In a world where the skies are filled with superheroes and supervillains, 15-year-old Danny's dreams come true when the fa
"Genetics aren't destiny."
In a world where the skies are filled with superheroes and supervillains, 15-year-old Danny's dreams come true when the famous Dreadnought perishes in her arms and passes his powers on to her - powers that include super-strength, flight, and an outer body that matches the girl Danny's always been inside.
And, well... I loved it! Danny is going to steal the hearts of so many readers. This is such a beautiful ownvoices work and it shows from the very first chapter when we meet Danny sneakily buying nail polish. She tells us:
Painting my toes is the one way I can take control. The one way I can fight back. The one way I can give voice to this idea inside me that gets heavier every year: I'm not supposed to be a boy.
The author gets the balance absolutely perfect between light, quirky superhero novel, and a darker, thought-provoking, coming-of-age story. The flying, world-saving and GIRL POWER make this a wonderful, heart-warming read. The other members of the former Dreadnought's group - "Legion Pacifica" - think Danny is too young to take on the villains and save the world, but that just gets added to the long list of mistakes people make about her.
However, as noted above, there are some darker aspects of Dreadnought. The author doesn't shy away from portraying the reality of transphobia and how difficult it is to grow up with a father who wants to make you a "real man". Many trans slurs are thrown around, and Graywytch (another of the Legion Pacifica members) deliberately misgenders Danny.
Additionally, Danny must now deal with the lingering eyes of certain men and boys, other forms of sexism, and the assumption that she now wants to start dating the boys at her school - which is incorrect because Danny is, in fact, gay. It's fantastic to see, despite all of this, that Danny comes out on top again and again. She's allowed to be weak and scared and unsure, but in the end, she knows who she is and who she's always been. She calls out the boys on their sexism:
“I don’t like boys, any boys. If I did like boys, I wouldn’t like boys who talk to me like you just did.”
Though a superhero story, Dreadnought is first and foremost about its characters. Its women, I should say. A diverse array of women drive the novel - from the white, gay and trans Danny, to the Latina Calamity, to Doc Impossible who is coded as non-white (Her dark hair is pulled back in a braid) to Utopia who is - wait for it - a cyborg villain.
The character dynamics - particularly between Danny and Calamity - shine throughout. Reading this the weekend of the Women's March made me feel quite emotional. This message of female solidarity is so important; and add to it a much-needed, complex, trans superheroine and you have one hell of a powerful book. I can't wait for more.
They want me to cooperate in my own destruction. They want me to tell them it's not true. They want me to help them believe the lie. Never again.
Look, I'll be honest: I didn't have the highest expectations when I picked up The Dragon's Price. But I was willing to give it a shot because Wiggins'Look, I'll be honest: I didn't have the highest expectations when I picked up The Dragon's Price. But I was willing to give it a shot because Wiggins' other books received a lot of praise and, you know, dragons.
Unfortunately, the book is as formulaic as this genre gets. A princess called Sorrowlyn is being forced to marry one of the heirs of a neighboring kingdom to keep peace, or else she must sacrifice herself to a fire dragon. But, really, it's a badly-concealed romance masquerading as fantasy adventure.
The pact that says Sorrowlyn must marry to protect the kingdoms from the dragon made absolutely no sense - no thought is given as to why a marriage between these two kingdoms would do anything to appease a dragon. This immediately establishes the world and its customs as undeveloped and ill-conceived, and everything political/dramatic exists as a vehicle for romantic angst.
Super special Sorrowlyn refuses to marry the heir of the neighboring kingdom and must face the dragon. However, at the last minute, the youngest heir - the hunky Golmarr - joins her, believing she has a better chance of defeating the dragon with him at her side. Spot the love interest, anyone?
This formula is familiar, but it really only forms the base of the novel's problems. There are two far bigger issues. One being that the main story feels over by 25% into the book. By that point, Sorrowlyn has already (view spoiler)[defeated the dragon (hide spoiler)] and escaped her abusive father. What follows are a couple hundred pages of romancing and kissing, with a few subplots thrown in to try to convince the reader that there's more at stake than Sorrowlyn and Golmarr's hormones.
Spoiler: there isn't.
And perhaps more troubling is the romance itself. Sorrowlyn is a lily-white princess from a kingdom known for its finery, for being civilized and respectable. The heirs from the other kingdom have long black hair and dark skin described in various food metaphors from "caramel" to "toasted bread", and are a savage race, in touch with nature (they feel very reminiscent of Native American peoples, to a discomfiting degree).
At times, Sorrowlyn dismisses them with:
I shudder at the thought of associating with these barbarians.
And at other times she portrays Golmarr as an exotic - insert food metaphor for skin colour here - hero. Either way, it's troubling.
Have you read any mainstream YA fantasy book over the past few years? If so, it is likely you have already experienced this book with different characHave you read any mainstream YA fantasy book over the past few years? If so, it is likely you have already experienced this book with different character names.
Frostblood is just so... unremarkable. Everything about it is familiar and predictable, leading to a read that offered up no excitement, no need to keep turning the pages. It often feels as if YA fantasy publishers deliberately go looking for new authors to retell the same old recycled plots. Stick an attractive cover on the front and lets see if we can fool people into buying the same book over and over again.
This book follows the heroine - Ruby - who is a Fireblood in a world where Frostbloods are the ruling class. Once again, this world is split evenly into two societal groups - an overdone technique that I find particularly lazy. It's the same with the Reds and Silvers in Red Queen, the Reds and Golds in Red Rising, and the Shotet and Thuvhe from Carve the Mark, as well as others. If only the world were that simple! If only there were just two groups of people with differences. There is just no depth or complexity to a "this vs. this" world.
Also, Ruby was uninteresting and bland. I feel like I have nothing to remember her by and it was really difficult to become invested in her story and troubles. The book opens with her mother being murdered and Ruby being captured by Frostblood soldiers; incidentally, this opening is almost identical to Carve the Mark, where Akos' father is murdered by the Shotet before Akos, himself, is captured. There's nothing here I haven't read before.
Then, of course, the plot takes a completely mindblowing turn when our standard heroine with elemental powers (easy way of adding some magic without having to think too much about a magic system) teams up with a hot guy (Arcus) to get revenge on the royals who wronged her. Is it just me or are you getting déjà vu as well?
And I don't know why so many authors think there is anything interesting about pages and pages of training. It's mind-numbing.
But wait! Just when you thought this was all looking familiar, Arcus reveals his... dum, dum, dum, DARK PAST! Yes, that's right. Arcus is a very boring, very typical love interest, with very unoriginal secrets.
A lot of YA fantasy is tropey and contains all the same elements, that's true, so maybe you could say I'm being harsh. But this book's problem is not just a series of components that make it derivative - it also has a very lackluster style. The writing did nothing to draw me in; dramatic events came and went without being engaging. There can be slow parts in any book, but even the most dynamic chapters didn’t hold any fire for me.
To add a tiny bit of credit where it's due: by far the most interesting aspect of this book was the exploration of how one can be blamed for the actions of others they are grouped with. For example, the actions of a few radicals, whether they be Firebloods, POC, Muslims or feminists, can be used to make sweeping (and false) generalizations about all the others in said group. This is interesting and rather appropriate right now. Too bad it got lost under everything else.
To summarize: Frostblood and my review feel so very familiar. I long for something new and different in YA fantasy.
A beautiful, pastoral fairy tale set in a fantasy version of medieval Russia.
Narrated in lyrical prose and third-person past tense, Arden weaves a taA beautiful, pastoral fairy tale set in a fantasy version of medieval Russia.
Narrated in lyrical prose and third-person past tense, Arden weaves a tale no less compelling for its slow, gradual development. Like all the best fairy tales, the author draws on the setting - a village in the northern woods of Rus' - to create an atmosphere that promises magic and suggests many horrors.
Atmosphere is the key word here: The Bear and the Nightingale captures that feeling of uncertainty and superstition. The characters are somewhere between the old and the new; believing in modern religion but still deeply tied to the stories of old - the creatures that hide in the dark, the demons lurking in corners, the spirits living in the woods.
The protagonist is Vasya, a feisty, stubborn girl who always manages to find her way into adventure and, often, trouble. Quick-witted and rebellious, it's hard not to fall in love with her instantly. There's a sense throughout that she is at one with nature, belonging to the very setting of the novel - the wild, rugged landscape of her youth. She is most at home when running and playing in the woods.
When her father remarries and brings Vasya's intense and devout new stepmother back to their village, the safety of everyone is threatened. Her stepmother refuses to appease the creatures of the forest and darkness creeps ever closer. The arrival of a young priest who challenges the people's belief in the old spirits endangers them further. It is Vasya - and her own strange gifts - who is the family's only chance against the evil spirits at work.
A haunting story; one so deeply atmospheric that you can almost feel the cold air on your skin as you're reading.
Over the years, I have read a lot of books. I've picked my way through the so-called "Classics", got losWe MUST talk about this hidden indie treasure.
Over the years, I have read a lot of books. I've picked my way through the so-called "Classics", got lost in Fantasy and Science-Fiction, been taken to other times by Historical Fiction, stayed up late to find out the answers in the latest Psychological Thriller, fallen in love with Romance, and rode the wave of every YA trend. And yet, I have never read a book like this one.
Requests for indie/self-pub reviews come to me all the time. I usually take a glance at the first few pages and am almost always put off by the poor grammar or writing. I rarely make it past the first chapter and, if I do, the story quickly loses my attention. And, to be honest, I didn't expect Senlin Ascends to be any different.
However, I took a chance on this because it came so highly recommended by Mark Lawrence, and I didn't come up for breath until I'd finished the final page. It is both a masterfully-crafted work of art AND an addictive pageturner.
“Newcomers may expect the ringdoms of the Tower to be like the layers of a cake where each layer is much like the last. But this is not the case. Not at all. Each ringdom is unique and bewildering. The ringdoms of the Tower share only two things in common: the shape of their outermost walls, which are roughly circular, and the price of beef, which is outrageous. The rest is novel.”
Just so you know: it's nothing like Mark Lawrence's work. As I said, it's unlike anything I've ever read. Senlin Ascends is about a man who loses his wife on their honeymoon to the Tower of Babel. Concluding that she must have entered the Tower, the book chronicles his ascent through the ringdoms of the Tower - each a unique, dazzling and completely weird world of its own - on a mission to find his beloved Marya.
The writing is gorgeous and oh so very compelling. It's a bizarre tale that at times feels like one of those strange, suffocating dreams where everything is familiar but also not. There's this undercurrent of wrongness to the novel, even when Senlin finds himself merrily drinking wine on the Baths level of the Tower.
Senlin was unprepared for marriage in every way. He possessed neither the imagination nor emotional warmth that intimacy required.
Marya was so much better at taking the flaws of the world in stride, which was why she was indomitable and difficult to disappoint. She probably found the bull snails and drunken merry-go-round charming.
Characters major and minor come bounding off the pages. I always feel like the best tell for an author truly adept at creating characters is when smaller, secondary characters are important, well-developed and worthy of our interest and/or sympathy. Of course Senlin is important to us, but I also really enjoyed reading about the many people he meets on his journey - Tarrou, Edith, Adam, etc.
But, really, it's so hard to explain why this book is so good. The best tool of a reviewer is comparison but Senlin Ascends just stands on its own. It's depth is almost literary, and yet it is hard to put down. It's unsettling, and yet darkly comical. The protagonist is a stuffy old headmaster, and yet lovable. Add to that some beautiful descriptions of each ringdom, portrayed in exquisite detail with everything from bloodthirsty executioners to clockwork animals... how can you resist stepping in?
And the best thing about this? There's a whole sequel to enjoy!! Arm of the Sphinx is next on my wishlist.