I know I just read this, but I was perusing my library's website for my next listen and this was available and IRe-read/listen. Original review here.
I know I just read this, but I was perusing my library's website for my next listen and this was available and I already missed Blue and the gang, so I thought why not. Plus, Will Patton WINS at narrating this series...I can't believe I ever doubted him. I mean, he was in a movie about fast cars...Maggie enjoys cars and driving fast...it just doesn't get more perfect than that. =)
ETA: This book was phenomenal the first time I read it, but the audio is even more so....more
A ranty, snarky, SPOILERY review follows. Read at your own peril.
I wasn't interested in reading this writing duo's Beautiful Bastard series because erotica really isn't my thing, so I don't honestly know what made me think I'd like their foray into young adult. Well, besides the fact that I do have a lot of Goodreads friends who seem to like this pair's work, so I thought, Maybe this will be more my speed, and I can still see what all the fuss is about without venturing into that territory.
And it starts off fine, with a character that doesn't know who or what she is, only that once she sees Colin, she knows she's here for him. Their romance went from 0-to-90 in no time, and that's with Lucy revealing that she's a ghost and Colin discovering that he couldn't physically touch her without causing her some discomfort. Insta-love: boo. Romantic complications: intriguing.
Here's where things getinteresting weird. Completely by accident, they discover that putting Colin at the brink of death lets him hover between this world and...well, whatever lies after. While he's in the in-between, he and Lucy can make physical contact. The places there "relationship" couldn't go before are suddenly possible and they're ready to explore them. Even though they've known each other mere weeks and she's a freaking ghost. Whatever, teenagers have done crazier things, right? /sarcasm
So, the pair calls on Colin's best bud to help them continually test the limits and leave Colin in this in-between state for as long as possible before true death sets in. They do so by recreating the same circumstances under which they discovered this miracle that very first time: dropping Colin into a frozen-over lake -- the very lake Lucy actually haunts -- and inducing hypothermia. Oh, they take precautions to make sure Colin always returns, but really, this is just about the dumbest idea I've ever heard. I get that both Colin and Jay are adrenaline junkies, but realistically, who would go to such lengths just to be able to touch his girlfriend? Move on, buddy.
With all the attention on these two gettin' it on -- and the fact that the authors write erotica for a living -- you'd have thought that when it finally does happen, it'd be more than just a fade-to-black sex scene. I don't have a problem with sex in YA, as long as it's not gratuitous and it's portrayed realistically. Nothing about this story was realistic, though, so I guess I should have expected this.
Going into this story, I knew it was unlikely I'd get a HEA. A ghost and a real, live boy, falling in love? Yeah, that's never going to work out. Not in any good way, anyway. Since everything else in this book was so utterly wrong, it shouldn't have surprised me that Colin made one final, stupid last-ditch attempt to be with his ghost girl by throwing himself back into that frozen lake. Without anyone knowing. And without any aide. This boy's survival instincts are seriously on the fritz. But the "walkers" like Lucy were known to take people with them, so maybe it was more Lucy's influence than the fault of Colin and all his risk-taking. It was clear to me that Lucy was draining a bit of Colin's life force each time they met in that overlap between their worlds, and so maybe some of his sanity left with it. I don't think it went to Lucy, though, because I'm pretty sure she was convinced that she was becoming less of a ghost because of Colin's presence in her afterlife, not because of anything she might be doing to him, whether intentional or not.
Pretty much, this book is only getting a star because I listened to the audio, and it features the voice of Elizabeth Louise for Lucy's chapters and Cal Wembley for Colin's. Louise has repeatedly lent her voice to one of my favorite new adult series, and considering what she had to work with, I thought she did a fair job on this audiobook. Cal Wembly sounded an awful lot like Kirby Heyborne, and when I did some research, I found both names listed as narrators for this book-- somewhere, but I can't find the link now that I'm trying to write up my review. Either way, I wouldn't be surprised if he were one and the same, as a lot of narrators have pseudonyms they record under based on the genre or type of book they're recording. When I first started listening to audiobooks, I couldn't stand Cal/Kirby, but his voice has really grown on me. But maybe it's those first stories that I initially disliked because I discovered that, as Colin, I found Cal's narration a bit annoying. That's a good sign that Cal becomes the character, but it doesn't bode well for the overall experience. Still, I probably wouldn't have even finished this book had I been reading a physical copy, so there's that.
I've read a story like this before, and I had a much better experience with that one than I did here. If you're curious, it's Hereafter by Tara Hudson. Mind you, that link takes you to my review, one of the very first ones I ever wrote here on the blog, and by my reviewing standards now, I'd probably only rate the book three stars. That's still much better than Sublime rates, though. And Hereafter's premise revolves around more than endangering one's life for sex -- like, saving a boy's life. Imagine that.
GIF it to me straight: I don't even...what the...what the hell did I just read?!?...more
When Sarah sent this to me, there was a warning not to view the two post-Chaos scenes until I'd actually read the final book because they were very spoilerish. So, I'm warning you now. I waited and read this collection of journal entries and short stories last, and I think that's the best order, especially when it comes to the short stories themselves.
I'd read some of Malachi's journal entries here and there over the years, but never have I sat down and read them all back-to-back. It was insightful, to say the least. Also, there are entries that have never been shared before, from during the time period that Fractured covers, and those are well worth reading, especially if you know what transpires in that book. Very entertaining and very enlightening.
I knew there was so much more of Jim's story that we weren't getting in Fractured, and I'm glad that Sarah decided to write it and share it with all of us, especially since she fed us more of Henry's story in Chaos. As both were part of Lela's team of Guards in the Land of the Living, it's only fitting that both of their stories be told.
I am so thankful for this bonus content because after I finished Chaos, I was kind of a pile of goo and yet still wasn't ready for the final goodbye. It was nice to get even more from Malachi and Ana's perspectives, though I think my favorite part of this book was having all of Malachi's journal entries in one place finally. This collection is a must-have for any fan of the Guards of the Shadowlands series....more
I haven't read the other novella in this series entitled Captive, but I'm here to tell you that you absolutely should read Vigilante prior to starting Chaos. It's told from Ana's perspective and it gives you a ton of insight into her mindset going into Chaos. Otherwise, you might be a little...thrown by some of her actions at first, especially considering what you already know about her character from the previous books.
Also, you get to meet Takeshi. At least in Ana's flashbacks, anyway. And you'll get to see some seriously swoony parallels between their relationship and that of Malachi and Lela. Plus, you'll meet someone only vaguely referenced in a previous book, and things will all start making sense finally. Or at least as much sense as the will of the Judge can ever make to us mere mortals.
Vigilante is short and sweet and, in my opinion, totally necessary for full comprehension of these characters and what they mean to each other. It was free with your preorder of Chaos, but I'm not sure if that's a thing after the fact or how you can go about getting it now. :( I'll try to find out, if anyone's interested....more
All it took for me to add Compulsion to my TBR was a look at that gorgeous cover and seeing a Southern gothic romance tag. I loved how this story started out, too...with Barrie who has a gift for finding lost things becoming a lost thing herself. What I didn't love was the fact that when I added this book to my must-read list, I was under the impression that it was a stand-alone. I should have known better, right? And maybe it's been a series since I first heard about it, I don't know, but I don't think Goodreads mentioned that at first or I wouldn't have been nearly as excited about the book. It's not that I didn't enjoy the novel -- I most definitely did -- but I'm trying to keep the number of new series I start to a minimum these days. Also, I read in the acknowledgements that the author had so-and-so to thank for helping her turn this into a trilogy. So, it wasn't a planned series to begin with. And I still don't think it needed to be. Anyway, that's more my issue than any fault of the story's.
Compulsion embodied everything I love about Southern gothic romances: the eerie setting, complete with old, decrepit mansions; restless spirits; peculiar townsfolk; and a romance that seemed destined in the stars. This book also includes a centuries old curse, warring founding families, and psychic abilities that have been passed down for generations. And yet, even with all of that, the story dragged its feet for the first half of the book or so. Not to the point that I was considering not finishing the book, just in the way that many a story from Southerners tends to require a lengthy build-up before getting to the good stuff.
That said, the romance took no time at all to develop between Barrie and Eight. But, I wouldn't exactly call it insta-love because their attraction is pretty much fated. While the Colesworths have always been feuding with the Watsons and the Beauforts, the latter two have always been drawn to each other. It's all curses and magic, but that doesn't make it any less real for these characters, despite how much Barrie fights her feelings for Eight. She's already lost so much before making it to Watson's Landing, and she doesn't want to add Eight to that list. Because of Eight's gift, Barrie can't be sure that what's going on between them is real, and she's just so afraid of being hurt, of being left behind. I did find Barrie's back-and-forth feelings -- her constant wavering and wondering if loving Eight would be worth it -- to be somewhat annoying in the beginning, but I forgave her that when it seemed like she was legitimately starting to trust him. Barrie just wouldn't allow herself to fall for Eight's Southern charm...at least not at first.
It impressed me how comfortable the author made these two with each other, despite their misgivings, even from their very first encounter. They just conversed so easily, had that easy banter of a couple who'd known each other all their lives. And I think that's part of the reason that this didn't seem like insta-love to me. The characters may have been initially attracted to each other, but they spent the entirety of the book getting to know one another. While I didn't immediately connect to these characters, I felt their connection.
I enjoyed all of the backstory for these families, even if it was slow-going getting to the bottom of the curse and how everything fit together. But it gave me time to get to know the side characters, as well, even the ones that weren't physically present. It was better that I was slowly introduced to them all because admittedly, the family histories were a tad confusing at times. Lots of brothers and sisters and betrayals and missing people to worry about. And after discovering all of the secrets and magic that had been hidden on Watson's Landing all those years, I thought the ending would be more suspenseful, but I guess that's where the beginning of a "spellbinding new trilogy" comes in.
I think that as far as meeting my expectations goes, this book succeeded. Based on my initial reasons for wanting to read Compulsion, I got exactly what I was hoping for. I really enjoyed this story, but I was hoping for a really compelling resolution in this book. Honestly, my biggest complaint is that I don't think a series is warranted here. I would have much rather gotten my ending here in this book and then moved on to read the next awesome story from Martina Boone.
GIF it to me straight: Yep, that's what I'll be doing for the sequel since this is not the stand-alone I was hoping for. :(...more
I was hoping that the story behind that gorgeous cover would be equally enchanting, full of the revelry I've come to associate with the Roaring 20s. What I got instead was a story of necromancy, debauchery, and revolution. Not that I'm complaining...the story as a whole is quite intriguing.
Dark Metropolis was a much darker read than I had been expecting. That might come as a shock to you considering the word "dark" is right there in the title, but as I said, I was hoping for more decadence, less dead things. I was also hoping for a bit more world-building. I had read in a couple of places that the setting was based on Berlin in the 1920s, that period between the World Wars, and the war-torn vibe was there on the pages especially toward the end of the book, but it never felt like we were in Germany. Maybe I just don't know very much about Germany during that period -- or even now -- but I needed more from the setting. It also would have been nice to understand the Valkenrath brothers and their plan to utilize Freddy to help the country survive the aftermath of the war.
It felt as if this book began as Thea's story but quickly morphed into Freddy and Nan's story, with Thea included as just a bit player until nearly the end. And it's probably for this reason that I never felt very connected to any one character. I don't mind a switch in perspective in the narrative, especially when it makes sense to do so -- as in this story -- but before the transition, I'd like to connect to the last person whose head I was just in. The closest I came to this was with Thea in the first 50 pages or so, before it felt like she was ripped away from me in favor of Freddy's story. I suppose this sort of parallels how the families of the undead in this story probably felt, but I'm not inclined to appreciate that possibility right now.
The three main characters were great in their own right, though. Each was honorable, strong, and rose to the challenge set before them. Thea is the demure girl just trying to make her way as a plucky Telephone Club waitress while also taking care of her mother, who is ill due to a magic spell binding her to her missing husband. On the outside, Nan is Thea's closest friend and fellow Telephone Club waitress. On the inside, she is empty and unfeeling...until she solves the mystery of her special gift. And rounding out this trio, we have silver-haired Freddy, who has more control over life and death than he ever thought possible. Together, these three seek to put an end to the injustices being forced upon their friends and family.
I respect the author's inclusion of two very different romances in this story but also the fact that she didn't allow them to saturate the plot. They were very subtle, and I quite liked that. Also, yay for diversity! Even if that's another aspect that I would like to see expanded further. Not sure how many books will follow this first one, but I'm sure we'll see more of these two couples in the sequel -- and see if their love can withstand.
The thing that disappointed me most about this story, though, was probably how neat and tidy the ending was. I never wish for a cliffhanger, but I at least want to be intrigued enough to return for a sequel, and I'm not sure I'm at that point after finishing Dark Metropolis. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, atmospheric and equal parts gory and enchanting, but there was just something missing.
GIF it to me straight: It started off well enough, but the book lost its stride somewhere along the way....more
I could not have asked for a better ending to one of my favorite series...seriously. Some things went the way I'd expected, but there were a lot of surprises, as well...and not all of them welcome. But I can honestly say that this final installment was everything I was hoping for, and then some.
Obviously, with the way Fractured ended, we knew Lela was going before the Judge again and that she wasn't going to let Malachi go without a fight. Lela's fierceness and her willingness to sacrifice herself for those she cares about are what I like best about her, and that hasn't changed. And now she's got Ana -- or rather, Ana's got her -- as they trek through the Mazakin realm to rescue both of their loves.
This novel is kind of split between the Mazakin city and the rescue attempt and then what happens after. This final book is fraught with emotional moments: tearful reunions -- and amorous ones! -- heartbreaking goodbyes, daring escapes and startling realizations. It wouldn't be any kind of finale, though, if it didn't make you feel the whole gamut of emotions. I've always felt that there was a good balance between the darkness and the light in this series, though, even if it didn't always feel like it at the time. And nowhere is this balance more evident than in the dark, chaotic atmosphere of the Shadowlands and the nearly palpable romantic tension between Malachi and Lela.
I love happy endings as much as the next girl, but I'm also okay with a realistic ending, one in which the hero doesn't get the girl or the world isn't saved. I honestly couldn't tell you which type of ending I prefer because it really depends on the story thus far. But I can tell you that it is much easier for me to let go, to say goodbye to characters if I see them on their merry way before doing so. With this series, though, I don't think either ending would have made saying goodbye any easier. (Make of that what you will.)
I will say that this conclusion to the Guards of the Shadowlands series was completely satisfying. And it made everything these characters have been through totally worth it. This series has been so intense and so emotionally draining at times, but it has also been completely lovely at times, too. I cannot fathom never having experienced this world or never having met these characters.
GIF it to me straight: I don't want it to be over. :(...more
I've only read one other book by Jodi Lynn Anderson, and that was Tiger Lily, which I rather enjoyed. I found a lot of similarities between The Vanishing Season and the other book, including Anderson's narrative style and her propensity toward leaving her readers' hearts shattered, both of which make for a very compelling read.
This audiobook is lovely...deceptively so, for there are strange things happening in Door County. Oddly enough, the Tiger Lily audiobook was also narrated by the very capable Cassandra Campbell. I didn't fully enjoy her voice the first time I heard her narrate an audiobook -- and it may very well have been Tiger Lily, in which she used a very childlike voice -- but now I can honestly say her approach to the books she narrates has really grown on me. (ETA: I totally just realized I was confusing two Cassandras. But still, Cassandra Campbell is a fabulous narrator.) With 380 titles under her belt on Audible, I'm obviously not the only one who appreciates her performances. In this novel, her voice is haunting and sad and lends an eerie sense of calm to the story. Whereas the narration in the audiobook detracted some from Tiger Lily, here I think it is essential. At least, that's how it was for me.
The story is told from the perspective of an unknown narrator. Perhaps the house turned sentient or the ghost of a past resident...or maybe even the Door County Killer. It's not made clear until the story comes to a close and everything has come full circle. I, for one, loved not knowing who was behind the keen observations in The Vanishing Season. But that did not stop me from hazarding guess after guess.
This novel won't be for everyone, as evidenced by the many mixed reviews I've seen come across my feed over the past few months. But the same was true of Lucy Christopher's The Killing Woods, and I rather enjoyed that book, as well. In fact, I'd liken the two stories due to the air of mystery and danger, as well as the fact that the settings in each book seem to come alive and become characters in their own rights.
I'm not going to sugarcoat things: this novel is absolutely depressing. But it's not always depressing. It's rife with longing and loss and betrayal and love. It will leave you loathing some characters and crying for others, but in the end, you'll find that none of it matters. It's actually really perplexing to me how much I liked this story despite all of that...or in spite of it all. I'm not sure who I'd recommend this story to because those that I expected to love it didn't and others who I didn't even expect to read the book ended up liking it as much as I did, if not more. The Vanishing Season is really one of those books that you just have to try for yourself.
I didn't have very high expectations for Endless Knight after being pretty disappointed with Poison Princess. So why, then, did I pay good money forI didn't have very high expectations for Endless Knight after being pretty disappointed with Poison Princess. So why, then, did I pay good money for the audio of this book? Good question. I think I just really needed to prove to myself that this series was not at all for me. Also, I wanted to see how the author continued with the tarot card aspect.
Alas, what I got was a lot of Evie lamenting about the sad state of her love life. I did not like Jackson Deveaux's character in the first book, and I liked him even less in this installment. He now knows the truth of what Evie and his other traveling companions are, and he's understandably freaked out. He rather quickly comes to terms with Evie as the Empress, though, and starts up with propositioning her again. And this time, he's successful. As I alluded to in my review of the previous book, this girl apparently thinks very little of her virginity. And her indiscretions may cost her...and those she cares about.
Because no one in this story is trustworthy, and because Evie is naïve and trusts everyone, Evie ends up being abducted by the enigmatic Death. She can't deny her physical attraction to him, though she wants nothing more than to escape and return to Jack. But there's a history between Death and Evie, and when it finally came out, I can't say I was all that surprised. Besides the tarot aspect, the only other thing that sounded even remotely captivating about this book was the promise of Death as a character. (I am a sucker for Death personified.) But even that wasn't enough to hold my attention, though he is an intriguing character, but that's probably just because he's such a freaking mystery.
And although I did like Death's character, I still couldn't get on board with the direction the romance was taking in this book. Sure, I dislike ole Jack and everything he stands for and I'd like nothing more than to push Evie into Death's arms -- whether to be killed or not is an entirely different conversation -- but regardless, Jack is still in the back of Evie's mind. Despite certain betrayal, she still wants to give ole Jack the benefit of the doubt, give him a chance to explain himself. And she doesn't want to continue whatever this is with Death until she's talked to Jack. But that thing she let Death do...I think the Cajun would still frown upon that.
I finally think I have a better understanding of this world, the Arcana, and the characters themselves this time around. I think in the last book, I was trying too hard to make the focus on the post-apocalyptic setting, and though that's important to the story at times, it's not the main focus. It's actually just the precursor to the game the Arcana are playing now, just as it has been for centuries. I still find the game itself and the roles of the Arcana fascinating, but I grow tired of the key players and would like to see the focus shift to the rest of the Arcana.
I think the thing I dislike most about this series is Evie herself. The author has chosen to write the most obnoxious, self-centered, and ill-informed character, and I think her innocence is supposed to overshadow those terrible qualities, but in the end, all it does is make them more pronounced. I'm not a fan of the narrator for this series, either, but maybe that's because she makes Evie sound even more immature than I'd probably read her character myself. Emma Galvin does great accents for the Cajun and for Death, but that can't make up for the rest of the book. I think this series kind of ruined this narrator for me, unfortunately.
The one thing I'll give the author is that she can write a cliffhanger that will leave you wanting more. This should have been a DNF for me, but having paid hard-earned money for it, I couldn't give up. And then I was presented with a cliffhanger to rival the one at the end of the first book. And yes, crazy as it sounds, I want to know what happens. Not enough to buy the next book myself, mind you, but I can't help my curiosity.
Holy evil cliffhanger, Batman! Why you make my heart hurt so much, Sarah? Whhhhhhhyyyyyy???
I was late to the Sanctumparty last year, but once I did diHoly evil cliffhanger, Batman! Why you make my heart hurt so much, Sarah? Whhhhhhhyyyyyy???
I was late to the Sanctum party last year, but once I did discover the book, I was head-over-heels for the story...and Malachi. Not only is the romance in this series swoon-worthy, but the world-building is absolutely phenomenal. It is so easy to immerse myself in this world and let reality fade away, and that's really saying something considering the awful things waiting for me in these books. But this world and the characters...there's just something addicting about them.
This sequel started off exactly where I was hoping it would: with Malachi and Lela deeply entrenched in their love for each other, preparing to seek out the Mazakin who had escaped the Shadowlands. And then things get complicated. To say that the romance took a frustrating turn is putting it mildly. Malachi, being the capable, duty-bound guy that he is, decides that his job must come first and thus begins pushing Lela away. I'm usually not a fan of this approach, as it's usually for the protagonist's "own good". But in this case, Malachi is making the decision to turn off his feelings for Lela for the good of humanity and the safety of the other guards on this mission.
Naturally, this is hard on Lela, who cannot understand his decision. She's been rejected and felt unloved her entire life, and for the one person who'd admitted he loves her to push her away, too....it's almost more than she can handle. But the more desperate the situation gets with the Mazakin, the more Lela realizes that maybe their relationship was distracting them. It's almost painful to read, but she and Malachi each seek comfort elsewhere, though the dreaded love quadrangle doesn't really feel solid. Although we don't know Malachi's heart, it's easy to see in his actions and mannerisms that he very much still cares about Lela, and we know Lela is having a hard time overcoming her feelings for Malachi.
But they have responsibilities. Both guards have a duty here on Earth, and with Lela as Captain, they seek to destroy the Mazakin who are running amuck. Even if Lela wasn't sure she deserved the title of Captain, she really proved herself worthy. She is even more lethal, more dangerous, more fierce in this second book than she ever endeavored to be in Sanctum. But that's probably because there's even more riding on the line this time around. She's not fighting for the future of just one friend but all the new friends she's made, plus the whole of humanity. Besides the formidable Malachi, she's got backup from Jim and Henry, both of whom are from different sectors of the afterlife. It was easy to empathize with each of the guards and their backstories, and it made it that much more difficult to watch the hard decisions Lela was forced to make on their behalf.
In addition to her guards, there are others who help Lela...maybe not in the same way, but they give her a little dose of normalcy in her otherwise chaotic life, and she soaks it up. I appreciated that this novel highlighted some of the social stigmas that Lela was facing and focused on her overcoming some of them. It was also nice to see Lela reflecting on her typecasting of Nadia's old group and coming to realize that not everything or everyone is black-and-white.
All of the story in this sequel occurs in our world, away from the dark and terrifying Hell we witnessed in the first book. But that doesn't mean this book is any less intense. This story was fraught with danger and high emotions, and those were reflected in every aspect of the setting and characters, from the would-be crack den Lela finds herself trailing a Mazakin to, to the homeless ex-nun swinging a baseball bat at Lela in the midst of a Mazakin attack. The situation seems hopeless, but I guess that's one of the reasons I find myself so invested in this series: no matter how dire everything seems, these characters never stop trying.
That being said, even *I* wanted to give up hope when I got to that ending. There are cliffhangers and then there are "just toss me over the cliff because there's no way we're ever coming back from this" cliffhangers. The ending in Fractured was the latter. I want to remain hopeful, but in the face of all of this devastation, I'm not sure that's possible.
A sequel should leave you balancing on a precipice, begging for more while fearing the worst. And that's exactly what Fractured did. This book is full of twists and turns, some you see coming and some that completely blindside you. It's raw and exhilarating and everything I hoped it would be after such an impressive start to this series. I wish the next book wasn't another year or so away, but I have no doubt it'll be well worth the wait. This sequel definitely was.
Thanks to Amazon Children's Publishing/Skyscape for the ARC for review.
Wowsers! I mean, seriously, I didn't think it could get more awesome than The Archived, but holy wow, it SO DID! Lovedlovedloved it! AALL! THE! STARS!
Wowsers! I mean, seriously, I didn't think it could get more awesome than The Archived, but holy wow, it SO DID! Lovedlovedloved it! And now I must devour every known work by Victoria Schwab. Every. Known. Work.
I re-read The Archived prior to picking up my prized galley of The Unbound because, well...because of the Wesley Ayers. Among other things. But, gawd, if I wasn't stoked for the sequel before (and I was, I really was), then to say that giving that bad boy another read did unspeakable things to my determination to read The Unbound stat and without interruption would be an understatement.
I don't know about you, but I love an unreliable narrator. And in this sequel, Mac becomes just such a narrator. After the horrific things she survived in The Archived, girl is allowed a little mental breakdown, but when she starts to see Owen Chris Clarke, to feel his presence not only in her dreams but in her waking hours, too, something's gotta give, and for a good while, it looked like it was going to be Mac's sanity. But it goes without saying that because of her questionable mental state, she might not be the most trustworthy source for information. It might help if she'd actually talk to someone (ahem, Wesley) about what's troubling her, but you know she's not going to make it easy on herself. Mac is tough as nails thanks to Da, and she will see this thing through, even if it kills her...but hopefully not.
And to add to the chaos of the situation is the fact that Victoria Schwab is boss as misdirection. I had suspicions. I had theories. I felt at times that I was being pushed in one direction so that I'd get all turned around, like I were in those awful tunnels myself. This sequel is all kinds of twisty, and I never knew who to trust, if anyone...well, except Wes. I just can't not trust that guy.
Speaking of, if you were disappointed by the lack of swoons in the first book when it came to Wes and Mac, your patience will pay off in this book. Though you should be warned, Mac's become a bit of a babe magnet as of late. But fret not fellow Wesley fans, this is nothing compared to that awkward triangle-type thingy that happened in The Archived. Which, if I'm being perfectly honest, wasn't really there either since that was a case of Mac and OCC using each other for different purposes and really involved no feelings. Anyway, back to my point: lots of Wesley Ayers page time and you will see a side of him you've never seen before. And he's all kinds of adorbs, but that's to be expected.
New friends, new foes, old friends, old foes...this sequel isn't lacking for entertaining characters. Roland is still a great counter to Mac's brash, impulsive personality. I enjoyed the almost fatherly role he played in the first book, but he's an even more prominent ally now, which is perfect because Mac needs him now more than ever. Even Mac's parents get more action in this sequel, though I can't say that it made me like them any better. I empathize with their situation, but losing one child does not net you permission to be absent for your remaining offspring. They seem to wake up a bit from their stupor and take notice, but it's all the wrong things they're seeing, and Mac can't say a word otherwise to dissuade them.
The interactions between Da and Mac still preface the chapters, but rather than being a present-tense memory where Mac is "speaking" to Da, this time around they actually feel like flashbacks, usually ones that precede some training aspect Mac is putting into action. They still contain those nuggets of wisdom, but Mac is seeing the Archive and its actions in a different light, and she's starting to question what Da really knew and understood about the people he was working for.
Which is partly what makes this sequel so unbelievably good: everything is in question and nothing can be taken for granted. Also: the resolution that should mollify all involved parties but likely will only result in inciting further rebellion...because it leaves room for more story, which I desperately need. I could wax poetic about all the things I love about The Unbound, but there's only one thing that I'm disappointed in. And that's the fact that I can't find any info on a third book! Grrr.
Check back for my stop on The Unbound Blog Tour later in January!
GIF it to me straight: No words could adequately describe how amazing this sequel was. Truly.
Reasons to read: You loved the previous two books, obvs. You love a good character-driven novel -- or series -- that's going to keep you guessing till the very end. You love Maggie Stiefvater so much that you even love reading a whole post about her goats.
Or, you just really love a book that makes you work for it, that doesn't give you any easy answers...one that's all of this:
The story: I feel like this is a mythical quest of Goonies proportions, only it keeps snowballing and growing in ways I never expected...and I am so okay with that. No matter what complications arise, no matter what they discover and where it leads them, these kids never give up. Their tenacity for finding Glendower -- and the other answers they seek -- is astounding.
The characters: Blue Sargent. Richard Campbell Gansey III, otherwise known as Gansey. Adam Parrish. Ronan Lynch. Mr. Gray, aka The Gray Man. Calla. Persephone. Even Orla. They all leap off the page at you and make you care, even when they're persnickety or callous or have outright offended you. These characters take the wheel, become the driving force that keeps you reading until all the words are gone.
The villain: It's changed with every book and yet I haven't hated any of them. I don't particularly like any of them either, but I find them intriguing nonetheless.
The romance(s): Oh, yes, that's romance in the plural sense. Because one we know is impossible. (Maybe? Hopefully not?) One is intriguing because it involves a hitman. And the other one caught us by complete surprise, though it shouldn't have. (I mean, such animosity can only be sexual tension, right?) My ship remains intact and I have a new one on the horizon. Sort of. Pretty please?
The swoons: Please stopdon't ever stop doing this to my heart, Maggie. I can take it. I promise.
Everything's coming full circle: It's all coming together. Questions are being answered. There's only one book left and things are making sense but they're also not and maybe the search is almost over, but hopefully it's not?
OMG, that last page. OMFG, "where the F stands for fainting*". I feel faint still. Talk about a shocker.
*As in, Maggie's fainting goats. I borrowed this quote from the post of Maggie's I linked to earlier in this review.
The quotability: Mags is always quotable. She writes like she talks in real life -- sardonic, sarcastic, and humorous -- and it speaks to me like no other. Some favorites:
"Go to hell," Calla burst out. He nodded. "That's what I thought. You expecting her any time soon? I'd love to have a chat with her in particular." "Hell," Persephone said. "I actually agree in this case. Insofar as going there is concerned."
"Oh, no!" Persephone said with a little laugh. "I don't think that would -- no. As you said, she has the hots for Mr. Gray. Do young people really say that anymore?" "I just said it. I'm young." "Ish." "Are you asking me or not? Either you accept my authority on this point or we move on." "We move on."
"They regarded each other. Adam fair and cautious, Ronan dark and incendiary. This was Ronan at his most truthful."
"There was something unfamiliar about him when he arrived in the Pig. Something ferocious about his eyes, some sort of bite in his faint smile. Something altogether hectic and unsettled. She stood on the ledge of his smile and looked over the edge. This wasn't the Gansey she'd seen in the kitchen earlier; this was the Gansey she secretly called at night."
"Jesus Christ," Gansey said, to hide the sound of every hair on his body standing up and both of his testicles retreating."
"One of Calla's eyebrows momentarily considered punching the woman."
"Don't Richard Gansey the Third at me," Orla replied. "Because if that's what she meant, then yes, I just stared at him. I didn't realize it was a conversation because penis."
Probably too many favorites, considering I highlighted half the novel on my Kindle, but...
In summation: What did I love best about this third installment?
Yeah. It was pretty effing amazing. Maybe my favorite one yet, though I really, really liked The Dream Thieves...a whole helluva lot. *shrugs* All I know is...it's going to be a long, anxious wait for that final book. Also...
I am steadfastly unapologetic of my Maggie love. No matter if she's writing about homicidal faeries, boys trapped in wolves bodies, killer water horseI am steadfastly unapologetic of my Maggie love. No matter if she's writing about homicidal faeries, boys trapped in wolves bodies, killer water horses, or a group of kids searching for a Welsh king, her writing never fails to be evocative, lyrical, and whimsical. I've read every novel she's written to-date, and I'll be honest, I'm having a difficult time deciding my favorite now that I've read The Dream Thieves. Before this book, I would still have been able to say that The Scorpio Races would forever remain my favorite Maggie book, even despite how much I enjoyed The Raven Boys last year. I mean, even the author herself has proclaimed this her new favorite. Is it any wonder I'm waffling?
Prior to picking up this book myself, I'd seen others call this "Ronan's book". And it kind of is. Didn't he deserve his own side of the story after that rather shocking revelation at the end of The Raven Boys? And that's only the beginning. You have no idea what this guy is capable of...and neither does he! Ronan is a complicated guy. You empathize for his loss and his lack of familial support, but you also wonder how Gansey can stand to be friends with a guy who is so clearly his polar opposite. But that's the beauty of the relationship between the Raven Boys...and Blue; can't forget her. They all come from such different backgrounds and have such contrasting aspirations in life and yet they all come together in search of Glendower. I digress, but I just can't get over that group dynamic...it's almost as interesting as the one between the women of Blue's family.
Anyway, back to Ronan. He is special. All the characters in this series are special, but Ronan has a gift, an unbelievable, awesome, dangerous gift. And for much of The Dream Thieves, he's practicing mastering said gift. I found his talent interesting, but it wasn't until Kavinsky abruptly arrived on the scene that it truly caught my attention. Kavinsky, with his white framed sunglasses and his souped-up Mitsubishi, is the character you loathe to like; he's equal turns cocky and disgusting and dangerous, manipulative and calculating, and he wants to team up with Ronan. What a terrible and terrifying alliance that would be! (The following video is totally relevant...watch it.)
So much happens in this book as the quest for Glendower continues, though the group is really no closer to finding their Welsh king than they were before. That said, I felt like some of the magic had gone out of the story...literally. The lines that separated reality from the surreal in the first book are no longer blurred, except when Ronan dreams, and I love how the magic disappearing in one area correlates with the magic appearing so brazenly in another. This right here is some fascinating story-telling.
Despite the fact that this is a Ronan-centric book, there's still a little of everyone's story built into it. Adam is angry and a bit self-destructive. Blue is sad and lonely. Gansey is still driven, determined, and dapper. Noah is still dead, and because of circumstances created by the ending in the previous book, he's noticeably absent from a good chunk of this one. But, oh, when he's there, he is even more adorable than I remember...and sweet and charming and just.... *sigh* Oh, and Maura gets herself a hitman love interest. And I really liked his character's inclusion in the story. There has always been heavy emphasis on morality (and mortality!) in this story, and Mr. Gray/the Gray Man toes the line superbly.
"Like, if you kiss your true love, he'll die," he said, "or is it when you kiss your true love, he'll die?" "I don't get what the difference is." He rubbed the side of his face on the pillow. "Mmmmsoft," he remarked, then added, "One's your fault. The other one, you just happen to be there when it happens. Like, when you kiss him, POW, he gets hit by a bear. Totally not your fault. You shouldn't feel bad about that. It's not your bear." "I think it's if. They all say if." "Bummer. So you're never going to kiss anyone?" "Looks that way."
There may be a kissing curse on Blue, but there is plenty of kissing to be had in this book. Maybe not in the way you might expect...I did tell you Maura landed herself a hitman, right? ;0) But that near kiss....it almost undid me. It took my breath away more than an actual kiss might have...the potential for disaster there is astounding, and yet I want it to happen so badly.
Oh, that ending! Why does Maggie insist on tormenting us so?!? Things were going so well, er, well, as good as they're going to get for these characters any time in the near future. But man, does Maggie like leaving us on the edge of a precipice! It's going to be torture waiting another year for the next book, but it will definitely be worth the wait.
**I did miss Will Patton's narration, though. He provided all the voices in The Raven Boys audiobook and is doing the same for the audio for The Dream Thieves. Even so, I still heard his raspy voice for Ronan and the slight Southern drawl for Adam, etc., in my head while I was reading this one. That's the sign of a truly good narrator, if you ask me: when you can't imagine the voices any other way. If you haven't checked out the audio, I highly recommend it.
"So what you're saying is you can't explain it." "I did explain it." "No, you used nouns and verbs together in a pleasing but illogical format."
He didn't say, Or maybe something terrible happened to Adam that day he sacrificed himself in Cabeswater. Maybe he's messed up all of Henrietta by waking up the ley line. Because they couldn't talk about that. Just like they couldn't talk about Adam stealing the Camaro that night. Or about him basically doing everything Gansey had asked him not to. If Adam was stupid about his pride, Gansey was stupid about Adam.
If he were a god, he thought, this would be precisely how he'd create his new world. Unrolling it like a carpet.
Adam's response was buried in the sound of the second-story door falling open. Noah slouched in. In a wounded tone, he said, "He threw me out the window!" Ronan's voice sang out from behind his closed door. "You're already dead!"
"I'm very nearly drunk enough to be transcendent," Calla said after a space. She was not the only psychic drinking, but she was the closest one to transcendence.
Gansey ran over the memory until he no longer felt the thrill of hearing Glendower's name whispered in his ear, and then instead gave himself over to feeling sorry for himself, that he should have so many friends and yet feel so very alone. He felt it fell to him to comfort them, but never the other way around.
As it should be, he thought,abruptly angry with himself. You've had it the easiest. What good is all your privilege, you soft, spoiled thing, if you can't stand on your own legs?
"Are you ready?" Ronan asked. "What is it I'm preparing myself for?" Behind the door, something scratched on the floorboard. Tck-tck-tck. Like a mallet dragged across a washboard. Something in Gansey's heart thrilled with fear. Ronan said, "What's in my head." Gansey didn't think there was a way to steel oneself for that. But he helped Ronan push the bookshelf out of the way.<
Gansey threw open his door. Gripping the roof of the car, he slid himself out. Even that gesture, Ronan noted, was wild Gansey, Gansey-on-fire. Like he pulled himself from the car because ordinary climbing out was too slow. This was going to be a night.
"You're being creepy," Blue said. "Maybe you mean to be, but in case you're being accidentally creepy, I thought I'd let you know."
Thanks to Scholastic for providing a copy for review!
"I wish I could talk to him about what I've done, but I don't want him to know. I am alone in this, as I am alone in so much else. It is a crushing feeling with no corners and no edges. Endless and uncontainable. The Ghost seems to understand this feeling."
If you've seen my Review in a GIFfy feature, you know that the first book I ever reviewed in this fashion was Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine. (That review can be found here.) And with good reason, since so much of the story warrants such strong reactionary GIFs. But there's also a beautiful subtlety to Fine's storytelling method, full of vivid imagery but also those small things that niggle at your subconscious until you can no longer ignore them.
This book felt like so many things in one. First and foremost, it's a love story...and a doomed one at that. The setting and characters lend themselves to an Asian culture set somewhere in the somewhat recent past, but this isn't really a historical fiction novel. There are mechanical elements that are reminiscent of a steampunk novel, but that's not the focus of this story, either. One thing I do know, though, is that Of Metal and Wishes is a retelling of a timeless masterpiece, and it is beautifully told.
I loved how this story stayed with me, how even though I didn't know it was supposed to be a Phantom of the Opera retelling until I was already knee-deep in it, the hints of that familiar story were already ruminating in my brain, pushing me to read further, figure out who the Ghost was and what he wanted with Wen. And even though I did have my theories pan out, it made the story no less captivating to know what Wen was up against. In fact, knowing only urged me to plunge deeper into the story to discover the hows and whys of it all. And it all boils down to a little thing called social injustice.
A little background: Wen's family was of a nobler class before they fell on hard times. Wen's father is now the on-staff doctor at the local slaughterhouse. They live on-site in the medical quarters, and Wen's now of the age that she must consider her own occupational options. Basically, she's a sad, lonely young woman with little hope for a happier existence, and now that she's made an impulsive request of the Ghost, she's encompassed in guilt. Melik is a Noor, a group of downtrodden people who stand out as different because of their appearance but also because they are the cheap labor shipped in to work in the factory. They are not respected and they have little to no rights. As such, neither Wen nor Melik would normally have any contact with the other, save for the altercation in the cafeteria that sets off an avalanche of events that continually put them in each other's company. Their initial interactions are rocky at best, but before long, the pair begin to gradually trust one another...though not without reservations.
I usually try not to become overly infatuated with the romance in a story, instead hoping that the story can stand on its own without the love story to back it up, but for this novel, I've made an exception. Okay, maybe that's the wrong word because this story does hold its own without the romantic interludes between Wen and Melik. However, I really liked what was developing between those two, and I can't deny that it also pressed me to read on. The romance not only relies on the characters and their feelings but also on their part in society. Social injustices and peer opinions play a big role in Wen and Melik's potential relationship, and it's because of these things -- and the Ghost, can't forget him and his meddling -- that their relationship almost doesn't come to fruition. But it's everything leading up to their eventual coming together that makes their romance all the more precious: Melik defending Wen from his fellow Noor, Wen mending Melik during illness and injury, and on and on, despite their difference in class. And amidst everything they're already facing, they also have to confront their own prejudices against each other.
Just as Melik feels protective of Wen, Wen deems it necessary to stand up for the Noor, whom she grievously misjudged. She is compassionate toward the Noor when no one else is. But the Ghost, hiding in the shadows, is exacting his own brand of vengeance by way of granting wishes left for him on an altar by those in need...or those who have been wronged. He, too, feels the need to protect Wen, and it's through his wish granting and involvement in the daily lives of the factory workers that we begin to discover who or what he really is. As the mystery unravels, the Ghost's existence becomes less creepy and more sad with the realization of his existence.
And that pretty much sets the tone for the novel, which ends on a very bittersweet note. (Which is fine, since the author announced there will be a sequel.) This novel was truly exquisite: the writing was fluid, the mystery was solid, and the story itself was haunting and beautiful. I can't wait to see where the next chapter takes these characters.
"Wen always has medicine."
GIF it to me straight: That's me to this book....more
Wow, you guys...this may be the best series finale I've read in...well, ever. Or at least sinceThis review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
Wow, you guys...this may be the best series finale I've read in...well, ever. Or at least since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. ;0) But seriously, I couldn't have asked for more from Laini Taylor. Well, except maybe more Karou and Akiva alone time, but they're on the cusp of a war that's spilling over into our world, so I kind of understand the reluctance to let loose with the swoons. =)
But is it really the end? I've seen a lot of speculation over the ending and how open it is...for more story, that is. There's definitely some resolution to the story, so fret not about the conclusion but about the possibility of more angels and chimera....just maybe from a different vantage point. There were so many new characters introduced in this final installment that it makes perfect sense to continue the story through some of their eyes. Or even from the perspective of characters we've come to know throughout the series, just not as deeply as Karou and Akiva. Or maybe Taylor's pleased with how she left things in Dreams of Gods and Monsters and we'll never see these characters again. I might cry at that thought if I didn't know I could revisit these books any time I please.
Everything I loved about the first two books was present and accounted for: beyond gorgeous prose, strong characters that evoked equally strong emotions in me, and an amazing story to match. This final book is long, but between the audiobook and the hardcopy, I finished it in about two days, listening while I was at work or in the car and picking up where I left off as soon as I could at home. (Khristine Hvam narrates the audio, and if you've never experienced her narration and awesome accents, this series is the place to start...you won't regret it.) In the beginning, I questioned the importance of some of the newer characters, wondering at how necessary it was to include their arcs and whether the overall plot was suffering from so many different perspectives, but once things started coming together little by little, it was clear Laini Taylor knew what she was doing by peppering this last book with peeks at these new characters. Everything came full circle and though many new questions popped up over this world throughout this final book, I feel like I got my questions answered, that the resolution I was hoping for was here in this book.
I'll admit, not all of my hopes for this story were realized, though. I'd hoped that a few things that were fact in previous books might come into question again and be proven false now that the angels and chimera were on the brink of war, but even though those hopes weren't met, I'm still ridiculously happy with this conclusion. It was also torture watching and waiting for Akiva and Karou to make amends, but it was worth it. Plus, I had my favorite secondary characters -- Zuzana and Mik -- to entertain me in the meantime. All in all, a solid ending to one of my favorite series. I'd say Laini Taylor's only misstep was in giving me hope for a spin-off series. ;-)
And here's what my copy looked like after I'd gotten through with it:
And that's me being conservative with the tags!!! =)
Oh, my heart! This series finale, while no more brutal than other recent series endings, left me desolate. I devoured this book, but over the course of the novel, I think I distanced myself from the characters and the story. I actually think I've been doing that with a lot of finales lately, to save myself from the pain, I suppose. But with Evertrue, I couldn't help how my heart was dashed to pieces.
I was numb for most of the book. Cole was not Cole. Jack was a bit over-bearing, and Nikki was just...well, her usual over-thinking self. I loved Everbound, loved it sooo hard. And even though we do return to the Everneath in this book, it just didn't have the same draw. Nothing about this final book had the same impact, emotional or otherwise, as the previous two books. Until that ending.
The amnesia plot in this book kind of drove me nuts. As did Jack's caveman attitude. I felt like I no longer knew these two boys, and honestly, I couldn't have cared less who Nikki ended up with. I am all for the redeemable bad boy, and so I previously sided with Cole, despite his various misdeeds. But I knew that ultimately that could never be. I'd made my peace with that. And with this final installment, I didn't really find him appealing anymore, as different as he was. Until that ending.
But this wasn't ever really a love triangle to begin with, so I don't want to focus on that aspect. I think it was the overall plot that bothered me most. I just didn't feel invested in where the story was headed, and the characters didn't help with that. I read it quickly, but that was because I was trying to get to the end, to where I know Ashton's strengths really lie. The woman can write an ending, if the previous two books are to be believed. And here again, she delivers. I can't say I particularly love the turn it took, but it was fitting, if nothing else. And Cole got some pretty good lines in there at the end.
Evertrue was not my favorite ending to a series, but when you never want your favorite series to end in the first place, that is a tall feat to accomplish anyway. It hit me in the feels. It made me want to bang my head against the wall. It made my heart hurt. And that's pretty much all I can ask from a finale: that it makes me feel something...that it makes me reminisce over the entire series and want to read it again in one go.
Stop by The Starry-Eyed Revue and enter for your chance to win a finished copy in the Bad Boy Rehab Hop!!!
Books about the afterlife simply fascinate mStop by The Starry-Eyed Revue and enter for your chance to win a finished copy in the Bad Boy Rehab Hop!!!
Books about the afterlife simply fascinate me. We all have our own perceptions of what comes after this life, and it's terribly interesting to me to dwell on the possibilities. With Level 2, we're presented with a new possibility thanks to fellow blogger Lenore Appelhans. And it's a very different version of the afterlife, let me tell you.
Level 2 was not at all what I expected going into this book. (If possible, go into this one not knowing anything...it's more fun that way.) But I can honestly say, even having read the synopsis prior to reading this novel, I was still surprised at the turn the story took. I whole-heartedly expected a heavy-dose of science fiction, and well, I can't really tell you what I got instead without ruining the (potential) surprise. I say potential because I didn't see it coming, but I was so engrossed in the story and the characters that I wasn't looking for it to begin with. It is definitely an original take on the afterlife.
Aside from a unique premise, where this novel really shines is in the characterization. Through flashbacks and memories, we are shown the ins and outs of the characters. From too-perfect-to-be-true Neil to the self-deprecating narration of Felicia, these characters are made real by their thoughts and actions. I may not have the clearest picture of what each character looks like, but I know them inside and out by the time the novel ends. They are not without their faults, but their actions are always true to their characters.
As the details of Felicia's disastrous last few months on Earth come to light, we learn more about her than we ever could have from the narrator herself. She blames her current situation on herself...and on her first love, bad boy Julian who left her broken-hearted. All she wants now is to find Neil, the boy who picked up the pieces and put her back together, but she's stuck in her memories with no chance of escape.
Enter Julian, the bad boy harboring a secret that will unravel the small hold Felicia's regained on her afterlife. Julian wants to break her out of the hive in Level 2, but Felicia is unsure whether to trust the guy who broke her heart, came between her and her best friend, and caused her exile from her family. But as I learned more about Julian through Felicia's memories, something began to feel off. I don't think he ever intentionally meant to hurt Felicia or her best friend. Sometimes circumstances dictate that you hurt the ones you love in order to save them. But it wasn't one of those situations where he pushed Felicia away in order to protect her...he just flat out left, with no explanation. Still, the more I saw of Julian, the more I recognized the signs of true affection, even through his arrogant, self-aggrandizing.
The summary hints at a love triangle. I certainly hope there's room for one in the next book, because I just wasn't feeling the too-perfect Neil at all, but I can assure you that there isn't a love triangle in this novel. The only romance that occurs is in the form of flashbacks, and we get to see Felicia with both Neil and Julian, though at different periods of time. But Felicia goes on and on (and on) about finding Neil and finding out if he's already in Level 2. Her only concern is for Neil, but based on his reaction, Julian is still infatuated with Felicia. However, because of certain events, I wouldn't discount Julian as a possible love-interest at some point. *fingers crossed*
My only complaint, really, is the dialogue. Considering how developed the characters themselves were, I expected snarky banter and articulate exchanges, but a lot of the dialogue felt stilted and just overall unappealing to me, mostly because it was so juvenile. Some examples:
"You're not the only hacker in the universe, you know. You've been viewing lots of memories of Neil. And not so many memories of me." He clicks his tongue with disapproval. "Should I be jealous?" "Ugh, why would I want to revisit the worst parts of my whole life?" I scowl at him. Jerk.
He grins wickedly. "If you say so..." He shimmers again and is left in nothing but a Speedo, smooth chest and washboard abs glistening with water droplets as if he's just stepped from a pool. "Julian!" I gag. "Stop fooling around." "Fine," he says, his tone now serious. He shimmers again and materializes back into his normal outfit. "I see you're still uptight."
But the writing in general was lush and evocative, so I'm not sure where the disconnect was. All in all, this was a fantastic debut, one that I enjoyed even more than I expected to. It was engaging and full of surprises, and although the science fiction elements weren't as numerous as I'd expected, the fact that the book is sci-fi light might actually encourage more to read it, especially those who like a more contemporary read, since this book deals with grief and loss and love, in addition to what's next for us after this life.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing an ARC for review!
I love zombie novels, be they scary and gory or just tragic and sad. Even better if you combine all of those elements. And that's exactly**4.5 stars**
I love zombie novels, be they scary and gory or just tragic and sad. Even better if you combine all of those elements. And that's exactly what Susan Dennard accomplished with Something Strange and Deadly. Dennard has combined the elegance and industrialization of the Victorian era with the grotesqueness of the walking dead to create a world that was both frightening and intriguing. The first-person narrative allowed me to explore the streets of 19th century Philadelphia right along with Eleanor as she searched for her missing brother. The story was fast-paced and well-evolved, and though it was not suspenseful in the way that I had hoped, there were plenty of zombie-killing sequences to keep me entertained.
Characterization can make or break a novel for me. If I don't feel at least some connection to the characters and what they are going through, I'm more likely to have a less than favorable opinion of the story as a whole. The opposite is also true. Sometimes the characters are so solidly written, so meticulously developed, that I'm able to overlook other elements of the story that might have otherwise bothered me, such as the lack of mystery and suspense. The characters in this novel are in the latter category.
Take Eleanor Fitt of the Philadelphia Fitts, for example: she's a young, well-bred society woman who is to be married off to the first available man who comes along so that her mother may avoid the poor house. But no one asks Eleanor if this is what she wants. She bites her tongue and obeys her mother, biding her time till her brother returns and saves her from this plight. Assuming he does return. The underlying motivation for nearly every one of Eleanor's misguided actions and indiscretions is finding her brother. Elijah makes her feel normal and whole in a world where she does not quite belong. Eleanor has always known she didn't quite fit with high society, but after deep reflection and upon hearing "Miss Fitt" one too many times, the realization of just how much she doesn't belong really hits her. Miss Fitt = misfit. Such a clever moniker for such a clever girl. Quick-witted and sharp-tongued -- "I could keep quiet. But that didn't mean I would." (p. 89 of ARC) -- Eleanor is the kind of person I want beside me when the Zombie Apocalypse arrives.
In keeping with the theme of ostracism, Eleanor enlists the help of the Spirit-Hunters in her search for Elijah. The band of outcasts is hesitant to help Eleanor until they learn that Elijah's disappearance is somehow involved with the reawakened Dead. Joseph, the leader of the Spirit-Hunters, is a gentleman who handles himself with dignity and grace. Daniel, his right-hand man, is the opposite. He may be hot-headed and callous, but he is quite the inventor. (And quite dashing, too!) Jie is a Chinese girl, slightly older than Eleanor, who dresses as a boy, not only so that she may work with the Spirit-Hunters, but also to avoid suffering dresses and corsets and the oppression that comes with being a young women, in her society or in Eleanor's. Together, the three have followed a powerful Necromancer from Chicago to Philadelphia. Tracking down the Necromancer and stopping him is their primary objective, but seeing as how Eleanor has proven herself helpful and her brother does seem to be involved somehow, they agree to assist her in her search.
A slew of bad decisions, a heaping helping of zombie attacks, and a bittersweet romance all make for one exciting read. But the decisions aren't of the cringe-worthy variety, the zombie attacks aren't terribly disgusting, and the romance takes a backseat to the real action. It's really quite good and artfully told, considering this is the author's debut novel. And what a sensational debut it is. I almost wish I had time to re-read it now so that I could pick up on the nuances and details I missed on my race to the finish line the first time around. It's a zombie novel, but it's not of the grossly exaggerated and vomit-inducing type…at least I didn't think so. So, if you can handle a little descriptive grossness and prefer a story that doesn't focus primarily on romance, this book might be for you.
Thanks to HarperCollins/HarperTeen for providing an ARC of this title for review.