flailing around each other’s emotions is a bit like watching a couple of hopeless players at game of charades. It’s hard to believe they actually make a living doing detective work and solving mysteries. But you know what they say about good things coming to those who wait. I think that goes for the characters and the readers both, and for now all we can do is root for Ritsuko and Mikani.
But I’m glad I decided to read this sequel not just for the progression of their romance, because there’s a lot more to the world of this series. Silver Mirrors expands it by having the characters travel afar, and not for the first time I wished a book would include a map. We also learn more about the magic and its limitations. For instance, when the behaviors of elementals are disrupted, the different instruments and devices they help power can also become unstable or fail spectacularly altogether. It wasn’t until this novel that I finally got a sense of the living, breathing connection between the mortal and the mystical.
The Aguirres are clearly not afraid to take their books into new territory. While Bronze Gods was more of a whodunit murder mystery, Silver Mirrors reads like an action-adventure with the characters embarking on a perilous quest. Book two may be a continuation of book one, but even so, the two stories can’t be any more different. It mixes things up and keeps this series interesting. Obviously, the Mikani and Ritsuko situation is something I’d like to keep an eye on, but I’m also looking forward to seeing what the authors will do in future installments and where they will take us next. ...more
Being a type A personality and stickler for organization, I employ the use of many different shelves to sort my books on Goodreads. Anyway, just to give you an idea of the kind of book we're talking about here, these are just some of the ones I've tagged for The Daedalus Incident: Action-Adventure. Aliens. Alternate History. Fantasy. Magic. Science Fiction. Time Travel. Oh and I almost forgot, Pirates, too.
As you can see, this is a novel that mixes elements from many genres. We're talking about some pretty wild stuff here, like 18th-century ships sailing between planets, or famous historical figures like Benjamin Franklin being one of the most skilled alchemists to ever come out of the American colonies. And that's just in one timeline. Another story thread takes place in 2132 in a whole other universe, where the personnel team on a trillion-dollar mining operations taking place on Mars has been experiencing some strange things lately -- things like a 300-year-old journal that is writing itself, or like a giant pyramid forming itself out of the desolate terrain.
What do these two disparate timelines have to do with each other, you ask? Now that's the million dollar question of the day. The answer is a journey that will take you beyond the limits of time and space, introducing you great characters you'll care about and fantastic new worlds to boot.
It did take a short period of adjustment, but once I got into the rhythm of jumping between the two different story lines, I started having a lot of fun. Admittedly, the 18th-century timeline was the one that held a greater appeal, featuring a world that was more interesting with its alchemical-powered ships, alien races living on different planets, and the explosive clashes against space pirates. In some ways, it read much like a high fantasy plot line done up in a different package, so you get things like planets instead of faraway kingdoms, alchemical artifacts instead of treasures troves, ancient alien forces instead of an evil demonic adversary, etc. No doubt my usual preference for the "historical" over the "futuristic" probably has something to do with it as well.
On the other hand, the 2132 Mars storyline started losing me around the halfway point -- though to be fair, I'm thinking that it's not the book. It's me. Start throwing around terms like "non-ionized radiation" or "particle physics" and you might as well be spraying your book with a big dose of anti-Mogsy repellent. I can't help it; my eyes seem predisposed to glaze over whenever they wander too close to hard sci-fi territory. I'm really more of a life sciences kind of person, whereas the more complex workings of the physical sciences tend to go over my head.
Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed the characters -- in both timelines. I love the immersive quality of Lt. Thomas Weatherby's voice, which sounds convincing coming from a man of his time period in the 1700s. There were a lot of memorable characters in that alternate universe, including Dr. Finch and Anne Baker. In the future Mars timeline, I liked following the central character of Lt. Shaila Jain, mostly because of all the different relationships she has to juggle while trying to keep things from falling apart at the mining base. And don't even get me started on that critical moment when the characters from both worlds finally meet -- oh come on, you had to have known that they would at some point! Anyway, it was definitely a scene worth waiting for, not to mention the full scope of the events that follow.
It's true that this one had its ups and downs, depending on where I was in the story, but I have to say the overall premise is unquestionable unique. I would recommend this to fans of cross-genre fiction or anyone looking to check out a book that blends fantasy and science fiction in an innovative way....more
This book sounded fascinating from its description, with words like "Pirates" and "Assassins" leaping out at me and pushing all the right buttons. AndThis book sounded fascinating from its description, with words like "Pirates" and "Assassins" leaping out at me and pushing all the right buttons. And while Angry Robot's young adult imprint Strange Chemistry has only just celebrated their one year birthday, they've already made a name for themselves in my book with their wide variety of unique and interesting titles. So, I'll admit I was going into this with rather high expectations.
A strong point for this book is that it doesn't waste time getting started. Our protagonist and narrator Ananna of the Tanarau faces a difficult and undesirable situation on page one. Hailing from a family of pirates, she is being forced by her parents to marry a scion of another pirate clan. As handsome as he is, Ananna dislikes him right away and figuratively jumps ship on her impending nuptials, leading the jilted young man's family to send an assassin after her.
And yet, I found the story's momentum rapidly loses it steam, even after Ananna and her would-be assassin Naji faces off one night and their skirmish accidentally results in a curse binding them together. Their subsequent quest to break it involves a journey to far off lands, impossible magic, and encounters with strange characters and creatures. On the face of it, that might sound like a lot, but very little of it actually advances the plot.
In essence, I think there's a lot of potential for this series, but this first book read like one long introduction. I waited for it to pick up, but there was really no climax. Upon completing this, I got the impression that I won't get into the real meat of the story until the next installment. It just felt like a very risky way to manage the pacing and a strange place to end the book, with no cliffhanger or anything, just a straightforward promise of more to come.
To its credit, though, the novel does give you plenty of reasons to want to continue with the series. Seeing how Ananna and Naji manages to break the curse will be plenty motivation enough, but their relationship also grows with complexity and is rife with romantic tension throughout the entire book. Those who are interested in seeing what becomes of that will probably want to pick up the next one too.
Bottom line, I don't think a whole lot happened in this book, but it does a decent job setting up the situation and the players. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for book two....more
Love how this book started -- right away, the reader is informed through a "special notice" that the great ship has vanished at sea, along wiThe Good:
Love how this book started -- right away, the reader is informed through a "special notice" that the great ship has vanished at sea, along with the 800 souls she was carrying. (Souls...the choice of that word in the report had a chilling effect on me). Immediately, you're drawn into this mystery and you're flipping to the first page of the first chapter, eager to start the story which would tell you what happened.
I was also impressed with just how much is in this book. There's so much magic and different races and different creatures in this book. Everyone seems to have an element of fantasy surrounding them, like Pazel the tarboy who has been blessed/burdened with a gift/curse that allows him learn and understand any language after only being exposed to them for a short time. But this power, however, also frequently gives him debilitating fits that interferes with his job aboard the decks.
Then there are the Ixchel, a race of tiny people that sailors often consider nothing more than pests because their tendency to stow away aboard ships. There are also the Flikkermen, Murths (like mermaids), and a race of gigantic, enormously strong humanoids called the Augrong, among others. Not to mention the presence of special animals that are "awakened" with self-awareness and the power of intellectual thought and speech. The book is a trove of new and interesting ideas for people who love fantasy fiction.
There is such thing as too much of a good thing. The plus of having so much going on in this book can also be seen as a minus. There are a lot of ambitious ideas in this ambitious story set in an ambitious fantasy world, and sometimes it can all get just a little too overwhelming.
The first few chapters were done really well, telling a sequence of events through the eyes of several characters, with each point-of-view picking things up right after where the last one left off. Unfortunately, it also made me feel so disoriented that I had to go back and read through them again just to make sure I didn't miss anything. At this point, there were still a lot of things I didn't understand, but I just made do with telling myself to trust the author, that hopefully there will come a time when everything will be made clear.
Ultimately, everything was explained, which was good, but I still thought it was a lot in the intro to heap upon your reader so quickly.
This is more of a personal preference, really, but I just don't think "maritime fantasy" is for me. Reading about great ships and pirates and the ocean and sailing and all that puts me more in mind of historical fiction, and so I had a really hard time bringing myself back to the fact I'm actually reading a fantasy. It's just really weird. No matter how long I'd been reading this, there was always a moment of discombobulation and confusion when I picked up the book again to continue where I left off.
Unfortunately, it really kept me from being immersed in this book and enjoying it fully. That said, those who love maritime settings and stories about ships would probably really love this. But even though that aspect wasn't exactly my cup of tea, I do have to say I was completely enchanted by the book's fantasy elements....more
Another recommendation from my husband, with the caveat that The Gap series can be a pretty dark and brutal read. I asked, "Dark and brutal like A SonAnother recommendation from my husband, with the caveat that The Gap series can be a pretty dark and brutal read. I asked, "Dark and brutal like A Song of Ice and Fire but with spaceships?" His answer: "Actually, that's not such a bad comparison, in the horrible-things-happening-to-the-main-characters kind of way." So I picked this up knowing exactly what I was in for.
This first book, originally meant to be a standalone novella, only reads like an introduction to the three main characters. However, it's still a great story, meant to explore the classic archetypes of hero, villain and victim by presenting a scenario in the first chapter and then telling the "real" story behind it in the rest of the book. Things are not always what they seem and characters are not always who you think they are.
I look forward to reading the second book so I can start getting to the actual story and meat of this series....more
Fun read. If The Lies of Locke Lamora was like Oceans 11 meets Oliver Twist, then Red Seas Under Red Skies is like Oceans 11 meets The Pirates of theFun read. If The Lies of Locke Lamora was like Oceans 11 meets Oliver Twist, then Red Seas Under Red Skies is like Oceans 11 meets The Pirates of the Caribbean.
This second book was a bit less serious than the first one, though still quite dark in its silliness. Perhaps it is because of all that goes on in it, as I have to say RSURS is also a lot more convoluted, with more plot twists, double crosses, triple crosses, and more aliases than you can keep track of.
I admit at some points this book almost made me lose my patience, which often makes things worse as my attention tends to start to drift when that happens. But rest assured, everything does tie up together and make sense in the end, even if all of it does turn out to be crammed into the last 100 pages.
Personally, I felt LoLL was a better book, but only because I enjoyed the glimpses into Locke's childhood in the first one. Though I rated this second book a little lower, it is by no means a slouch; I do like the fact it goes deeper into the relationship between him and Jean.
RSURS also leaves us one HUGE problem that still goes unresolved, and now I can't wait for the third book to come out so I can find out how the Gentlemen Bastards will manage to find the answer....more