These days, Dystopians are a dime a dozen. Sometimes, when I’m surfing Goodreads, looking for nThis review was first posted on http://rubysreads.com.
These days, Dystopians are a dime a dozen. Sometimes, when I’m surfing Goodreads, looking for new titles, I almost hope to find a zombie story. Er, kidding. Sort of. Anyway, I find Dystopians increasingly difficult to get into. After a while, everything starts to feel samey. When I started Skylark, I thought it was going to be one of those Dystopians. Right off the bat, it reminded me of Enclave, by Ann Aguirre. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the action to spin off in a new direction, to catch me up in its whirlwind and carry me away in its story.
Skylark has a number of familiar Dystopian elements. There is a corrupt government that exploits its people, and lies and misleads them. There are cannibal/zombies. The population goes hungry while the PTB grows plump with their spoils. There’s lots of talk about what’s good for the population at large. What’s a little bit different is the quality of the narration, and the element of Steampunk that she injects into her world-building. As an added bonus, Spooner’s ability to bring the reader into her setting is remarkable. I had clear visual images of Skylark’s ruined world, particularly the Iron Wood.
The heroine–whose name, delightfully, is Lark–was less enjoyable. For the first part of the book, she’s mistrustful, whiny and squeamish. Never mind that I’d probably be the same way. This isfiction, y’all, and I expect my MCs to have more backbone than I will ever possess. I think my frustration with Lark was based on one major thing: She doesn’t trust Oren, the wild boy who saves her from certain death. She gets all judgy and turns up her nose at his attempts to feed her, to help her survive. I (and I say this with my nose thrust firmly in the air) loved Oren from the start. Lark was just a little late to the party, though she arrives in the end. Is it too late? You’ll have to answer that one for yourself.
I mentioned that Skylark has Steampunk elements. Besides the large machines endemic to Steampunk tales, Skylark also has a small shapeshifting machine called a pixie. Originally designed to be spies for the corrupt government, Lark eventually gains one as a follower. This pixie–ultimately named Nix–is maybe good and maybe bad, but all fun. The parts where it tries to resemble a bee tickled me pink. I love small companion creatures–like Gogu fromWildwood Dancing and thePerspicacious Loris from the Leviathan books.
Skylark ends with a couple of surprises–some predictable and some not–but mostly leaves me with a desire to read whatever comes next in this series. I’m excited to be able to see another city in Lark’s ruined world. I like to think about how cities and cultures grow when they’re isolated from one another, so I can’t wait to follow Lark further on her journey. I’ll make it to 2013–but just barely!...more
It's been a while since I've read Steampunk, and probably longer since I've reviewed any. SThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
It's been a while since I've read Steampunk, and probably longer since I've reviewed any. Scott Westerfeld is definitely the writer to make me question why this is so. I love the combination of technologies--both mechanical and biological--that are at war in this series. It's truly a unique addition to the genre, and I'm sorry to see the end of it. Scott Westerfeld is a genius at world-building. This series has, in part, reminded me once or twice of Kenneth Oppel's Airborn in that both books feature a character more comfortable in the air than on the ground. But each author takes the concept of a dirigible, and runs with it in an entirely different direction. If you haven't read Airborn, by the way, you can't really call yourself a fan of Steampunk. Joking--you can, but it's a book you shouldn't miss. I don't know how I managed to let another book hijack my review of Goliath. I'm just not sure what I want to say about this book. It flowed brilliantly during the first three quarters and I was glued to my computer screen--and I hate reading on the computer. However: the end didn't quite satisfy me. As much as I loved the Steampunk aspect of the story, and even found the action bits pretty compelling, the center of this book was Alek and Deryn's relationship. Oh, hold on a second. This is probably a good time to insert:
WARNING! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES!
In Leviathan, we met the cast. In Behemoth, we got to know them a little better, and in Goliath we follow them to the end of their journey. Was I sastified by the ending? Yes and no. It's got a happy ending--the ending I wanted--but I realized, on reaching the last page, that there were some elements that I didn't like. As I mentioned, the element of the story that I followed most keenly was the romance. Without being conscious of what I was doing, I was hoping that Deryn would have a chance to be female. For her to wear women's clothing, and to be treated as a woman. Without it, the novel is incomplete for me. I'm not saying that Deryn needed to be more feminine in order for the romance to work, but that I wished that she had had a chance of it. It's not supposed to be important--Alek loves Deryn the way she is--but I still wanted to see it. Also, I was irritated to discover that Dr. Barlow didn't know that Deryn was a girl. I think we were led to believe that she did and my emotional, sulky self felt that Westerfeld did this on purpose. And not in a fun, "Aw, snap!" kind of way. But I may be influenced by the fact that some of Scott Westerfeld's tweets suggest the man has a healthy ego. Which brings me to the most interesting point of my review--how much did my opinion of the author influence my opinion of the book. Dude, you might as well ask me that chicken-or-the-egg question because I sure as shootin' don't know. I'll be curious to know what my fellow Leviathan trilogy fans think of Goliath. Yeah, Logan. I'm looking at you....more
Originally posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return]I loved this book. It was that rare thing a book picked up at random, purchased on impulse aOriginally posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return]I loved this book. It was that rare thing a book picked up at random, purchased on impulse and enjoyed with pleasant surprise. I was attracted to the cover initially, but the description on the back of the book convinced me I d found a winner.[return][return]I thought, Yes! A book to satisfy my passions for Steampunk and romance. I brought the book home and quickly discovered that people had started posting about in on the AAR boards already, voicing positive opinions. I got even more excited and impatient to start it. It was worth the wait.[return][return]Since the description from Amazon pretty much tells you the plot-line, I ll only add a few things: This story encompasses Emily and Stanton s race across the United States, from California to New York. The enchanted artifact that the blurb mentions is more than simply in Emily s possession it s embedded in her hand and cannot be removed. The artifact, furthermore, nullifies any magic Emily tries to perform.[return][return]Hobson is a skilled world-builder. Comparisons are supposed to be odious but I was reminded of the world of Harry Potter. Not that the two books are similar, but in that Hobson adds details about her magical world that make the book very fun. This was one of the things I liked best about the J.K. Rowling books, too. I also liked that the use of magic was cyclical and that as more humans began to demand more magic, things got out of balance and consequences ensued. Sound familiar? Could this be a metaphor for, I don t know, the world s dependency on oil? At the very least, Hobson makes it clear that magic, in her world, does not come free. It s a system and therefor, by definition, interdependent.[return][return]The other wonderful thing about this book was the characters. Emily does not exactly start the book as the best character ever, but she s refreshingly strong-minded and quick-thinking. She learns from her mistakes and sets out to correct them. She holds her own against the horrifyingly named Deadnought Stanton and most other antagonists she comes up against. She does not meekly follow Stanton across the country. Even better, Emily has lived in her small California hometown of Lost Pine her whole life. She is learning about Hobson s magical world as we are and this saves us from a lot of exposition. If there s something she doesn t understand, Emily demands enlightenment and gets it, for herself and the readers. Emily was a great heroine and I couldn t help but feel that it s too bad she s fictional.[return][return]Emily s counterpart in The Native Star was the before mentioned Dreadnought Stanton. As the novel starts, Emily and Stanton have already met. She s the backwoods witch and he s the warlock from the city. Their relationship is initially antagonistic; Stanton is arrogant, condescending and rude. So, of course, I loved him immediately. I already posted my favorite excerpt from Stanton, but it s so great it bears repeating:[return][return](from page 43)[return][return] Stanton leaned back in his chair and assumed an infuriatingly pedantic air. Zombies are soulless creatures, and being soulless has been empirically proven to result in an unpleasant disposition. [return][return]and this, from page 70[return][return] We should make good time today. Stanton s pleased tone suggested that making good time was a virtue right up there with Justice, Courage, Wisdom and Moderation.[return][return]I lurved Stanton, right along with Emily. I don t think that s giving too much away it says as much on the back page. He s a Darcy-like hero. Intelligent, haughty, impatient, brave, tortured, powerful, and unintentionally hilarious. Although, that doesn t exactly describe Darcy. Well, they have a few things in common.[return][return]As for the plot, I thought it was great fun. I m not usually one for travel stories, but I thought this one went well. I also have to admit that I enjoyed the smidgen of uncertainty that I felt about whether or not there would be a happy ending. I knew that, this not being a Paranormal Romance, it was possible that Awful Things Could Happen on the last page. It gave the book an added element of deliciousness. And I wasn t wrong the end is enough to satisfy my need for romance, but it s not exactly a happily ever after.[return][return]I also liked delving into an magical, historical America. The only other book I ve read like that is The Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede. The Native Star does it better and it s for grown-ups.[return][return]I ll cap off this review with a piece of good news: Hobson has written a sequel called The Hidden Goddess. It s due out in May 2011. Here s the description from the author s website. I don t think is contains any spoilers for the first book, but continue with caution anyway.[return][return] Being engaged to a socially-prominent warlock in 19th century New York can be daunting especially if you re a witch from a small town in California who s never sat at a dinner table with more than one fork.[return][return] A month has passed since the adventures that brought Emily Edwards from Lost Pine to New York City, but navigating New York magical society is as taxing and treacherous as anything she s faced so far. Emily s future mother-in-law is a sociopathic socialite who is not at all pleased with her only son s choice of a bride. Dreadnought Stanton Emily s fiance has a dark past which has by no means given up all its secrets. And Emily s own past may hold answers that a shadowy group of Russian scientists will give anything to possess.[return][return] Emily will have to brave all these challenges not to mention an ancient sect of Aztec blood-sorcerers bent on plunging the world into apocalypse if she and Dreadnought are to have any hope of living happily ever after.[return][return]The fact that this was the first book in what might be a series takes care of my only squabbles with the book. In the beginning, Emily is all about her Pap the man who raised her and taught her magic. But there is little to no mention of him at the end of the book, which seems odd given that Emily will most likely not be returning to live in Lost Pine. Her devotion to her Pap appears to just slide away, forgotten. The other item that s never resolved is the mystery of Emily s heritage. Who is her mother? Where did she come from? What is her connection to the Sons of the Earth? Squeefully, a sequel gives Hobson plenty of time to address these conundrums in the next book.[return][return]I really, truly, hope you pick up The Native Star. It s great for readers of historical fantasy, especially fans of Steampunk, though I should warn you that this is Steampunk-light. By which I mean, Hobson s world-building focus is more on the magical element of her world than on the Steampunk aspect....more
I was vastly relieved, when I finally got home and cracked this baby open, to know that allThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
I was vastly relieved, when I finally got home and cracked this baby open, to know that all my anticipation was going to pay off. I've mentioned that this is my first Meljean Brook. It won't be my last. She totally rocks. I was complaining last week about there not being authors like Kresley Cole around--and I think I've found someone I can admire just as much. Wheeee!
The Iron Duke is a Steampunk Romance--a category I'm very much hoping we'll see more of in the future. According to the back cover, it takes place in the Victorian Age, but in the book, Queen Victoria's son, Edward VII has come to the throne. At least, I presume it is Victoria's son Edward and not another one. At any rate, that places the time-line some after 1901--and presumably later--as the revolution that is so oft talked of in the novel occurred more than nine years ago. I'm assuming, furthermore, that the succession occurred in Brook's world as it did in ours. The England of The Iron Duke is vastly, phenomenally, different from the England that we know from history. The major source of the difference is the two-hundred year oppression by the Horde that Brook's England is still recovering from. The Horde managed to oppress the people of England by hiding "nanoagents" in the tea and sugar that was imported into the country. Once the nanoagents were activated, the Horde was able to make the English people act as they wished. One particularly heinous tradition of the Horde was to cause a sexual frenzy among all those old enough. The heroine of The Iron Duke is the product of such a frenzy. Mina's father was a man from the Horde. Her features bear witness to this, which makes her the target for a great deal of prejudice.
The Iron Duke of the title is revered by the entire nation of England for destroying the tower that the Horde used to control them. Mina and the duke meet when a man is dropped on his front steps. In her capacity as a Detective Inspector, Mina goes to investigate the death. Things turn out to be more complicated than either of them realize and the consequences a great deal bigger. The investigation sends the duke and Mina on an adventure that is both harrowing and, for lack of a better term, intimacy-inducing.
Mina and the duke are both tortured charcacters. But Brooks has created a world--and in particular, an England--where virtually everyone is tortured. Mina is tortured by the prejudice that she experiences, by the gossip that surrounds her family, by the poverty they endure, by her memories of being controlled by the Horde. But she's also a strong woman. As a result of the Horde's oppression, this is isn't post-Victorian England. As Mina puts it, they've all been compromised by the Horde. This is, in a way, liberating for women. They don't have to worry about protecting their virtue--it's already been taken from them. This is reflected in many things: Mina wears pants and she has a man's job. Her sensibilities are far from conservative or prudish. This was a strange dichotomy for me. I was torn between the feeling that her thoughts and language were too modern to feel at all historic and reminding myself that Brooks was painting an England entirely unlike the England of our world. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that it was entirely possible that such oppression could easily make people think and behave as the characters in The Iron Duke do. Besides, Brook's England isn't entirely changed. It is still very class-conscious. There's a great deal of British nationalism. So it's familiar and not familiar at the same time.
The eponymous duke (whose given name is Rhys Traehearn) is as intriguing a character as Mina. His past is just as tortured as Mina's. He was oppressed just as she was--but not because of nanoagents. He's not a gentleman, though he has his own code of honor. I basically loved him. I'm sorry that Mina got to him first. Only, the truth is, they're perfect for each other. More importantly, they save each other. Life would be bleak for them both if they had never met.
I can't say enough about this novel. I loved it that much. But, this time, I felt that my appreciation didn't just come from storylines or characters that fed into my particular weaknesses. Brooks created a world that is both fascinating and horrifying, at turns. There are zombies all over France, for goodness sake. It's the characters that make it for me. Even the secondary characters--even the characters who make three-sentence appearances felt real to me. I can't wait to read the next novel of the Iron Seas. For now, I'm going to have to track down a copy of Burning Up, in which Brook introduced this world.
As much as I loved this novel, I did have two niggles. One was the overfrequent use of the word "shag". Every time a character used it, it pulled me out of the story. It didn't feel right, especially to the period. I looked up the etymology and discovered that it was used in the 19th Century but was considered very vulgar. At first, I thought, okay, guess I'll have to get over that one. After all, the duke uses far more, er, graphic words. But I find that I can't, really, because it pulled me out of the novel so much. For that reason alone, I can't ignore that Brook's use of it didn't work for me. My other niggle was that I was confused about the Horde. Who were they? Where did they come from? What was their motivation? When I first read the blurb about The Iron Duke, I thought they must be vampires. They're clearly not, but I don't have anything to replace the theory with. This lack was especially significant because Mina was half Horde and the not knowing affected my understanding of her character.
Before I sign off, I want to mention the Steampunk aspect of this book. It definitely isn't Steampunk-light. Contraptions abound in this novel--both ingenious and disturbing. It's technology that is both wondrous and frightening. I loved it and I think you will too. ...more
Kate Elliott's name has long been familiar to me. I've heard about her Crown of StarsThis book was originally reviewed on http://www.rubysreads.com.
Kate Elliott's name has long been familiar to me. I've heard about her Crown of Stars series, but never read it. When I saw Cold Magic in the store, it called to me. It has a pretty cover and I am as susceptible to a pretty cover as the next person. What drew me to it? The girl on the cover and the suggestive cogs in the background, coupled with a title that included the word magic. Can you say "Steampunk"? When I saw that the author of this book was Kate Elliott and that Romantic Times liked Crown of Stars, I thought this must be the book for me. Steampunk, Fantasy, Historical, Romance. I don't think I could find a book better suited to my tastes. Or some of them, at least.
Before I get started on the review, here's the back cover blurb:
From one of the genre's finest writers comes a bold new epic fantasy in which science and magic are locked in a deadly struggle.
It is the dawn of a new age... The Industrial Revolution has begun, factories are springing up across the country, and new technologies are transforming in the cities. But the old ways do not die easy.
Cat and Bee are part of this revolution. Young women at college, learning of the science that will shape their future and ignorant of the magics that rule their families. But all of that will change when the Cold Mages come for Cat. New dangers lurk around every corner and hidden threats menace her every move. If blood can't be trusted, who can you trust?
Um, I've just realized that you've probably read that description about a zillion times. Sorry!
Okay (rubs hands), now to get down to the meat of things: Kate Elliott is clearly a talented writer. She knows how to craft a tight story and create a complex world. My main problem with this book was that Elliott went over the top with her world-building. There's complex and there's "do I seriously have to read these paragraphs about more of the history of the Kena'ani people?" I confess that there were passages where my eyes glazed over. I'm sure the argument could be made that I missed a great deal but skimming over these sections of the book, but I really don't care. Cold Magic could've lost about fifty pages of extraneous world-building and I would've liked it a lot better.
That said, this was a solid book. The characters all have depth, except perhaps, Rory, who appears to be mostly comic relief. But this is only the first book in a trilogy, so he has room to grow. I'd add that I liked Rory a lot. Rascals are such fun. The narrator of the book is Cat, a young woman who lives with her aunt, uncle, and cousins. Cat was nearly a cliche: the outspoken, impulsive, big-hearted, self-sacrificing heroine. Luckily, though Cat danced the precarious line between cliche and character, she never officially fell off the edge. Cat's funny and self-effacing, often comparing herself to her namesake (which turns out to be prophetic). I liked the strength of her character and that she never wavered in her determination to live, or to help Bee. Which brings me to the other important character. Bee is Cat's eldest cousin. The two share a close, special friendship that is the heart of the novel. Cat's love for Bee and Bee's for Cat is probably the best thing about the whole book, and they didn't even spend most of it together.
The story has a slow start, and really begins when a cold mage comes to Cat's uncle's house in search of the eldest Hassi Barahal daughter. I knew something was up with this right away because several times Cat's internal thoughts turn to the few months she has on her cousin. Cat, as the eldest Hassi Barahal daughter, is forced to marry the cold mage, whose name is not at first known to her. When the binding ceremony is completed, the cold mage whisks Cat away in order to return to his mage house, Four Moons. The cold mage, who eventually reveals his name to be Andevai, treats Cat to a royally miserable adventure. He is alternately cruel and demeaning and does not offer to enlighten Cat about her circumstances. Andevai's reasons are twofold--you'll have to learn them for yourself. But the truth is, no matter Andevai's reasons for treating Cat the way he did, I found his behavior inexcusable. If he is to be Cat's hero, he needs to do a LOT of growing up. In this book, he comes off as a spoiled brat.
The plot revolves around Cat's identity and a deception that threatens Cat's life. Cat learns fairly early on that she isn't who she thought she was. She also experiences a betrayal that will be hard for her to recover from. Mainly, though, the plot serves to set up the rest of the trilogy. There's a great deal of political conflict in Elliott's icy world--and Cat and Bee get caught up in it. It appears that both girls will have a role to play in major upcoming events.
My feelings about this book are a bit muddled. There were times when I couldn't wait to get back to it, and parts where I couldn't wait for it to be over. I'm also a little sketchy on how the magical world works in this book. What kind of magical powers to regular people have? Does everyone have them? There's mention of saber-tooth tigers and woolly rhinoceros, and the world seems to have never left the ice age behind. I wanted to know more about that. Plus, I was disappointed in the love story. I'm hoping that two more books will give it a chance to grow.
This is book is perfect for those who like complex fantastic worlds and don't mind a lot of detailed world-building. I liked it and there were definitely times when I Elliott's writing greatly appealed to me. I'll be checking out the sequel, Cold Fire, when it comes out. ...more
This book was my reward for suffering through the two disasters that were Big Bad Wolf andThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
This book was my reward for suffering through the two disasters that were Big Bad Wolf and Witch Heart. I can hardly believe that I owned it for as long as I did without gorging myself on it. The only thing I can say in my own defense is that it took me so long to find it that I'd forgotten why I'd been looking for it in the first place. Then I read The Iron Duke and loved it so much I was driven to check out Meljean Brook's blog. Brook had a Steampunk Romance week on her blog, to celebrate the publication of The Iron Duke, and Clockwork Heart was mentioned on the first day. It made me sit and up and say, "I have that book!" So I went and dug it out of my TBR pile and got to work. And may I say that I've never been so pleased to put my nose to the grindstone.
Clockwork Heart takes place in the fictional city of Ondinium. Ondinium is half Victorian London, half San Francisco. It's built on a hill and has three sectors: Tertius, Secondus and Primus. I imagined it as resmebling a three-tiered cake. The three sectors of Ondinium can be summed up respectively: Upper Class, Middle Class, Lower Class. Primus is the home of the exalted, a group of wealthy individuals who, according to Ondinium beliefs, have been reincarnated because they have earned an "exalted" life. The exalteds appear in public in heavy robes with ceramic masks concealing their faces. They also wear castemarks on their faces, tattoo-like symbols of their high status. Secondus is home to the middle class people and Tertius houses the working class and the very poor. The two main characters of Clockwork Heart come from the polar ends of Ondinium. Cristof is an outcaste, an exalted who has eschewed the robes and mask of his caste. He lives and works in Tertius. The heroine, Taya, was born in Tertius, but chosen to be an icarus. Icarii are messengers who fly with metal wings that are loaded with ondium, the lighter-than-air metal that makes flight possible. Because of her profession, Taya has a unique position in the segregated Ondinium. She moves freely between the three sectors and is basically outside of the caste system. She also has a great deal of personal freedom that is not allowed other women, particularly exalteds.
The story begins with Taya saving an exalted woman and her son from a wireferry accident. Taya's heroic act brings her to the attention of the Forlore family: Alister, Cristof and their cousin, Viera and Viera's husband Caster. Alister and Cristof are brothers who have chosen vastly different paths in life. You know Cristof's story--he's an outcaste. Alister is the smooth, charming and handsome brother with the political career. From the first, Alister attracts Taya. The two go out on a date, but before anything can develop between them, Alister dies in another wireferry accident that also claims Caster.
Shocked, dismayed and regretting having held Alister off for as long as she did, Taya at first believes that Cristof is responsible, not knowing that Cristof suspects the same about her. When Taya and Cristof are able to move beyond blaming each other, they decide to work together to find Alister and Caster's killers. Their investigation both brings them together and involves them in more intrigue than they knew.
Taya is a refreshing heroine. She's strong-minded and strong-willed, but without being obnoxious. She's not feisty and outspoken. She takes care of herself, not just physically, but emotionally. I also liked that though she was independent it didn't mean she was too stupid to live. Taya has a romantic past but she's not tortured or hindered by it. I liked that.
Cristof, by contrast, more dysfunctional. He's closed-off and rude, but you know right away that he's the one for Taya, if for no other reason that things between Taya and Alister would be too easy. Plus, it's not hard to see that Alister is a charmer and that he uses his charm for effect. He knows what his looks and his station can get him--and he doesn't hesitate to take advantage of that. I kind of didn't want Taya to fall for Alister's schtick at all--even though I admire her for seeing him clearly in an admirably short amount of time. Anyway, books have shown us that the charmer is unreliable time after time. Hm, that makes me want to read a book where the hero is the charmer and not his unpleasant-at-first-glance counterpart.
As for the plot, it's intricate, but I knew who the villains were pretty early on. The attraction of this novel is that knowing didn't take away from the story. I still wanted to see how events evolved. I wanted to see how the characters would react--because I found that it wasn't always predictable. I also really liked the world-building. I had an image in my mind of what Ondinium was like, how it looked and how it functioned. It's probably completely unlike Pagliassotti's, but I don't care. The best novels are the ones that exercise your imagination--and Clockwork Heart really accomplished that. However, as easily as I was able to put myself into Ondinium, I had a harder time imagining the Great Engine--and all the other engines in Taya's world. I sort of imagined that they resembled ENIAC, but also the inside of a ginormous clock from some animated movie I can't remember. You know, all the gears and stuff. But I also didn't really have a great grasp on how the engines worked, or how the punch cards fit in. This is probably because my mind is so not analytical. I run screaming from anything that smacks of engineering or--worse--computer science. There's no way to get my brain to shut down faster.
I also have to give Pagliassotti props for her secondary characters. There's quite a cast of them, along with a few secondary romances that added extra flavor. Plus, each character that came into the novel was interesting, and had depth. I could picture them all. The only exception to this was Taya's family. They make brief appearances at the beginning and end of the book, but nothing inbetween. I think this is because Taya's calling as an icarus meant she was separated from her family at a young age. Also, her status as someone outside the caste made it harder for her to relate to her Tertius-based family. Still, as someone who is so closely tied to her family, I couldn't help wanting Taya to be more connected to them. It's probably for a reason, though, that Taya's closest ties are with other icarii. I don't know. It still bothered me.
I glad that Meljean Brook reminded me about Clockwork Heart. It was a great book, and a great Steampunk Romance. I was excited to learn that Dru Pagliassotti is writing another Clockwork Heart book (currently called Clockwork Heart #2). According to her website, it's in her agent's hands. No date yet, but it's already made my TBR list. ...more
Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
Last year, when I finally succumbed and bought City of Bones, I fell in love. I devoured the three books of the series as fast as I could get my hands on them. And when I finished City of Glass, I immediately got on the web to find out when Cassandra Clare’s next book would be released. I got excited when I read about Clockwork Angel—because, have I mentioned that I’m a fan of Steampunk? I was thoroughly bummed to discover that it wouldn’t come out until August 31—that’s practically September! Then, since it came out on a Tuesday—during my first week of school—I didn’t have time to pick up my reserved copy the weekend. Argh!
By now, you’re probably wondering why I’m reviewing the book two and half weeks later. It’s not, sadly, because I loved it so much, it’s because Clockwork Angel didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Now, to be honest, that probably would have been difficult. I’d built up this book in my mind so much since I finished City of Glass that there was probably not way it could have. Knowing this should have stunted my disappointment, but it didn’t. I knew right away that Clockwork Angel wouldn’t fascinate me the way the first three City books did. I knew because I could—and did--put it down in favor of other novels that came my way. I’ve had Clockwork Angel for two weeks and I only finished it today.
I don’t mean to imply that Angel is a bad book. It’s really not. I enjoyed it. I’ll be reading the other books in the series. But neither the characters nor the world enthralled like those of the City series did. This might be because of the inevitable comparisons—between Clary and Tessa, Will and Jace, Jem and Simon. Try as I might, I couldn’t help but compare them. Making Tessa tall where Clary was short did not make them internally different. It struck me that any dissimilarity was situational, not a matter of character. Will is also very Jace-like. He’s handsome. He’s reckless. He’s a Shadow Hunter. He’s fiercely loyal. He resists his attraction to the heroine. He’s got a troubled, mysterious past. I’m not going to go on.
The other thing that I struggled with in this novel was that, for me, it didn’t really evoke the period of 19th Century London. Clare tried. She certainly did her research. She just didn’t pull it off. This might be because most of the action in the book took place indoors and not out in Victorian London. It just occurred to me that maybe that was the problem. The book lacked detail about the domestic life of people who lived in the age. Sure, there were candles and sconces aplenty, but what really evokes a period is the little things, the less obvious things.
So, what about the plot? I don’t know what to say exactly. It’s complicated. It involves clockwork mechanisms, vampires and demons. But I guessed the major twist even before it came. Clare dropped some pretty heavy hints and I was frustrated that none of the characters picked up on them. I think my biggest complaint about this book was how much it seemed like a set up for the other volumes in the trilogy. I don’t expect that each book in a series should be completely stand-alone, but though the major conflict is resolved in Clockwork Angel, in the end it largely served as the prologue.
As I say, however, I will be reading the rest of the books in the series. Clare’s writing is solid and I like the characters enough to want to know more about them. But I’m looking forward to City of Fallen Angels with far more anticipation than I have for Clockwork Prince. ...more
Soulless is that rare entity, the book that should have drawn me like a dust to my bookshelf, but didn't. It fit many of my criteria: It takes place iSoulless is that rare entity, the book that should have drawn me like a dust to my bookshelf, but didn't. It fit many of my criteria: It takes place in Victorian London, it's Steampunk, there are werewolves, and there are noblemen. Cha-ching! Unfortunately, though I saw Soulless in the bookstore back in the day (you know, when it was new), the first couple of pages put me off rather than sucked me in. Now that I've read it, I think I'm a little more clear about why that was.
I am a self-professed fan of the first person point of view. Third person limited is a close runner-up. I'm not crazy about third person omniscient, but it's better than second person. I've only ever run across one or two examples of workable second-person narrative. The Dress Lodger anyone? Soulless is written in third person omniscient, and the p.o.v. switches perspectives at least once every page. I like a little mystery in my narrative and knowing what everyone is thinking all the time tends to spoil that for me. Still, it's a stylistic choice that Carriger makes and it is often successful. It aids in the formal, Victorian air she's trying to give her books. Furthermore, it reflects Alexia's personality. The narrative is straightforward, direct and often amusing. It deals in facts. Yet, I was put off by the frequent references to "Miss Tarabotti." It made it difficult for me to relate to the heroine. That, along Alexia's prosaic, practical nature made her a difficult character to connect to. Even at the end of the book, I felt that though Alexia was likable, she was a character on the other side of a screen.
The main thing that bothered me about this book, though, was the relentless "Britishness." Some of it I liked. And some of it was successful. I'm a total anglophile, so I can't be too judgy on this point. But on occasion, it was overdone. Also, on her website, Carriger states that the language in Soulless is Victorian in tone. Thing is, it reminds me more of Jane Austen (Regency) than Elizabeth Gaskell (Victorian). Much of the slang that is used in the book is slang I ran across during my Regency phase. I don't know, exactly, how Victorian language was different from Regency--but I assume it must have been a little different. Another niggly point I have was that the hero was the Earl of Woolsey but referred to as Lord Conall Maccon or Lord Maccon. I don't consider myself an expert on British nobility, but it's my understanding (Regency phase, remember?) that the Earl of Woolsey would be referred to as Lord Woolsey and not Lord Maccon. This mistake wouldn't bother me so much if both the publisher and the author didn't make such an effort to highlight Carriger's British antecedents and current tendencies.
Having gotten my issues out in the open, I should tell you that I did like this book. I even marked a couple of passages that I thought were funny:
Mrs. Loontwill and the young Lady-twills were out shopping, but they were due back at any moment.
"And, now, where is my precious baby?" she heard the shadowed man ask as they departed. "Ah, there he is! And how did he behave on this outing? Good? Of course he did, my darling." Then his words degenerated into Latin.
"Promise?" said the vampire, hanging limply upside down.
Hee. I love that last image. It is, of course, Lord Akeldama. If you've read the book, you know why that little fact makes the image even more amusing.
I also liked the world-building, though it was at times a bit confusing. Like, Carriger mentions that vampires and werewolves have been allowed freedom of movement since the mandate signed by King Henry. But which King Henry? There were quite a few of them, some of whom were successive.
Okay, sorry, got distracted by a niggle again. Okay, world-building: Carriger has a different enough spin on the supernatural to make it plenty interesting. There's a wealth of detail that that makes for great reading. The plot is also entertaining, though I admit that I guessed what was going on. Also, the romance that develops between Alexia and Lord Maccon is amusing and delicious. They were made for each other.
In all, though I enjoyed reading Soulless, it didn't appeal to me all that much. There was plenty to like, but I prefer a meatier novel, something that hits me more viscerally than the consistent, light-hearted humor that pervaded in Soulless. Still, Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate Series has quite a following and that means she's doing plenty right....more