The Lost Prince was exactly what I hoped it would be. I devoured it entirely in just one day, unable to...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
The Lost Prince was exactly what I hoped it would be. I devoured it entirely in just one day, unable to stop myself because I was having such a good time back in this unique world, filled with cait sith (and one of my favorite fictional felines of all time -- Grimalkin!), human struggle, humor, and magic. Another winner for this strong author, this series is off to a great start.
"I've also spoken with a talking cat, fought a dragon, and watched the Iron Kingdom light up at night. I've seen a faery queen, climbed the towers of a huge castle, flown on a giant metal insect, and made a deal with a legend." - The Lost Prince, p. 244 (ARC)
This book just seals it: I am a a Julie Kagawa fangirl. While I didn't loooove the first two Iron Fey books about Meghan, or her vampire post-apocalyptic dystopia The Immortal Rules, between reading The Iron Knight and now The Lost Prince, I find myself in firmly stuck fangirl territory. I am am totally okay with it -- this is an author that continues to grow, and improve, and one that can consistently entrench me in her vivid imagination, realistic characters, and fabulous worldbuilding. I will read anything this woman writes because she just does it so well across the board; her skills in action scenes, big reveals, and in conveying pure emotion are among the best of young-adult authors, and never fail to make me care intensely about her cast of fey, humans, and cats. It's a wonderful thing, to have a new Julie Kagawa novel, and I can only hope that The Traitor Son (ominous title is ominous), book two in this well-crafted spinoff series, isn't too long in the offing.
The Lost Prince is a thoroughly fun, consistently action-packed, and involving read - one that builds on the fey and mortal worlds established so well in the previous four novels about Kagawa's unique Iron Fey, but is ultimately also a novel that can stand firmly on its own two feet. Reading the first four would be helpful in understanding some of what goes on here (and with the reasons for Ethan's major 'tude problems) and the backstory, but is not really required to get the full picture of this first in a spinoff series. The protagonist of the novel, Ethan Chase, is very different type of person than his sister was in her arc of books. Whereas Meghan is nice, occasionally obsessive about boys, and outgoing, Ethan has a host of issues and has no problem being a bastard. While it took me a while to warm up to this bitter, self-loathing character, and eventually, charminly arrogant main character, the first person POV does a world of good in establishing who he is, how he thinks, and most importantly, why is the way he is. His inner monologue shows how well-rounded he is, his unresolved issues with his sister's abandonment leaves him alone, resentful, angry, scared, and he thinks, unsafe. His maturation and evolution as a person is subtle and well-handled; the Ethan Chase of the final pages is vastly different from the one in the first chapter.
Another thing I like immensely about this prolific author is how inventive she allows herself to be with her novels and creatures. She didn't just create the concept of a new kind of fey once before with the Iron fey (as opposed to the two traditional ones: Seelie and Unseelie), but does so again here with the idea of the Forgotten. New ideas are spun off of old ones, new plots, new dangers, new concrete characters -- all are covered ably and well by this seasoned author. From individual characterization to the Hit-People-With-Sticks action scenes, this is a woman who can write, and be starkly original while doing so. I've read a lot of fey/fae/fairy novels, and not once does the work of this author seem derivative, or really, anything but her own creation. The Forgotten fey, in all their creepy forms and facets (the cat-thing! The piranha goblins with mouths in their hands! The tall thin ones with knives for fingers!) are as creative and new as the Iron fey were back in the first series.
Fans of her first series Nevernever novels will find a lot more to enjoy in the new trio of Ethan, Kenzie, and Keirran. While they might not be quiiiite as charismatic as the first group of Ash, Puck, and Meghan, they have several more books and hundreds of pages to live up to that high standard. And I fully believe that they can and will, ominous promises and behaviors permitting. And an added bonus, there is no love-triangle between them to try and make me crazy detract from the story at the heart of the novel. These new characters aren't just Ash, and Puck, and Meghan recast as different people - besides Ethan's vast differences from his sister, both Kenzie and Keirran have their own histories, motivations, wants, and needs. I will be definitely counting down the days til tuning in to the next installment in the Call of the Forgotten to see where Kagawa will take her band of unique characters.
If I am going to complain about anything, it's that some ideas and sentences were used a bit repetitively throghout the nearly 400-page length, and that Ash/Puck/Meghan weren't nearly around enough to satisfy my need to read more about them. (Four books and several novellas will never sate my love for Ash.<3) I know this is Ethan's arc and not his sister's, but I can always use more time with Robin Goodfellow, the Winter Prince, and the Iron Queen.
Fans of Julie Kagawa will love this. Readers looking for strong characters and fun plots will find a lot to enjoy about The Lost Prince. All in all, this is one of the strongest spinoff novels I've ever had the pleasure to read, and excuse my fangirling, but I love it to pieces after just one read. If you love or even like any of Julie Kagawa's previous novels, do yourself a favor and pick this one up as soon as you can. It's a winner, and it's damn fun to read.(less)
I loved this. Absolutely. Frikkin. Loved it. I tried to draw out the experience and couldn't make mysel...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I loved this. Absolutely. Frikkin. Loved it. I tried to draw out the experience and couldn't make myself stop reading the second day. Without a doubt, this impressive second novel in the newer Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series is going into my "best of 2012" shelf as well as my much less used "all-time favorites." I think I may even have loved this book like I love my hallmark series of steampunk, Gail Carriger's formidably funny and inventive Parasol Protectorate series. I literally have nothing to complain about here, and that is rare. That's a lot of praise for a book to live up to, but The Janus Affair is that rare novel, the one that manages to be delightful, zany, action-packed and original from inception to execution. Please excuse and recognize my blatant and epic fangirling for what it is -- that classic kneejerk reaction of happiness that happens right after finishing an unexpected treat - not everyone in the world will be wowed with this foray into Edwardian steampunkery but boy I was. Though the first novel Phoenix Rising wasn't quiiiite as perfect, this is the steampunk series everyone should be reading now that Alexia has wrapped up her five novel arc hung up her written parasol duties. While the main events of book two of the MoPO were neatly and explosively wrapped up without my predicting the outcome (once again, thanks to the amazing Eliza Braun), I will count the minutes wait patiently until I can get my grabby little hands on whatever else next springs from the fertile minds of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.
By far and away, a third of my love for this book is due entirely to the two main characters at the heart of everything, Eliza Braun and Wellington Books. (The other 2/3rds are reserved for steampunkery, excellent/unpredictable and intelligent antagonists and sheer madcap adventure.) Their banter and genuine camaraderie are prone to bustups and petty fights, but it's the underlying respect and genuine feeling of friendship between that makes reading these two feel less like characters and more like real people. It helps that Eliza is a heoine to shame most other heroines - she's brash and coarse and willful and exactly whatever she wants to be. I love Eliza - I always liked her, from the first chapter of book one, but midway through this, I knew I loved her. (This was the exact moment: "In New Zealand, there had been such sweetness to their courtship, but back then she had been quite a different person. Still a little reckless, but in the way of a young woman not yet as familiar with black powder and explosions.") Her characterization is seemingly blunt and obvious (EXPLODE ALL THE THINGS!), but through interactions and over time and pages, with her Ministry Seven, Welly, and the women she relentlessly helps, Eliza is revealed to be much more than just a mere colonial or pistol-loving walking armoury. Wellington Books has been my absolute favorite character from the start and that is only reinforced through his evolution during the last two novels, but The Janus Affair particularly illustrated him as a man of many facets. His dry humour is still very much in tact ("Once more into the breach.." "Sorry, Welly, what was that?" "Shakespeare. I always recite it just before placing my career in harm's way.") but other, less...gentlemanly aspects of his character are brought to the fore. These are definitely not stagnant characters - they grow and change, make mistakes and adapt, and most importantly, they help one another. The working relationship between the two has evolved to be effective and natural - Books can more than count on Eliza to save him from danger as many times as he saves her.
Steampunk itself seems to be evolving to blend quite naturally with two other, less fantastical genres - mystery and romance. The Janus Affair does have more than a bit of both and handles each element quite admirably - as Books would say, with aplomb. I never felt that one was cheated at the expense of the other - never does any romantic entanglement supersede the plot, nor does the mystery overwhelm the sense of compatibility and chemistry between the Sherlockian main characters. I have to think that these two authors work together more cohesively than any other pairing I've yet come across - Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine complement each other naturally. Though a lot of steampunk novels have the secret organization paired with "agents" used to protect Old Blighty from the supernatural (Parasol Protectorate, Newbury & Hobbes Investigations) and solve paranormal crimes, co-authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris go to extremely awesome lengths to create a wholly enveloped and imagined alternate universe for their characters to play within. (They even have a ton of novellas - often by other authors - in the same universe with different characters! There are editions you can purchase, or as free podcasts.) Much like their imagined version of 1800's Britain, the steampunk machines and gadgets used by the cast are wholly original, fun and useful without becoming deux-ex-machinas. I especially liked that something from the first book was referenced and used as a slight part of the plot for the second (the "aethergates" anyone?) - it reinforces the feel that this version of England is an ongoing world, not just unconnected vignettes into random episodes.
The Janus Affair, simply put, is a book that has a lot to offer across a wide variety of areas. Original plotting, genuinely twisty and murky mysteries with a high body count, several strong female characters, amusing banter, original and highly creative use of steampunk and gadgets, veeery smart and fully capable antagonists, the slight but oh-so effective romance, double agents, explosions and more. As I said, the main events and plot of this book have been neatly and effectively wrapped up, but there are some few exceptions to the rule. I don't want to spoil anything from the novel because this really is a fun mystery to try and solve independently, but there are juicy, unresolved plot tendrils enough to ensure that readers from books one and two will want to read the planned third to figure out the Maestro's plans.
I bought the first book, Phoenix Rising, on sale for Nook for a $1.99 late last year and waited several months to dig in. (I guess I like to wait on my books before I read them? Sit on them like a dragon with its hoard, jealously guarding any potential enjoyment I might have when/if I start...? I have 100+ bought and waiting to be read...I'm crazy.) The publishers were generous enough to send me an ARC copy of The Janus Affair just in time for me to realize how much I was going to love this book, series, characters and how much I needed the sequel the second I finished book one. After the last 800 pages with Wellington Books (whom I always call "Boots" in my head before I realize) and Eliza, I can say that I will be buying my own physical copies of both these books because I love them that much. Hey now that I've finished book two, any chances of a draft of book three? Philippa? Tee? Anyone? Please? In the meantime, I'll have to go read the short stories and wait patiently for whatever these creative authors are cooking up for round number three.(less)
The Cousins' War series continues with the story of Elizabeth of York - granddaughter to Jacquetta Woodville, narrator of Lady of the Rivers (book three in the series), daughter of the protagonist from The White Queen (book one), daughter-in-law to the main character of The Red Queen (book two), and niece to Anne Neville, the focus of The Kingmaker's Daughter (which is book four). Though the series is not completely told in chronological order (which would consist of The Lady of the Rivers as the first, not third, entry), Gregory makes it easy to pick up Elizabeth's story and connect it to what has gone on in the novels that preceded her story.
Gregory is at her best when she writes adult historical fiction, and The White Princess is a strong, if repetitive and slowly-progressing, addition to her long-running series on what was then called the Cousins' War and is now termed The War of the Roses. Following Elizabeth from 1485 when she was the not-so-secret lover to the last Plantagenet King (and her uncle) Richard III to 1499 and the execution of her nephew by her Tudor husband, this detailed historical fiction fleshes out her character moderately well. It's a long book, and while some areas do drag in pace, Gregory gives voice to a woman who is long overlooked in favor of both her lover and then her husband. First person has been hit or miss for this author in the past, but she acquits herself well with the voice and narration of Elizabeth.
Those familiar with Gregory's style will find much the same to offer here in The White Princess. This is an author that knows what works for her, and sticks with it. There's no POV switching or too much subtlety, but there is minute detail and description that works well to foster atmosphere and a real sense of place for the audience. It's an interesting book, but it can be rather dry and slow-going, especially when it takes the author a bit of time to really get the plot moving a long and the characters interacting with one another in meangingful situations. Characters from the other novels play pivotal roles, especially the mothers of both Elizabeth and Henry, so while reading the prior novels isn't required, doing so would prove helpful in order to keep who is who and who wants what and who is against who, etc. straight.
Elizabeth, as the narrator and most defined character, is one of the better aspects to the novel. Her life is a complicated one due to her torn loyalties amongst the factions at her new husband's recently established court. England under Henry Tudor's nascent reign is a snarl of loyalties, families, alliances and betrayal; one that Elizabeth must navigate to help her family survive as losers in the winner's Court. She undergoes a constant tug-of-war between loyalty to the house of her husband and child and that of the house of her father and former lover. Though her relationship with her husband begins roughly (he killed her love, he rapes her to create Arthur), it grows into companionable friendship and creates real struggle for her as her own mother foments rebellion and plots to put another in Henry VII's place.
The White Princess can take turns into harsh territory, especially in regards to the treatment of women. Notably the first interactions between the future King and Queen can be hard to read. Henry, and his formidable mother, are shown in less than flattering light when first shown. It can be hard to grow to like him after the way he mistreats his intended, but Gregory succeeds in eventually portraying him as more than he appeared. Constantly wracked by suspicion and fear, her Henry VII is a complex and unpredictable man. You may not like him as a character, but you cannot deny that he is more than a one-dimensional character. Where she might lack in suspense and plotting, Gregory has proven her characterization is top-notch and lends well to creating interesting, well-defined versions of historical personages.
This is a series that just continues to grow. The White Princess ends with 10 years left in the reign of the fist Tudor king, and with a sixth book due out (The Last Rose), Gregory's novelization of the War of the Roses will continue - likely from another character's point of view. Fans of this author will find more to enjoy with her latest effort, and it stands as a rather solid entry in her bibliography. With a Starz tv show centered around this series, I only expect it to find a wider audience in the future, and have faith that the author can keep up at the same level.(less)
This book is made of FEELS and FLAILS and chills and epicness.
I sped through it in just under 18 hours, with 8 of those unable to read. It is GOOD. I...moreThis book is made of FEELS and FLAILS and chills and epicness.
I sped through it in just under 18 hours, with 8 of those unable to read. It is GOOD. It is sprawling and can take time to get some momentum, but no one creates a fully realized world like Brandon freaking Sanderson.(less)
Cinderella gets a cyborg twist in this eye-catching and sci-fictionish tale- but that's not all the fun...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Cinderella gets a cyborg twist in this eye-catching and sci-fictionish tale- but that's not all the fun nor all the new changes author Marissa Meyers offers up in her first novel. While absolutely recognizable as a clever retelling of the classic tale of Cinderella, Ms. Meyer manages to place her own unique and interesting, updated spin on the ages-old folk tale. This is one of the first of several such retellings I've either gotten to read (Ella Enchanted, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, The Fairy Godmother) or bought and have waiting (Ash by Malinda Lo, Ember by Bettie Sharpe) or am on the look out for (Before Midnight) to buy. Cinder is original and inventive both with its location, time, technology and twists. Overall, I thought that this was a very clever and fun read, worth both the hype and the endless, obnoxious ads on GoodReads.
Linh Cinder is a cyborg: the new form of servants/underclass in the world of Meyers making. Even peddling basic mechanical repairs, Cinder is forced everyday to deal with being the most outcast, feared, hated and nearly shunned person at the Market. In a city of millions, it's easy to feel isolated and alone, but not the extremes that Cinder is forced to by the very culture of her own home. There are constant reminders how just how little worth Cinder is considered to be: from her stepmothers constant verbal reminders to the city-wide draft of cyborgs for scientific experimentation research. These are thinking, feeling people treated as though they were no more human than the all-mechanical androids. Cinder is a decent protagonist to start with at the introduction of everything - the world is foreign (but just slightly familiar) so it's hard to assimilate her situation at home, outside, with her stepsisters, with her stepmom, etc. all at once. Only 36.28% human, Cinder is obviously not one of the favored class, and her struggles are hard-fought and won. She easily gains trust and likeability as her situations unfolds more clearly and in detail, and her stubborn but smart personality has a chance to grow as well. She's kind, giving and unconcerned with status - all typical of Cinderella in Cinderella tales, but this one has a few traits that set her aside from the norm. I won't spoil them here, even if they can be predictable in the novel, but this Cinder is and has a unique personality. Cinder has a faulty foot - resulting in her needing a new mechanical/cyborg foot instead of the typical and expected slipper or footwear and it seems appropriate for this slightly-skewed but eventually likeable protagonist. There's a lot more to Cinder and mysterious history than let on, and I liked the slow uncovering and piecing together of her trajectory to New Beijing and into Kai's life.
I wish I could say I liked Kai as much as I did the rest of the novel - he's certainly attractive, in that perfect book-character-type way - but he isn't the most fleshed out, or personalized of characters. He seems fairly cookie-cutter for paranormal YA, though without any of the control/dependency/stalker issues so many others suffer from. I sadly found that lack of individual dimension to be the case for most of the supporting cast: the stepmother Adri, one of the stepsisters (Pearl) just seemed carved from the typical Cinderella-story cast, with no updated, fun twist on their typical roles. I had hoped for something more original to be done with the two (three if you count Kai) of them, but that is not the case here. I did like that the family dynamic was switched up: Garan and Adri are the natural parents of the 'evil stepsisters' with Cinder being the adopted, biologically unrelated addition. Most of the twists and subversions of the Cinderella folk story are centered directly upon protagonist Cinder, or tangentially connected to her, like the orange beat-up gas car for a pumpkin. As for Kai and Cinder's romance, happily it is neither the main focus of the narrative nor the driving force behind the plot or Cinder's life. It's sweet, light and adds a subtle flavor of love, hope and yearning to the bouquet of emotions that run through Cinder's downtrodden life.
My main problems with Cinder were the first half: there's a lot of detail, information in the first pages, aka a lot of foundation. While that is by no means a bad thing - give me a well-thought out society any time - it makes reading slow going with undynamic characters. Once Cinder and Kai get a littler more..lively... it's a much faster, fun book but the first half suffers. The flipside of all the details and worldbuilding of the first half is just how utterly complete and solid the society/world of Cinder feels to the reader. Like I said earlier, Meyer creates a world that is both recognizable and totally foreign. Ages-conflicts and issues are still present (xenophobia, the urge for independence, duty versus desire), still eternal but Meyers has crafted a new world and spin for these stories to emerge and play with.There's a vague but consistently Asiatic feel to the culture, vocab, lifestyle of the people within the Commonwealth - appropriate as it possess a capital city called New Beijing - but I'm glad it wasn't a half-assed, weak job. Just like the society ruled from beyond its walls, and like Linh Cinder herself, the palace of New Beijing is a mix of both nature and technology.
Meyers is an able-to-good storyteller. I wish the first half hadn't been so laden down with detail, though I am very appreciative of the thorough nature of both her imagination and the world of this novel. However, once the ball gets rolling on the plot, this is a submersive and hard-to-put-down novel. Cinder leaves me excited and very eager for the next book in the series, Scarlet, due out....... 2013. I think it's quite unfair to leave me hanging in the admist of that admittedly AWFUL cliff-hanger, but sadly that is typical of paranormal YA today. I won't gripe overmuch, as the good/fun outweighs the bad by a large margin. This is one those novels that though I've already read an ARC, I'll be hunting down my own copy to have and love. (less)
"An unexpected delight" were the immediate words to pop into my head upon my all-too-soon completion of...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
"An unexpected delight" were the immediate words to pop into my head upon my all-too-soon completion of this historical remake of America in the Dust Bowl - with fairies! Teaching me once again that assumptions are flawed from the outset, both early and often Dust Girl exceeded my expectations. I got a thoroughly developed and humanly flawed heroine, a likeable rogue for a possible love interest, a fresh envisioning of the oft-used Seelie/Unseelie Courts of fae and a very unique background in which all these elements operate: Oklahoma, 1935 right in the grips of the Dust Bowl. From the first page I was taken completely by the story Sarah Zettel has crafted so skillfully and truthfully? I didn't want to end - the potential for awesome shown just in the creativity behind the ideas extends itself as well to the contents of the book.
Calliope referred to as "Callie" and her mom are barely making do in their dying town of Slow Run, Kansas. With a long-gone dad and a struggling mom, Callie is older than her age, mature and self-aware. Her personal evolution progresses right along with her travels to both find her mother and figure out her future - the more Callie sees and understands the more she matures and figures things out independently. She's a smart protagonist and it's easy to root for her with such a sympathetic voice. Callie is also one of the few non-white main characters in YA I've come across lately (Shadows on the Moon's Suzume and The Immortal Rules's Allison are the only others I can recall), but thankfully that is not the forefront of her characterization. Callie's mixed race does play a part in the plot of the novel but it by no means defines who she is as a person or character. (I also wish cover more accurately portrayed how Callie is described... )I also appreciate the subtlety in which Callie's race was used as a reminder of the horrendous state of American prejudices without Zettel overdoing it. But what else doesn't define Callie? Her offbeat and thoroughly charming-in-a-rogueish-way love interest, Jack.
Jack is a great addition to the story. He balances out Callie's personality traits with flair, history and wit of his own. I have to admit one of the things I liked best about Jack was that he's not immediately introduced as some swoon-worthy love-interest, nor is his and Callie's connection all about teenage fluctuating hormones. In this very action-packed novel, Jack and Callie make for an unusual but oddly complementary pair. They work well together, despite the occasional bickering (who hasn't been "ready to kill him stone dead" referring to someone they care about?), and I liked them for one another... not that anything progresses to that kind of crux. (view spoiler)[They are two people used to hiding who they are: Jacob for his religion, Callie because of her multiple hidden heritages. They make sense for one another: they don't have to hide but can freely be themselves. (hide spoiler)] Those looking for a romance-charged YA novel, this is not that book. And I love Dust Girl even more for not going that predictable and inevitably boring route. If anything, what happens between the two main characters is more of an age-appropriate "puppy love" than anything else and it is adorable, and doesn't rely on cheap tricks love triangles to create affecting problems for the two..
The atmosphere/background of the novel is complete and stretches to every aspect of the book. I thoroughly believed I was in the 1930's, and the dialogue reads like how I would expect for an impoverished girl/boy at those times ("I got nothing." "A crazy Eye-Talian", etc.) It feels authentic without patronizing. Zettel also has a unique and charming way with words to paint a vivid but not overdone tapestry of locations throughout Dust Girl. As Callie and Jack move across the dust-covered lands, each different locale springs to life with very tactile but not overly descriptive prose. It's obvious that research has gone into crafting as authentic a representation as possible and Zettel succeeds with flying colors. I also liked the sprinkles of other mythlogies and lore within this tale of fae and fairies: Baya the Coyote familiar to many Native religions, and even Callie's own real name "Calliope" was a player in ancient Greek mythology. These inclusions don't feel odd in the middle of such an America-centric novel, but rather more mesh seamlessly within the larger scope of Zettel's novel of magic. The 'magic' aspect of this could've been expounded upon more (and one of the reasons I rated this a 4 instead of 5 stars is because it wasn't detailed to my satisfaction) but what was there, was serviceable. And creepy. (view spoiler)[Particularly the Hopper family. I have a fear of grasshoppers (don't judge me! My brother used to hide them in my bed under my covers.) so as soon as Callie figures out what's so odd about the hungry family I got majorly squicked out. (hide spoiler)]
The other main reason why this a 4 star review and not a 5 like I'd love it to, is that the ending leaves a little to be desired. While there are two more novels left to conclude this series, everything seemed a bit too easy and simple at the resolution. It was satisfying in the most part, but I expected more about the fae/magic/the Midnight People. I guess I will just have to be patient and wait for book #2.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Though not nearly as hair-pullingly irritating as its predecessor The Red Queen, (which irritated me so...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Though not nearly as hair-pullingly irritating as its predecessor The Red Queen, (which irritated me so much I didn't even review it. Who wants to read four+ paragraphs of "UGH" and "WHY DOES SHE DO THIS!" and "Shouldn't Margaret of Anjou be the Red Queen NOT Margaret Beaufort?") The Lady of the Rivers has its fair share of problems. This time the story follows Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Dowager Duchess of Bedford, historically remembered most as the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV of England. This novel has an additional focus on witchcraft/charms/herbs that the previous novels lack (exception: The Queen's Fool [Tudor Series #4] has a supernatural element for the main character as well, but less hackneyed and also less of a deux ex machina) - and a move I cannot fully support. Using the legend of the mermaid-like Melusine/a as an ancestor to Jacquetta's House (a "fact" which was repeated ad nauseam - one reviewer was keeping a count of mentions and I stopped paying attention after #20) to justify this fantastical element, Jacquetta is shown to be quite adept as well as having considerable powers. I felt that reducing Jacquetta's hard-won influence and knowledge to a charlatan-like propensity to "read the cards" did the character a serious disservice. If the author wants to write a strong, determined historical fiction about a woman in the 1500s - by all means do so! But don't reduce her accomplishments and feats by flavoring the success with "magic". I also was out off by some inconsistencies within the novel (I am not even touching historical inaccuracies) such as Richard being referred to as a squire, a knight, and then a squire once more without any mention as to a knighting ceremony or why he would've been reduced to the status of a squire after achieving knighthood.
Self-important and strident, Jacquetta is not the typical woman of her times (the novel begins in 1430) and the message that she, and strong, commanding women like her, are not welcome and face death for their knowledge. Gregory uses several famous women to illustrate this point - repeatedly - throughout the novel. Joan of Arc(!), Duchess Eleanor of Gloucester, and the even the proud Cecily Neville are all brought low before her eyes, seemingly just to teach Jacquetta caution. I can't say I cared too much for this version of Jacquetta, though I did warm to her particularly in the last fifty pages of the book. She rarely demonstrates a feeling or idea, most of this entire novel is "told" rather than shown. Having married her first husband's squire (Robert Woodville) for love, I found a sad lack of chemistry between the two. Example: how do I know Jacquetta loves Richard? She says she does. That's it, that's all; no real emotion or demonstrances of genuine affection. Stiff and awkward dialog along with clunky exposition do the two lovers no favors either. The first-person perspective was well-used, and Gregory even manages to show a battle scene without randomly/abruptly changing perspective and locales. It also helps that Jacquetta, though often annoying and slightly ridiculous is far easier to read than Margaret Beaufort's cold arrogance in The Red Queen.
Gregory does a fine job with the atmosphere of the story, as she usually does. There's a decent amount of tension constantly teeming around Jacquetta: her witchcraft/magic abilities, her illegal marriage, her husband is far sent away (again and again), birthing 16 (!!!!) children, running from battles, her fear of persecution, etc. For all my complaints, I will say that this is far from a staid novel; the kickoff to the War of Roses is excellent fodder for suspense and ridiculous amounts of tension between royal houses. The frequent and bloody battle scenes add much to the feel of the novel, creating a dark and foreboding air. Intrigue among the court is what Gregory does best and the novel succeeds the most when it is within the confines of the scheming court. While the writing itself can be stiff and overly formal, I noticed less and less over the book. Whether it's because the quality of the writing itself improved or I adjusted to Gregory's "style" is up for debate. I do find the random jumps in the chronology (a year here, three years there) to be very distracting from the flow of the narrative and also FULL of info-dumping. Short, very pointed chapters explain away the missing years but left me feeling very dissatisfied. For instance after Jacquetta marries Robert without permission (a rather big no-no for a Duchess), the story completely skips over the intervening years of poverty and struggle and instead flashes forward to when the newlyweds are re-welcomed at Court. I felt slightly cheated by this particular jump; Jacquetta struggling to earn a living versus the entitled pampered life she led before would have provided a nice dichotomy between the lifestyles of the rich and the poor of England.
A novel that both entertains and irritates, Gregory uses a lot of the same "tricks" that so many deride her over. There is the constant repetition of names with titles, of past accomplishments, who is related to whom... as if she has no faith in her readership to tell characters apart. Added to explanations of "why" and "how" people do things instead of showing them, Gregory can be frustrating to read. I know it's frowned upon to quote from an ARC but this passage exemplifies many readers issues with Gregory:
"'Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset...'
'You mean Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset? The man who lost us Normandy [...] but for the King's unswerving belief in his kinsman and the Queen's misplaced affection...
'I'll be commanded by the man who gave away Normandy. '"
Instead of just using "Edmund" or "Beaufort" or even "Somerset", the man's name has to be supplied twice, along with his title and his most recent accomplishment in the novel. Furthermore, the author even explains why the Duke is so beloved instead of showing so and trusting her readers to pick up on the plotline. Gregory clearly buys into the "Somerset + Margaret of Anjou = Edward, Prince of Wales" theory so why not try to SHOW such instead of having a character narrate the information? I understand this is a historical fiction, so dates/events might get mixed around and changed but underestimating your readers to the point you have to hammer in every title, every detail is insulting.
The ending felt, to me, rather abrupt and uneven. The finale of this novel transitions to the very beginning of The White Queen: with Jacquetta's beautiful daughter Elizabeth Woodville standing by the road looking to enchant King Edward IV. I had hoped for more time with Jacquetta. I would've preferred less focus on the early years in order to see what Gregory would do with this character later on in the century; I was much more interested in what would happen after the Rivers family switched from Lancaster to the York side. I also wonder why this novel was published third, when it would make the most sense to read first in the series. Not only is it chronologically first,but it is a stronger effort than The Red Queen or The White Queen. I think I may be running out of time and affection for Ms. Gregory. I loved her Tudor novels when I first read them sixish years ago (though I'd probably not in a re-read now) but this series has so far done little to make me fall in love. With such a drama-filled, absolutely interesting and dynamic era, I can't help but feel there should be more substance and less drama/dresses to The Lady in the Rivers. (less)
Wow. A strong yet still likable character in a well-realized and exciting world? A romance that isn't cloying or saccharine sweet? Angelfall is a winn...moreWow. A strong yet still likable character in a well-realized and exciting world? A romance that isn't cloying or saccharine sweet? Angelfall is a winner and I need the sequel ASAP.
Full review to come in a few days, but this is going to a hard novel to follow!(less)
I absolutely loved this. Ismae's inner monologue was enjoyable and oh, boy do I have a bookcrush on Gavriel Duval. Full review to follow but this one...moreI absolutely loved this. Ismae's inner monologue was enjoyable and oh, boy do I have a bookcrush on Gavriel Duval. Full review to follow but this one definitely lived up to all the hype for me.
Assassin nuns sound like fun, and in Grave Mercy, they definitely are.(less)
This was just great fun for me to read once it hit its stride - Phoenix Rising has nice mix of the best elements: a finely tuned use of steampunk and its gadgets, two vastly different but strangely compatible, rounded main characters, amusing banter, and a plethora of smart antagonists against which to pit their brains and Braun. The first hundred pages are used quite effectively to establish each of the individual characters and the world in which they operate, but they are slower in pace than the following three hundred. Once the essential basics are nailed down and the plot has kicked in, this steampunk fantasy is a wild ride full of airship rescues, bar brawls, lots and lots of explosions, (broad)sword fighting, and multiple secret societies - obviously this is a book that kept me on my toes with twists and turns. The first in a series of at least two novels, Phoenix Rising is a good harbinger of hopefully more madcap adventures to follow in Old Blighty with Welly and Eliza.
Eliza D. Braun is a "successful but not smooth" field agent and is so relegated to the Archives and Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire. With typical gender roles reversed in this Sherlockian pairing of odd bedfellows, Eliza being the muscle and trigger-happy and Books the, well, bookish one, these two agents are an interesting mix of humorous banter, keen intelligence and walking armoury. There's no dearth of smart, capable women to be found in the book (hello, Sophia!), but Eliza manages to be both feminine and convincingly menacing in exactly her own brand (read: the girl likes weapons and knows how to use them.) It's also thoroughly refreshing to see a woman be the hero and ride in, guns blazing, to save the day her partner. Multiple times. The colonial from New Zealand's counterpart in Archivist Wellington is reserved, by the book - the straight man to her more free-wheeling approach to Ministry business. They are total opposites in nearly every manner and opinion, but their banter is truly amusing - I lol'd several times while speeding through. Wellington does come rather close to being a caricature of a librarian but his vaguely-defined personal history and a slow-reveal show him to be a rather more complicated man than it can first appear. This is obviously a more plot-driven novel, but to the credit of Phoenix Rising's cast, the characters are dimensional and can create credible pathos with the reader during their alternating POVs.
*These last few paragraphs are going to get a bit spoilery.* This book has been out a year so... just be warned. Though the early action scenes lacked a certain momentum and pull, the plentiful adventures later on more than made up for it (A death carriage with spinning wheels of spiky doom a la the car race in Grease? Why not?!) With the exception of the initial and introductory part of the novel, Phoenix Rising is filled to the brim with action, death and unsavory characters. With the addition of sparingly few but appropriate gadgets (the auralscope, analytical engine, the Combobula!), these two authors create an added dimension to their supernatural world without overdoing it on the clockwork. Unlike the somewhat laughable wax/mechanical steampunk/automaton army that was shown as a national threat in Kady Cross's The Girl with the Steel Corset, these Mechamen can actually carry a palpable menace and are juuuust right for a steampunk mystery centered around a case called the "Rag and Bone" murders. Of course there are mentions of "aether" and "corsets" (bulletproof this time! Much a smarter than just steel) but by and large, the inventions here are unique and original to Books, Mad McTighe or other characters herein.
Aside from my shallow and negligible complaint about the pacing of the first few chapters, all was going nearly perfectly (exception: Ferdinand Magellan was Portuguese, not Spanish) except for two little things: #1. the Phoenix Society Initiation Weekend's orgy. While it wasn't overly crass or vulgar, it also seemed totally somewhat unnecessary to the plot. The whole "women as communal property" was also distasteful, but I understood the point being made behind the sexist attitude - the orgy? Not so much. Olivia's essential pimping out (and drugging) of her young niece was also unexpected and randomly distasteful. #2. Other readers might have issues with the style of the book as well - the chapter titles are often ominous, if not outright spoilery in themselves. Titles like "Wherein Our Heroes Endure Perdition's Flames" are pretty much the general bent the authors chose. While certain key plot points and twists aren't explicitly revealed, it can take the edge off some of the adventures that are forthcoming.
Though the main events and plotlines of Phoenix Rising have been neatly (view spoiler)[disposed of (hide spoiler)] wrapped up, there are several plotlines that extend themselves quite naturally to the second novel. Due out later this month, The Janus Affair is sure to be a closer look at the Moriarty-like mastermind behind both the Phoenix Society and Sophia amid quarrelsome banter and unlikely escapades. I for one am quite glad I have the second novel to hand - I didn't want the first to end as quickly as it did (downed in one day) so I'll have to draw out my second outing with Books&Braun. Fans of steampunk should take note and give this inviting novel a try.
"Gods... the sacrifices I make for Queen, Country, and all the pommy bastards that live in it."
"The show really does go on.."["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Ambitious is the word best used to describe this melange of various genres, alternate realities, and m...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Ambitious is the word best used to describe this melange of various genres, alternate realities, and mishmash of famous, reviled persons from across history. Rod Rees has indeed created something very unique and quite wonderfully different with The Demi-Monde: Winter. As the first published part in a four-book saga about an alternate reality populated with "Dupes" or a cyber duplicate, of such nasties and reprobates as Henry VIII, Robespierre, Lucrezia Borgia, Shaka Zulu, Aleister Crowley and the main villain Reinhard Heydrich, engineer of the Nazi's "Final Solution", I have to admit this series is off to one hell of a start. This is a novel that will suck you in completely, as if you were a visitor to the Demi-Monde itself; it will envelop you wholly in its individual amount of awesome and flair.
The Demi-Monde, put most simply, is an immersive alternate reality created by the United States Army to better train its soldiers without actual harm (an 'Asymmetric Warfare Environment' or AWE), but still with plenty of threat. As a heuristic (aka self-teaching) program, The Demi-Monde is constantly evolving, changing system and at least TWO of the five will always, always be at war with one another. With five sectors (The Rookeries, The Coven, Rodina, Quartier Chaud, and NoirVille), each radically, racially and religiously opposed to the others, it is a place of constant war and pain. It's a delightfully steampunkian locale, with technology equivalent to the 1870's in our (real) world. With 30 million Dupes NowLive, created from actual human DNA, this is a populous, dangerous and utterly alien world. And with Dupes considered basically the same as real humans, with no real difference between them, these horrible people are doppelgangers/reincarnations of the most vile people to walk the earth. Another twist added onto the constant fractious nature of the sectors is the reliance on blood throughout the Demi-Monde. Without it, a Demi-Mondian won't last two weeks, so supply and deman dictate life. Yes, this is a cyber-reality full of Dupes that are vampires, though not in the paranomal-type way: the Dupes simply can't survive without the Red Gold. With such a scarce supply of real blood within the AWE, this is another element is used to keep the sectors constantly at the point of war/invasion. The blood supply for this world could even be seen as an allegory for the real world's attitude regarding oil.
You can't fault Rees for being inconsistent or not planning out in minute detail every aspect of this historical fiction/fantasy/steampunk/science fiction-ish-esque story. There's varying cultures, conflicting political parties, isolationist religions. . . any stressor involved in real life, real world strife has been thought of an represented in Rees' hell of a world. From the steampunk flair of "mutoscopes", "steam-limos", the ubiquitous gas-lights, the required mention of "aether", this was a genre that worked well for a recreated subreality/world, coupled with the additional touches from sci-fi and fantasy. I do wish I had a better visual representation of the sectors, The Hub, Terror Incognita, etc. for the maps provided in the digital arc left a lot to be desired with their tiny type and indistinct markings. I never really got a picture in my head of the world itself, and better maps would remedy such an easy fix. While the constant influx of information and data just on the Demi-Monde itself, it can get a bit old but it's also so interesting. I fully admit to googling random side characters mentioned by others just to see who they were (are?), and just what they did to merit a doppelganger in a cyber-reality populated with humanity's worst vermin.
I loved the Demi-Monde and all the possibilites it brought for Rod Rees' story but I didn't love all about this tome of a novel. New, invented terms and acronyms are constantly tossed at the reader, from the first page. While it's usually quite easy to figure out the modern-equivalent of what the Demi-Mondians are saying/doing, it's disruptive in the initial part of the novel. Another aspect of the style itself I grew VERY wear of: the random capitializations. Rees will also often subvert a word or saying from the Real World for his Demi-Monde and the results are like this: LessBienism (lesbianism), RaTionalist, nuJus (new Jews), woeMen, etc. Between that and the overdone acronyms (TRUE, ABBA, PINC, AWE) it hampered the story. What started out as a clever but subversive homage to the messed up real world became a schtick to mask a non-advancing plot. It was a bit, "Here, look at all these clever observations I've made and incorporated! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain stagnating characters and plotlines." The story itself is told is a very direct and almost simple style, switching from the lives of Ella, rebel Trixie, Trixie's father Dashwood and (my personal favorite character) a Russian colonel named Vanka Maykov.
Ella herself is a bit of an issue for me. As part of "Operation Offbeat" to rescue Norma, the President's daughter somehow caught within the AWE, I wanted to like her. I wanted to enjoy her dark humor, sarcasm and muse into her obviously troubled personal history. It's just hard to feel a genuine rapport with this woman, for me personally. I also thought her intelligence fluctuated strangely: she says she is the top of her class, best SATs, but doesn't know basic world knowledge? She meets Colonel Ivan Ivanovich and doesn't realize he's a Russian? It was random, and weird. I didn't really "get" any of the females of this novel: Norma and Trixie also fall short of my favorites list As for Ella, I definitely liked that she wasn't a general, cliched white female - she's a tough, smart African American young-woman, who is supposed to be the top of her class. Too much of Ella's plot and actions revolved around every Dupe man in the Demi-Monde finding her abnormally, irresistibly attractive, so much so that they are distracted from, say, torturing her. I'm sorry, but especially with white supremacists doing the torturing, the villains are not going to be conveniently distracted by a nice ankle, or a muscled thigh. I also got SO SICK of hearing her own incredulity at using expletives. I stopped counting the instances after the fourth one, but that needs to go, QUICK. The only time I really enjoyed Ella was in her scenes with the amusing Colonel Maykov... and that's more to do with the fake psychic than the Shade PsyChick.
As for Trixie Dashwood, former Lady of the royal regime, now enmeshed within the Demi-Mondians white supremacist version of the Third Reich (the ForthRight as it's called) she's constantly in danger. Trixie is a hard-headed and hard-hearted young-woman. Between her, Ella and Norma three different types of woman are portrayed (seductress/rescuer, wimp/whiner/rescuee, cold/closed off) and I didn't love a single one. Trixie is just too much: too much anger, too much selfishness, too much action and no thought. Ella, by far comes the closest, but in this world of EXTREME character arcs, she remains far from a favorite. (view spoiler)[ Ella's development from "jad" singer to rescuer to Messiah? Really? I can't say I predicted that at all, but that's a risky and inventive move to take for a (female) character. (hide spoiler)]. I can buy Trixie's revolutionary bent, but her abrupt and entirely unreal switch from proto-RaTionalist Lady to Commander of a militia? In days? With Trixie "[knowing] exactly what had to be done" for an entire military camp? I. Do. Not. Think. So. I call shenanigans, Mr. Rees. That is too far-fetched for a steampunk alternate reality inside a computer with murderous villains from across the ages. But even there, Trixie's evolution does not stop. Slight spoiler ahead: her eventual (and honestly, quite disheartening), bloodthirsty command turns her into something murderous and terrible, something not very far from the SS themselves. Rees does a subtle but effective job of pointing out that fighting fire with fire will sometimes turn you into what you fight. I had to admit that besides a certain charming, scheming Russkie named Maykov, it was the side, bit-players that I enjoyed the most: Louffie, Roza (LOVED HER), Dabrowski. I also quite liked Trixie's sneaky but smart father, the former Baron Dashwood and wished he'd had a bit more time to operate on the page/within the Demi-Monde itself. He sadly was the most underutilized of all the players.
The Demi-Monde: Winter is a lot of book. With plotlines that seem to tie together seamlessly and lead to a satisfying and thoroughly original read, I can't not recommend this novel. One of those rare books where antagonists both outnumber and outclass their counterparts, this was one I both didn't want to finish while simultaneously wishing I had the sequel, The Demi-Monde: Spring, in my hands as soon as I closed the cover, metaphorically speaking. Yes, there are a lot of uncomfortable themes about race, religion, politics, women - but they're all handled with aplomb and finesse and I wasn't off-put by them. The ending doled out some much-needed information, while offering unforeseen complications, a few answers and a burning desire to read the second as soon as humanly possible. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I finished my reread! And though it took me a lot longer than I thought, it was well worth it. This is one of the very best fantasy novels I've ever r...moreI finished my reread! And though it took me a lot longer than I thought, it was well worth it. This is one of the very best fantasy novels I've ever read - even on a third run-through. Detailed, complex, highly original worldbuilding complemented by nuanced, three-dimensional characters with a strong plot and a decent pace - especially for a 1,000 page tome. I can't wait for book two.(less)
This is a novel that crept up on me. It exceeded my expectations - a rather hard thing to do with a book about a SUPERVOLCANO (get ready, I love volcanoes so any time it is mentioned it will be in all caps) - and I also enjoyed it more than I had anticipated from the first chapter. This is the story of Alex, a 15 almost 16 year old typical teenage boy. The generation after "the 9/11 generation" Alex's life takes place in the somewhat-but-not-too distant future in America. The first person perspective was an interesting experience for me in this novel for one reason: I don't read a lot of male teen perspective in YA. Other genres, sure but in the past I've had issues connecting and caring for younger, angrier male main characters. Happily, no such issue with Ashfall. Mullin weaves a believable young man in Alex: one a 24 year old female has little to no problem caring about and rooting for throughout the duration. It was a refreshing choice and nice change of view for me personally. I knew Alex was kid after my own heart when he said of shelving his history and sci-fi books alongside each other: "I just thought of it as past and future history." A sentiment I found totally appropriate from a kid in a nearly-impossible apocalyptic future. He's a nicely normal, regularly immature and self-centered 15 year old boy that grows into a more-than-capable young man. The voice is easy, readable, though it might occasionally come across older than the aimed-for 15.
In Alex's world, everything stopped on a Friday. The "pre-Friday life of school, cell phones and refrigerators dissolved into this post-Friday world of ash, darkness and hunger." With a SUPERVOLCANO (duh duhhh duhhhhhh) 900 miles away in Yellowstone, whose explosion and noise could he heard all the way to Alex's home of Cedar Falls, Iowa Mullin had my attention from the start. I'm a sucker for survival stories and adventure and boy did he deliver with the surprisingly realistic Ashfall. On Alex's 100+ mile trek to find his family in another state, there is adventure, human cannibals, bad ass older gay men, awesome hot older bald chicks, and more. Mullin certainly doesn't waste anytime launching the reader right into his story and it's a wild ride from start to end. Mullin does a credible job of keeping the tension and emotions high: even the hours of darkness and unending ashfall are tense and riveting rather than boring or pedantic. This is a pretty straight-forward advenure/survival tale: Mullin doesn't add many elements from other genres. Though be warned: it can be pretty decently gory and unexpectedly violent. Beware the human cannibals and rabbit skinning scenes - they're pretty well-done but very unsettling.
The world didn't stop when it ended as everyone knew it. On his travels Alex happens upon a wide variety of human nature. No character is completely good, completely evil or even safe from a (usually gory, abrupt) death. From brutes who loot, to rapists and murderers to evangelical Christians on the verge of mass suicide, Mullin doesn't hide the darker side of human nature: the ones who use disaster and pain to gain something, like doomsday prophets preaching more fear. Alex says upon realizing the bad outlook: "The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity. No, we'd given that up on our own." Happily the author doesn't stint on the good side of people either: it's a well-balanced depiction of what life in America could be life if this SUPERVOLCANO actually existed. The differing types of encounters Alex has serve more than adequately keep his day-to-day trek interesting if still necessarily and understandably repetitive. One issue I did have: Alex mentions "precusor" eruptions/vibrations MONTHS before the actual eruption... but no one did anything? A catastrophe so enveloping half the United States in "red zone" with no assistance and the government knew... and did nothing? It struck me as an oddly glaring detail for such a seemingly well-thought-out and researched novel. One of the elements of the novel I also enjoyed was the lack of info Alex had on his situation. Sporadic and unreliable information is hard to come by in this darkened world, leaving Alex devoid of info and entirely in charge of all his decisions - just as he wanted "pre-Friday" to his chagrin.
The wide range of characters also worked in Ashfall's favor. From the bad ass older gay men to the hard-nosed and honestly a bit too perfectly brainy Darla, each was different and dynamic. Darla, the older woman in Alex's young life at 18, sees Alex at his weakest and as an unnecessary risk, but helps him repeatedly if begrudgingly. She's by far the most intelligent/resourceful character in the novel, but maybe a bit too much to be entirely real. I'm all for the girl being the best, but I find it hard to believe an 18 year old handbuilt a well-pump, an innovated bathroom/toilet arrangement, or a bicycle powered corn grinder all by herself - when no other character in the novel is shown to be half as proficient - even Darla's parents! Where did she learn this, Autobody High School for MacGyvering Your Way to Life in the Apocalypse When Everyone Around You Dies? That deux ex machina lost some points for previously high authenticity factor. I did like that Darla and Alex worked well together, with an easy but sexually-charged tension between them. Working in tandem works better for both than independent efforts alone - an overaching theme for the entire novel. More is accomplished with cooperation than coercion, a point subtly made and proven with Darla and Alex. Their slight romance is sweet and mostly off-sceen: no distraction from the main story of survival and family.
If I enjoyed this so much, why only a 3.75 out of 5? Well, besides the issues with the precautions and Darla's hidden identity as Inspector Gadget/MacGyver the pacing suffers occasionally. Not on Alex's trek: once he reaches a government camp my attention and interest began to wane. The novel truly succeeds with Alex, out in the ash - not hemmed in and cooped up. I also found the final confrontation with a major antagonist to be rather flat and bland - not at all what I had been led up to believe would happen. Note as well the final conclusion - it failed to be stirring emotionally and felt more like an obvious ploy to ensure continued reading in the sequel, Ashen Winter. I fully intended to read the next volume, but I felt cheated by the abrupt and unfulfilling end to the first after the extensive buildup of 450+ pages. Mullin is a more than decent storyteller with a hell of a story to get out, but pacing issues and deux ex machinae (?) plague the middle to last quarter of the tale.
What I Was Absolutely Sold On:
-the disaster of the SUPERVOLCANO itself - Mullin does a fantastic job of selling it, realistically, scientifically -Alex himself - immature, capable, determined and a great refreshing change of perspective -Darla - minus caveats from above. She is the second-most developed character: naturally evolving into a kinder, more vulnerable but no less capable/badass girl -the experiences Alex has on the road to Darla/his family
What Lost Me:
-Darla's super abilities -plot holes: government warned and did nothing, east of Mississippi okay but no relief to breadbasket of America? -Camp Galena - terrible pacing, lost the flow of the earlier chapters
All in all an ingenious, imperfect but completely fun survival story hampered by a few issues. Mullin doesn't stint on the details, even creating diseases ("silicosis") and such from the ash to contend with more mundane issues of food, shelter and family. His SUPERVOLCANO is a great hook and a great idea for a post-apocalyptic duology - I hope the sequel improves upon this already impressive first effort. (less)
Really more of a 4.5 but benefit of the goodreads system = 5. Deeper thoughts later. Now: In a setting worthy of Zelazny with its intricate and deadly f...moreReally more of a 4.5 but benefit of the goodreads system = 5. Deeper thoughts later. Now: In a setting worthy of Zelazny with its intricate and deadly familial intrigue, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was a more than pleasant surprise. I expected a typical high fantasy novel: full of magic, scheming, unwitting heroines, dastardly but lovable rogues, you know, the whole usual bit. I think Patrick Rothfuss said it best about this novel when he said, "I have a great love of fantasy that does something a little different, and this book is a little different in a whole lot of ways." I got all that I expected and more, with twists and surprises I never saw coming. The entire novel, from the innovative world/political system to the mythological aspects of the Gods, was a well thought-out, superbly-executed, hugely entertaining-to-read first novel.
The story jumps right off from the first paragraph; we meet Yeine, our Darre protagonist immediately. This novel is much more about her inner struggle, or with her relations, than an epic war or battle; it's more personal and close. The first-person perspective is used very effectively with Yeine: I constantly felt like I was reading/speaking with her the entire time. The narrative is scattered and hesitant; a clever device as she's slowly remembering, constantly re-fitting this story as she's imparting it to the readers (Yeine even occasionally breaks the third wall and addresses the readers directly, but it's appropriate and works for the novel). Her style is very informal and as a "barbarian" of the High North, it fits. The first of many intriguing twists on fantasy cliches: Yeine is not white, nor of the ruling caste, and is from a barbaric matriarchal society. Instead she's described as "darkling" and is constantly reminded of her low status among her pale, cruel Amn relatives.
A lot of themes are touches on throughout the novel. Race (and racism), gender, slavery and even religion are not shied away from. In a world where the ruling race is the pale-skinned Amn, who in turn are truly controlled by a single large, monstrously cruel family (the Arameri, to which Yeine reluctantly belongs) who are regarded as the height of civilization while being the depth of depravity, the "barbarian" Yeine is actually the most humane. The Arameri do not allow slaves on their lands, yet they house four of the most enslaved creatures in existence. This was yet another twist of Jemisin's; this time on the fantasy cliche of a God's War or the Fall of Gods. Enslaved former Gods after the war among the The Three in which the Itempas won. For millennia, the Arameri have caged these expunged-from-history Gods as weapons to ensure their power and a gift from the winning side. There was Nahadoth, the Nightlord and his three surviving godling children Sieh, Kurue, and Zhakkarn. The mythology and origins of the Gods from the Maelstrom was creative and well-planned.
There was almost an East-Asian feel to the atmosphere of the story. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms certainly did not feel Eurocentric or written with the Western world in mind, though Yeine's homeland felt almost Amazonian in its ferocity and independence. This individuality in a time of many medieval-type fantasy novels was a another nice touch I appreciated: these creative ideas can make or break a novel. The novel felt fresh and new, unlike a familiar retread of a much-used storyline. There is no over-reliance on magic to solve the world's or even Yeine's problems; it's more cerebral than that. When the magic does come into play, it's restrained or deftly applied to the characters. (view spoiler)[ I thought that unwittingly possessing a part of a fallen Goddess's fractured soul was uniquely witty way to reinvent the young girl with immense but hidden power stereotype. (hide spoiler)]
The only complaints I had were these: the love scenes between Yeine and Nahadoth. They were a little cringe-worthy and cliche; I think for the next book I'd like to see a little more finesse, perhaps more belief in a relationship before two people (Gods? Swirling masses?) hop into bed. I'd also like to see a wider view of these Hundred Thousand Kingdoms that the Arameri control. Only Sky, center of the Amn, is described at length, though even then only the nobles or privileged Amn are shown with any details. Yeine's homeland Darr warranted an occasional mention and one visit, but that was nowhere near enough to sate my curiosity about the warrior-women society.
The ending, though it what was expected even foretold throughout the novel, had quite the surprise attached to it. While completely concluding and resolving the stories and plots within this first novel, it managed to be the perfect cliffhanger for the next in the series, The Broken Kingdoms. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Glow is set in the semi-distant future, when mysterious circumstances have made "Old" Earth practically...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog
Glow is set in the semi-distant future, when mysterious circumstances have made "Old" Earth practically unlivable and humans can barely survive, much less thrive. In order to save the species, two inter-galactic ships, The New Horizon and the Empyrean are the only hope of the colonists and Earth to cross the galaxy to find, settle and repopulate a new home. One ship, the New Horizon, consisting of the more religious/Christian settlers and left a year before Empyrean. While the latter spaceship launched after with a more multicultural/politically varied aspect to the passengers, the differing views and launch times keep each ship an island, with no communication passing between the populations of each ship.
Told in the third person perspective, the narrative of the novel jumps between two main characters, usually after a stretch of chapters in the same POV. Those two are Waverly and Kieran, two of the first in-space live births, two of the upcoming generation, slated to take over in time and continue to "New Earth". Because these young people are two of the first humans born in space, and thus supremely important to the mission of Empyrean, they are the crux at which this book hangs. In order for both ships to successfully navigate for all the space and time needed, each ship had to supplement its original workforce: children of the current crew would be needed to run the ship after their parents. When the New Horizon cannot successfully reproduce, they attack their sister ship, kidnapping all the young-women. I loved the premise of this plot - it's original and striking in its creepiness. There's a genuine feel of desperation often in Waverly's dialogue and thoughts, which is to be expected, but it's handled well; building successively every time the narrative shifts to Waverly's POV. The split narrative of Waverly/Kieran/girls/boys is a brilliant move for Ryan's storytelling: each side carefully balances between the fast-paced action and more cerebral plotting.
Though I hate the new trend of constant comparisons to The Hunger Games (The most riveting series since The Hunger Games! is sprawled across the back blurb [AND THIS IS NOT A DYSTOPIA]), I think that readers who enjoyed Katniss' ferocity and determination will have a similar reaction for Waverly (I don't have the problem with her name that a lot of reviewers seem to have. But I read a lot of fantasy so maybe my weird-name tolerance is high.) Both are young-girls who no "powers" to speak of; only their wits and resourcefulness can help them. Both are strong young-women who don't rely on a man to save them or rescue them; Waverly's independent and so determined she doesn't even contemplate just waiting or hoping for the best blindly. She's a determined, clever and resolute without being overbearing or controlling: all things I love in a female protagonist. The word that srpings to mind for this character is brave. The focus is never on how Waverly looks, but completely on how she thinks, what she does. Though Waverly, like Katniss Everdeen, suffers from the Mysterious Missing Parent Syndrome so popular in today's teen literature, the mystery of what happened to her father is a subplot that caught my curiosity almost as much as the main story. Waverly herself is a strong character; she commands attention when she's on the page in any chapter.
The other main character, that of Kieran Alden: wonderboy, future Captain and Waverly's love interest, wasn't nearly as interesting to me. Though he seemed mostly fleshed out and internally conflicted (understandable as a member of one of the only religious families on Empyrean) this character never connected with me. He is seemingly perfect (though not a Larry Sue [or whatever it is for male characters]) but his personality came across as hollow and insincere. Even when he's at his most "human" - making mistakes, breaking down - he is remote and cut-off character. Maybe that is because he's always in charge, in control; I just didn't root for him the way I normally would. When the (inevitable) love-triangle rolled along I couldn't even pick a team: Team Seth or Team Kieran. Both are passably flawed and virtuous; neither is as compelling a protagonist as Waverly. Another possible reason for my distaste for pretty much all the men in the book is their collective attitude toward women and young girls. The atmosphere feels possessive, controlling and calculating whenever a young woman is mentioned. Several slight allusions to past problems with the male population throughout the novel furthered this distaste and apprehension.
With dividing the two ships into religious/non-religious crews, the author has set the stage and tension within the first twenty pages of the novel. The subtle hints and allusions of the characters themselves make abundantly clear that the differences between the two ships (and their respective crews) are both problematic and ambiguous. Though the author takes considerable time and care to both demonize and humanize each side of the religious debate, the reader is left with the relevant question, "Does religion hurt? Or does it heal?" The leader of the New Horizon is an excellent villain and symbol: a pleasant face, calm demeanor masking the horror inside a Pastor's machinations and mind. On the Empyrean, the symbol of that ambiguity-in-power is that of the Captain: supposedly beneficent and kind, but possessed of the same chilling attitude as most of the males on board. Another interesting dichotomy is the reaction of the two main characters: Kieran tries to boldly run the show from the outset and the results are mixed. Waverly, quietly and carefully, resists from the shadows and bides her time.
Some of the actions of the religious ship New Horizon (the kidnapping itself, the murders, attempted brainwashing, the egg-harvesting, the imprisonment of crew from the Empyrean) are egregiously horrible and disgusting... until later on when more sides of the tale are told (and those are not all favorable for the erstwhile population of the Empyrean). No side is perfect; no side is innocent in this deep-space drama. There are several dark, unsettling undertones to this novel - when the girls are stolen, the parents of the rest of the ship are locked away from the remaining boys. Those boys devolve into a more bestial, harsh rule; several critics have hearkened their actions to those in The Lord of the Flies, with a more military bent. The comparison rings true: the boys self-determined leadership is cruel and harsh, almost murderous. Though it was an interesting and fresh idea, I was never as completely involved with Kieran, Seth, Arthur as I was with the stolen girls. The girls story arc over on the New Horizon was completely different, but so disturbing I thought about it even when I was not reading the novel.
The ending is not final and complete (it is a series after all); several important threads are left hanging, characters left in limbo, etc. I fully intend to keep reading; the mystery of the exodus and colonization, who to believe/trust, Waverly's father's accident, reaching the final destination.. these are all compelling storylines I'm eager to read already and it's technically not even a published novel yet. Quick, easy to read with a GREAT hook, Glow is more than worth checking out. Ms. Ryan's inventive writing sucks you in before the first chapter is out, and then the mystery and tension does not let up.
A lot of foundation, but that's to be expected with a series opener in epic fantasy. Still, inventive and unique (though the real-life counterparts ar...moreA lot of foundation, but that's to be expected with a series opener in epic fantasy. Still, inventive and unique (though the real-life counterparts are a tad obvious), engaging and left me quite anxious for book two, The Scarlet Tides.(less)
Much like the first in the series, Just Like Heaven, this is a charming and easy read. The Smythe-Smith...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Much like the first in the series, Just Like Heaven, this is a charming and easy read. The Smythe-Smith Quartet is shaping up nicely to become a must-read - which is something that doesn't often happen for me with this type of romance novelish book. A Night Like This is a light-hearted and thoroughly charming novel with two very likeable and compatible leads in Daniel and Anne (and scene-stealers in Frances, Elizabeth and Harriet.) There's much more than steamy sex scenes to look forward to in this - there's comedy aplenty (I admit I lol'd at the play chapter especially) and plenty of action and danger to keep the pages turning with alacrity.
I freely admit don't read a ton of romance novels - I have nothing against them, but on the whole, every reader goes into that genre of novel generally knowing the final outcome: love, sex and a happy ending. What makes it fun to read these type of books are the authors who take the time to create whole, rounded characters and a real plot to keep things advancing instead of just sex scene after sex scene. I don't/can't/won't care about the sex if I am not emotionally invested in the people having it! Julia Quinn is one of those rare authors, which is why I have found myself completely wrapped up in everything in this novel. There is am emphasis on the romance (instalove ahoy), but I didn't mind in this book, with these two. Thankfully, both Anne and Daniel are both flawed, amusing, wholly believable, personable characters with motivations and secrets of their own. They complement each other very well and have chemistry to burn but they are not utterly dependent on the other. Anne is a resourceful and smart girl that can save herself - and does on several occasions. Daniel's chacterization is a bit more typical of a young, honorable lord but his sense of humor and interactions with Miss Wynter show a more rounded version of the Earl.
I can't talk about characters in A Night Like This without mentioning the unexpected and utterly hilarious trio of girls that Anne is governess for: Frances, the unicorn-loving youngest, the middle-child Elizabeth, constantly caught between propriety and annoying her older sister, and Harriet, the earnest young playwright behind such classics as The Strange, Sad Tale of The Lord Who Was Not Finstead. Anne and Daniel are more than compelling to read about with their interwoven tales of revenge and mystery, but it is the three Pleinsworth cousins who truly make this as light-hearted and humorous as it is. Several times during their appeareances I would actually laugh-out-loud (thank you, Frances.) The cast of this novel is really the biggest attraction to he had - moreso than the slightly predictable plot, or even than the genuinely sweet romance angle of the two main leads, the large, clangorous and musically-impaired Smythe-Smith family is just plain fun to read about.
This is only the second of the series, and my imagination is already at work trying to predict the main leads for the third novel. Hugh Prentice and Sarah? Harriet? While it's a bit early to tell just now, you can be sure that I will be stalking GoodReads, waiting for the next book to pop up with information. Julia Quinn has an easy, inimitable style and her novels are an amusing way to pass an afternoon, but rewarding at the same time. With each novel of this author's that I read, I am more and more inclined to buy another. Fans of her Bridgerton series as well as of the first book will find more of the same here easy humor and steamy sexy scenes in A Night Like This. Julia Quinn, I am officially a fan. (less)
Really a 4.5, but my jaw dropped at least three times so it's a 5 for goodreads. I'm still not sure it was worth 6 years of waiting, but well done Mr....moreReally a 4.5, but my jaw dropped at least three times so it's a 5 for goodreads. I'm still not sure it was worth 6 years of waiting, but well done Mr. Martin.(less)
Interesting and clever premise for a series. Subtly subverting the archetype of Cinderella, Lackey interprets the fairy tale in an original and fun ta...moreInteresting and clever premise for a series. Subtly subverting the archetype of Cinderella, Lackey interprets the fairy tale in an original and fun tale. I think the opening chapters fell a little bit flat, and were slightly boring the first hundred pages or so. I liked her idea for how magic works and is channeled through certain people via The Tradition, shaping and creating different versions of classic fairytales throughout the Five Hundred Kingdoms. The main character was annoying at first, but she grew on me, like the rest of the book did. The other characters in the book were fairly one-dimensional and lacked any real fire, except for maybe Alexander. It was not as good as I hoped, quite honestly, but it improved drastically after all the introductory details and background were finished. The only other main issue I had with the story was that the final conflict and resolution seemed rushed and stilted in their execution. A decent effort, overall enjoyable and easy to read. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot....(less)
I was pleasantly surprised by winning Hulick's Among Thieves in the Good Reads First Reads giveaway. I was told by a friend it reminded her of Scott Ly...moreI was pleasantly surprised by winning Hulick's Among Thieves in the Good Reads First Reads giveaway. I was told by a friend it reminded her of Scott Lynch and I can clearly see why. There are shades of Locke Lamora in Drothe, but only that, shades. I was reminded of Joe Abercrombie's Logen Ninefingers, perhaps. Either way, Drothe is a singular character, one that you're never sure what he's going to do or how you will feel about it. He is clever, he is desperate and he is amusing. He's also a dangerous, murderous member of the underground. He's not snow-white as a protagonist and that makes him a more interesting and thus more fun to read about for 400 pages. Hulick's writing is clever, descriptive and best of all, very engaging. He has created a thriving world, a unique Empire, an interesting theology, different magic system, culture and history. The book was exciting, interesting and wasn't too predictable for fantasy fare. There's very little reliance on magic to solve all Drothe's problems, and I was reluctant to finish as fast as I did. The magic system is fairly straightforward, but is unlike others in fantasy I've read and it was a pleasure to read a new idea on glimmer, as it's called. I highly enjoyed this first novel in his work, and I look forward to picking up the rest of them as he publishes (which I hope is soon!) More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot....(less)
That was bad. And way overwrought. And draining. And just a total misuse of some good ideas. But I didn't actually hate it. And it's not that Mafi...more1.5
That was bad. And way overwrought. And draining. And just a total misuse of some good ideas. But I didn't actually hate it. And it's not that Mafi can't write --- she can. It's just overwhelmed by floweriness and strikethroughs and bad love triangles.
I can't even right now. My ability to can has been broken.
Robin Bridges brings a whole new life to 1880's Russia with her novel about a young, aristocratic, female necromancer. This is a novel that was anothe...moreRobin Bridges brings a whole new life to 1880's Russia with her novel about a young, aristocratic, female necromancer. This is a novel that was another slow-starter for me. I was mildly interested and intrigued by Bridges' magically fantastical and dangerous world set in St. Petersburg, but I wasn't well and truly hooked until late in the game - when I was about 300 pages into the novel and less than a hundred from the end. With a disquieting introduction featuring and honing in on the young Katerina Alexandra Maria von Holstein-Gottorp, Duchess of Oldenburg, The Gathering Storm sets its dark, magical tone right from the very first paragraph. With revenants, ghosts, vampires and creatures of the night stalking through the cold nights of Mother Russia, only Katerina has the dark curse able to control them, and try to figure out where all the zombiefied soldiers are coming from - and why they are being created.
Actually beginning eight years after the introduction with Katiya learning her dark powers of reanimating the dead, The Gathering Storm is set during the reign of Tsar Alexander III, known to his people as "The Bear." In this version of historical Russia, both the Light and Dark Courts of Faerie are at play within the Imperial Court of Alexander Romanov. The Imperial Tsar's own wife Dagmar of Denmark (though renamed as Marie Feodorovna) is actually a Light Faerie and controls that aspect of power in Russia. Alexander's own brother Vladimir married, shockingly, into the Dark Court fae: his wife, the Grand Duchess Miechen, has a obvious rivalry with the Empress. Not at all surprisingly, caught between these two women, these two factions, the Russian Court seethes with intrigue, betrayal and. . . magic. I loved the new integration of the faerie within the folds of the historical Russian aristocracy; I just wished it had been more detailed and fleshed out what the roles of the faerie were for, besides fomenting drama. Added to the tensions of the distant/enemy fae courts constantly around her and her family, Katerina has to contend with a witchy classmate at her boarding school named Elena, a princess of the country of Montenegro. And as the reader learns and Elena demonstrates, the fae aren't the only supernatural creatures populating 19th century Russia or its nobility. The author created numerous species/sub-species of vampire to contend with the human population as well. From the moth-like veshtizas, to the upyri, wampyr and even the supreme form of them all: the Vladiki - blood-drinkers descended from Vlad Dracul of Wallachia himself - Bridges has her own, fresh interpretation of vampirism. It's a very dense and complicated mythology that the author has created for her world, but it works.
Firelight is a great read! I didn't have high expectations going in, but I am glad to say that I was on the wrong foot when starting the gem that is t...moreFirelight is a great read! I didn't have high expectations going in, but I am glad to say that I was on the wrong foot when starting the gem that is the first in the Darkest London series. One I am both enthusiastic about after finishing and also feel comfortable, almost eager, to recommend to others. With two such dynamic leads as we have in Archer and Miranda, an enthralling and very fast read, further coupled with a fresh take on 1880's London, Firelight adds up to a prime recipe for both easy reading and instant enjoyment. This is a retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, but with a unique supernatural bent. The subtle and/or dry humor spiced throughout ("Think of England, darling.") is a nice touch added to balance the darker story of murder, mystery and betrayal that permeates through Ms. Callihan's evocative read.
The writing of the novel immediately caught my eye - in a very favorable way. Sentences like:
"Mud-thick fog hung low on the ground, refusing to drift off despite the crisp night breeze. It never truly went away, ever present in London, like death, taxes, and monarchy."
appear often and early. Ms. Callihan can certainly set a scene and her version of London at the turn of the century is both compelling and amusing. Most of the time the writing in the novel is pretty and flows with remarkable ease. However, this is a first novel and it is not free from errors. While I just stated my love for the prose, I have to admit at times it did wax occasionally florid with descriptions and dialogue -which is, by rights, a small complaint when the majority of the novel is carried so well. The beginning of Firelight is also a bit rough in comparison - cliches abound and might scare off less forgiving readers, but Callihan hits her stride early on and rarely veers off course after. Firelight may stumble out of the opening gate, it more than gathers steam (and steamy scenes!) as it progresses.
One of the things I enjoyed so much about Firelight right from the beginning is that the book makes it quite obvious that the beloved story of Beauty and the Beast (even the original La Belle et la Bete) is itself a retelling of the legend of Psyche and Eros. Many retellings are either unaware of the genesis of the story or gloss right over the origins without a nod - which I mean clearly, I am being nitpicky here as such details are not required - just enjoyed by myself. But Callihan does it so well, without detracting from the forward momentum and I liked the subtle allusions and reminders the author inserted into Miranda and Archer's tale. Archer himself is the best part of the whole novel: reimagined and intriguing London and mysterious powers having no claim on the charismatic but tortured hero. I was more iffy on Miranda, especially at the beginning (Aaah - the cliched girl in pants! Can we just please retire this trope already?!) but her strong-headed independence and good attitude quickly catapulted her high in my estimations. Both Archer and Miranda are wonderfully realized characters for the most part: neither one is perfect and neither one should be taken at appearance value. I did have issues with the immediacy and the passion of Archer's feelings for Miranda based on little but looks - it smacks of insta!love - but happily, and against all expectations, their relationship much more complicated than it appears initially. Miranda, perhaps for the first time, sees in Archer someone that will value a true equal, someone who looks beyond her outside and finds value within. For Archer, Miranda represents acceptance and love in a world that has spurned him - really, the two complement each other quite well and have a relationship to root for.
Kristen Painter breathes her own version of supernatural life into the genre with Blood Rights, the first in a planned urban fantasy series, and it is...moreKristen Painter breathes her own version of supernatural life into the genre with Blood Rights, the first in a planned urban fantasy series, and it is lively indeed. With a convoluted culture and three-dimensional, fleshed-out characters this was an interesting twist on the human/vampire relationship shown so often in this (and, really, paranormal romance as well) type of genre. There's a lot to take in and enjoy from Ms. Painter's crafted world of vampire geisha, corporeal ghosts and hidden assassins. Blood Rights is the kind of novel one would plan to read for "just a minute" but actually ends up in the same place but two hundred pages, numerous escapades and several hours later. With her kick-ass female protagonist Chrysabelle and reaaallly tortured male protagonist Mal, I found a lot worth mentioning from this introductory but by no means boring first novel. Intensely readable, Blood Rights is definitely in the running for my favorite (adult/non-YA) vampire read of the year.
Moreso even than the characters, the world that the author has so intricately created is impressive and far-reaching. The comarré themselves are a creative addition: closely related to the kine (humans) of the world, but longer-lived, faster, and infinitely more desirable. The signum of the breed is also interesting: it allows for instant identification much like the facial tattoos/uploads of the GENs from the YA dystopia Tankborn. The comarré are always very aware of who/what they are and where they stand in the vampires' view. I found the interactions and dependency between the comarré and the vampires to be vastly interesting. Each side benefits uniquely from the arrangement: the vampire receives increased power/life from the blood of the comar/comarré and the gold-gilded almost-humans receive longevity, increased strength, speed and self-healing capabilities. I liked that it was a give-and-take between the both species; it certainly makes it easier to buy Chrysabelle's more martial nature further on. It's a fairly level balance of power that keep the comarré from being just slaves or indentured servants to the undead nightwalkers (and that's not even mentioning other obvious talents of the comarré. . ). While the vampire half of this symbiotic relationship isn't as revelatory and new as the comarré aspect, Painter does go so far as to imbue her novel with different types of vampires: fringe and noble, each descended from a vastly different source. I do wish clarification about terms/culture of this world had been provided much earlier: it's vexing to try and figure out what "fringe" or "anathema" means in relation to these vampires for 250 pages.
Obviously, Blood Rights has a very complete and complicated, alternate world. Though similar to this modern one we live in, locations like "New Florida" or "Islamic Republic of France" are subtly dropped into coversations, ensuring the reader is aware that 2067 is a very different world. Even the swearing is different, and even theme-appropriate for a vampire book ("son of a priest!" also? just hilarious.) With vampires in a very regimented patriarchal society, organized by Family/talent (I also loved the nods to first purported vampires Vlad Tepes and Erzsébet Bathory inserted into the novel) Elders and Dominus, Painter's social stratification is omnipresent, even among species, not just between them. Not only are vampires and comarré either reinvented or completely created, but many types of fae (wysper, shadeux, others), and other creatures, are present as well. Hidden from humans because of a mysterious "Covenant", Chrysabelle's world has other such nasties as Nothos, or hellhounds created from human and vampire stock. I love the constant touch if originality for Painter's supernatural creations: she even re-imagined shapeshifters as her varcolai. Not much was explained about the varcolai, with only one character belonging to that race, but with three novels to follow in this promising series, I'll trust the information is en route.
Short but sweet, The Alchemy of Forever is deceptively simple and remarkably engaging. The plot may no...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Short but sweet, The Alchemy of Forever is deceptively simple and remarkably engaging. The plot may not be entirely the most original, nor the writing the most striking, though it certainly has its moments of sparkle, but this was an unputdownable read. Finished in under three hours, my first experience with the series of the Incarnates was like the perfect sugary snack between actual meals: filling while eating and left no feelings of guilt or shame when I was finished. With both a great title and a new spin on teen immortality that isn't vampires or even vampire-adjacent in its immediate favor, I obviously found The Alchemy of Forever to be a very entertaining novel.
Seraphina and her story are instantly energetic; her story begins on a night of death but it is far from the end of Sera's existence. Alchemy, an ancient (and real) fruitless search for gold/youth and immortality among others, is successful in this alternative world of Williams's imagining, and wonderfully so. In this fantastical London, science and magic are indistinguishable, and fit in wonderfully with Sera's tale of escape and redemption. Sera and Cyrus have a core, selected group with which they share fellowship: Charlotte, Sera's BFF for 200 years; Jared, a pirate from the 1660's and a sort of enforcer for Cyrus; Sebastien, a reticent and largely unseen and mysterious member of the coven; and lastly, Amelia, an icy blonde that seems to harbor ill will toward both Charlotte and Sera. With each member needing a new body roughly every ten years, this is a group with many ghosts in the closet, though only Seraphina is shown to have any remorse for the killing left in their wake. While this seems to be set in an alternative world to ours, different only in the successful alchemy, I thought I caught a reference to Bram Stoker's Dracula - a dog named Harker that doesn't seem to take to Kailey/Sera... As I've mentioned I find the Incarnates condition and modus operandi (stalking/killing victim to replenish own lifeforce) and vampires to be very similar, I wonder if it is an intentional mention. There's not enough evidence to be sure yet, but I will be on the lookout for more clues/conspiracies in the sequel.
By virtue of becoming 'Incarnates' aka basically "body snatchers" with original souls in tact with her first love Cyrus, Sera endures centuries of life - but not real love, nor true happiness despite all the exotic experiences had and places she has been. Cyrus emerges as controlling, insane, volatile type of man - but happily, instead of mistaking this psychotic behavior as the danger it is and not misconstruing it as love, Sera attempts to free herself from his clutches. Even the act of hiding petty change gives her a thrill, to "have something that was mine." From the moment I realized Sera's plans, I liked her. For the first time in centuries, Sera dares to make her own decisions, dare to dream for herself instead of fearing what Cyrus will do to her as punishment. Her naivete at 14 haunts her for the most part of her endless centuries of life, and her maturation from selfish, thoughtless girl into an actual woman takes longer than eighteen years. Sera is a very introspective woman, as can be expected from someone downtrodden and controlled for so long, and that means much of this book is not action. As I adjusted to Sera and her style, I appreciated more the inwards-bent of her thinking - this is another of those characters that sneak up in your affections.
The Alchemy of Forever is a very engaging if all too brief, novel both in terms of character, and the unique, entirely welcome new spin on immortality. But this is also slightly disquieting book. The notion of "body snatching" is itself pretty creepy - the actual person is dead but the shell remains, with another inside, unbeknownst to anyone else. How is that not the height of creepitude? There are no less than three movies since 1945 devoted to just how horrific this concept is to us. Sera herself seems very aware of this, commenting internally and often that "the daughter they knew was dead and they had no idea" in several different reiterations, with just Sera wearing her skin around them. And the fact that there is an entire coven of immortal-body-snatching-murderers-with-permanent-wanderlust out there adds another level of menace to the novel it otherwise lacks. Cyrus certainly makes for an adequate villain and foil for Sera - more than adequate when he's actually present on the page instead of a ghost or memory- but the threat of him doesn't inspire as much tension as it could otherwise.
While I can't say the "relationship" between Sera/Kailey and Noah the black-haired neighbor-boy with a heart of gold smacks of the long-sought-after and advertised "true love" from above, there is a clear chemistry and sweetness between the two. I think I found Noah a bit too wide-eyed and perfect to entirely believe in him - or his continued attraction to Kailey after it emerges how shoddily she treated him for years - but overall I liked his character and could see the appeal even if I stood outside of it. From what is alluded to about Kailey pre-Sera she seems like a hard-to-like girl as well, so I wonder why Noah didn't remark upon the abrupt and 180 degree attitude changes that "Kailey" experienced in the novel...? I also wonder at how this thing between the two will develop - how will Sera reconcile Noah to the fact that the Kailey he knew is gone but the "Kailey" he loves is an immortal murderess hundreds of years older than himself? But while I found the 'love' between the 'teens' to be somewhat lacking, the home relationship and dynamic of the Morgans is refreshing and warm, and real. They present a stark and very bleak comparison to the 'love and family' that Sera has known for centuries with the coven, and it's nice to read a non dysfunctional family once in a while.
The ending is abrupt, let's just say that. It comes to a screaming and ominous cliffhanger right at the very moment you most wish to keep reading. While I can understand the cutoff as an incentive to read the next novel it left me somewhat dissatisfied with this first in the series. Unfortunately, many, many threads are left wide-open after that bastard of a cliffhanger for an ending and no main conflict is resolved - the book just ends. What happened to the magical book Sera had the night she switched bodies? What happened to Taryn, who might know all of Sera's secrets? What was Kailey doing the night she died? The questions are endless and enough to ensure, above all doubt and frustration with this finale, I will be continuing this series. (less)
Strange Angels is my first entrance into the world and novels of the prolific author behind...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.5 out of 5
Strange Angels is my first entrance into the world and novels of the prolific author behind the Strange Angels, Dante Valentine, Jill Kismet and Hedgewitch series. I had high expectations for such an apparently creative and verbose author - some of which were met (I didn't hate Dru upon reading her, no ridiculously obnoxious love triangle yet - I know it is coming don't spoil me!, not a total whitewash of the cast, great descriptions, interesting twists on vampire mythology/lore, the entire wulfen dynamic) and others were sadly not (I didn't exactly love Dru either, a rushed, unsatisfying ending.) I liked a great deal more than I disliked and found Strange Angels to be a mostly fun and amusing read. With four sequels already published in the young-adult series, two in my hot little hand, I see definite potential for such a rewarding and creative paranormal series. Definitely a very solid 3.5 out of 5 stars.
"Dru" (a nickname short for. . . .?) Anderson is a girl with a transient lifestyle, with her monster-hunting ex-Marine stoic father. Dru puts it best with a typical succinct: "ridding the wold of nasty things" is their job. With a tropic Mysterious Missing/Dead Mother, Dru and daddy are the family entire - with all the baggage that goes along with. My first, initial thought: Supernatural but with a father/daughter duo instead of a fraternal team of badassery. Dru is fairly well-rounded, while still managing to come off as annoyingly precious at times. I liked the harsher, less emotional side of Dru much better: tomboy, burper, abrasive and decisive. She's definitely not a "rescuee" in a situation - this orphan knows her way with a weapson (something I always enjoy in YA: capable teenage female with an affinity for deadly weaponry) along with a steady practice of tai chi to keep her sharp. Dru is only 16, she doesn't suffer from the immaturity of some of her counterparts in the genre (Bella, all of Amanda Hocking's female characters) and when her dad is zombiefied, Dru does what she has to and rekills her own father. Whoa - now that's a conflicted lead, but understandably so, and even better, within the confines of the plot itself. Dru's daddy wasn't just killed for kicks/drama/gravitas - it's actually a part of the plan and feels natural for the novel. I also did find that Dru can come off as trying too hard to be "hard" or "badass", particularly in the beginning, the persona eventually begins to feel natural, to feel like it is essentially Dru and how she is. I may have just taken a long time to warm up to her, who knows. I do wish she was a little less full of herself, less assured she is the only one capable of doing anything.
Sadly, with so much time and attention lavished on the main character, the secondary cast leaves a little to be desired. Largely two-dimensional, I was still charmed by the majority of Dru's friends, foes and fighting opponents (strained too hard for that alliteration? Perhaps.) Graves, the only background character to largely escape this ignominious fate, steals a lot of the time as an obvious/oblivious love-interest for the closed-off Dru. Half-asian and repeatedly called "bird-like" (seriously, I love her writing but Graves deserves more than just "skinny" "beaky" and "bird-like" for descriptors! Ugh!), Graves wormed his way into Dru's (and my) affections with his gawky, awkward schtick. Homeless, full of heart and hope Graves is the optimistic yin to Dru's pessimistic yang, when she finally gives into the friendship. I did weary of the reluctance Dru displayed towards Graves: it went on too long and seemed pointless when it was clear these two were destined for bffdom/trueluuuv. Surely we the readers don't believe that someone as special and clearly needy as young Miss Anderson is going to not need some snarky companionship to keep the fangirls reading help her search for vengeance.
I had a great deal of fun with Saintcrow's mythology and lore for her universe. Not limited to Dru's psychic-esque "touch" or her waxes-and-oranges precusor of Oh shit!, Saintcrow created a unique and compelling history, social order and mythology for her supernatural beings. Two big things on The Checklist: more-than-decent female lead AND inventive interpretation of cliched and overused ideas. Every author these days has a young-adult paranormal series with vampires/werewolves/whatever/etc. - but the ones that get - and keep - my attention are those that make the myth theirs in some way: either reinvent it and own it. With a strict caste hierarchy for the "suckers" (vampires) reminiscent of the castes of real-world India - the nosferatu of Crow's world rule over the lesser forms of bloodsuckers. Combined with the Balkan myth of the dhampir (called djamphir in these novels) as the almost-universally male offspring of vampire fathers and human mothers. . . that hunt their paternal side, I'm more than intrigued. Add in the one-in-a-million girl offspring, the svetocha, an alluring and a minefield of power to vampires until blooming at 16, then literally toxic to vamps (ten guesses on who that one-in-a-million is?!), and we have a whole new ballgame. Saintcrow didn't limit her society to just the blood-drinkers: complenting man's more bestial nature, this universe also has the wulfen (werewolves), as well as the "prince" of the them, the loup-garou. Regarded as less than all forms of suckers, the wulfen are an integral and unsettled aspect of this varied world. Harmony among the races, even just among Dru's allies, is hard-fought and fleeting - further adding to the overall stress, uncertainty and anger of the main character.
I'm a big, BIG fan of how Ms. Saintcrow writes, judging, perhaps a bit hastily, off this one novel of hers that I have read. She has an utterly unique spin with her words, and her descriptions in particular often stand out to my eyes. Several times, at non-crucial or romantical moments, I would literally reread certain sections just because I enjoyed reading them so much - phrases like "laughter as bright and shiny as a new penny" capture both characters and setting with a vividness I loved throughout. An articulately written young-adult book with a dab hand of humor, I found it hard to put this novel down from the start. It's descriptive and evocative without overdoing it and veering into eye-rolling territory. Though I found the simple descriptions a joy to read, the action scenes are not at all bad either. With many and varied creatures/people for antagonists (Ash, Christophe, Sergej, the burning dogthing?) none of the fast-paced, loose fights feel repetitive or rehashed. And when there are a lot of altercations breaking out (and there are a LOT) that is something to be noted and enjoyed.
I do wish that there had been more to the final confrontation with the Big Bad Sergej. It felt extremely rushed, almost harried in pace, and failed to even bring a feeling of satisfaction or finality for any of the issues of the novel. I understand it is a series, but there should be some payoff for the reader. Not even Dru's real name is revealed, nor any details about her cliched mother. I still more-than-enjoyed this supernatural outing, and look forward to the numerous sequels in store. I hope for much more of Graves, more answers, and if I am being honest, even more Christophe. Bring on Betrayals. (less)
Back again in Lili St. Crow's vampire and wulfen populated world, Betrayals is the second in a series of (so far) five novels centered around young fe...moreBack again in Lili St. Crow's vampire and wulfen populated world, Betrayals is the second in a series of (so far) five novels centered around young female svetocha, Dru Anderson. As the extremely rare, intensely-sought-after female djamphir (usually male offspring of a vampiric father and a human mother), Dru is both isolated and coveted - by both sides in a good/evil paranormal struggle. The author doesn't miss a beat with her second offering of the weird and strange in Dru's monsterified life - the same easy tone, and fluid pace that made Strange Angels such an enjoyable and fast read are both present here as well. By no means a heavy or difficult read, this series is shaping up to be a pretty basic, fun, supernatural young-adult series with excellent writing, interesting mythology and a decent protagonist. With a complete change of setting and a brand-new plotline, Betrayals doesn't rely on the actions of its predecessor novel to determine the story: it charts a new path of uncertainty for Dru to walk. Now ensconced within The Order, within a "Schola", the one place she is supposed to be safe and valued above all - Dru is snared in a web of lies, half-truths, deceptions. . . and you got it: betrayal.
Dru herself irritated me a fair bit more than she did in the first novel. Several times, within the first four chapters of the book, I wanted to shake her/slap her/tell her to get a grip. Specifically, her repeated refusal to accept that maybe she doesn't know it all, Dru's attitudes with her knowledgeable djamphir teachers wore on my nerves. While the majority of Dru's character is still consistent with the hard-nosed tomboy of the first novel, she seems to spend half the novel sulking in her bedroom. I'm also slightly put-off by the blooming process in store for Dru that is repeatedly, annoyingly mysteriously mentioned. I don't understand why the male djamphir are just granted with super-speed/strength/healing from birth but the females are (comparatively) unbelievably weak until the ick-inducing blooming process renders them toxic to vampires. Added in with Dru being the "first" svetocha rescued in 30 years, and it hardly makes sense. Why are the svetocha so limited in the scope of their abilities and so rare? Details and information on this apparently endangered supernatural species has been parsed out pretty rarely thus far in both novels, and hopefully the author plans to enlighten her readers quite a bit more in the future - and as Dru is the main character, details about her/her heritage are essential. Dru is also QUITE profane: her language is abysmal and venal but it doesn't bother me. I can tell that some readers will definitely be put-off by her blue streaks, but it feels natural, how Dru really expresses herself.