if you don't like this series, Awkward Jaime sez BYE
So for a while there I wasn't sold on Ligimme gimme gimme
for all those who love this series ---
if you don't like this series, Awkward Jaime sez BYE
So for a while there I wasn't sold on Lily's connection to the main story from book number one (which totally holds up on a reread btw) but then shit went down and wow and Jonathan you badass and Aisa you and Arya would be besties and then MAJOR stuff happens and omg Pen and I have feels again and what are you DOING Kelsea and holy shit Red Queen is the worst but also kinda the best?...more
Well, if I liked the first, I pretty much loved this. Slower pace, more intricate plotting, better characterization, LESS ROMANCE (which makes the shiWell, if I liked the first, I pretty much loved this. Slower pace, more intricate plotting, better characterization, LESS ROMANCE (which makes the ship actually sail.)
The Lost Prince was exactly what I hoped it would be. I devoured it entirely in just one day, unable toRead 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....more
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. IThis 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....more
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....more
I loved this. Absolutely. Frikkin. Loved it. I tried to draw out the experience and couldn't make myselRead 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....more
But at least I will have time to process all those clever twists and all these feels that I current4.5
So the wait for book two is gonna be a biiiitch.
But at least I will have time to process all those clever twists and all these feels that I currently have.
Well done, Ms. Caine. I liked your vampire books (in fact it's the only ongoing vampire series I still read) but I loved this. It was creative and inventive and diverse. I had so many ships but my main ship was sneaky and subtle and made me Feel Things.
This is a book about books, about the power of knowledge, and about knowledge of power. It's clever and it's full of action. It's a great blend of ideas and genres and holy shit gimme book two please....more
Though not nearly as hair-pullingly irritating as its predecessor The Red Queen, (which irritated me soRead 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. ...more
"An unexpected delight" were the immediate words to pop into my head upon my all-too-soon completion ofRead 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"]>...more
Cinderella gets a cyborg twist in this eye-catching and sci-fictionish tale- but that's not all the funRead 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. ...more
Was I supposed to finish this in love with Piper? Because she, like Angela in Unspoken, is my spirit animal in so many ways.
Real thoughts: the book/plWas I supposed to finish this in love with Piper? Because she, like Angela in Unspoken, is my spirit animal in so many ways.
Real thoughts: the book/plot whathaveyou, was...quieter?... than I expected. Less gogogo than The Dream Thieves, but Maggie's writing still has that dream-like quality. Characterization, as always, is key and on point. These people are so real -- even looking at the cast (both old and new) beyond Blue and her boys. ...more
This was just great fun for me to read once it hit its stride - Phoenix Rising has nice mixRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
4.5 out of 5
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"]>...more
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 winnWow. 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!...more
2014 Reread thoughts: Five stars now, five stars always.
2013 Reread Thoughts: I finished my reread! And though it took me a lot longer than I thought,2014 Reread thoughts: Five stars now, five stars always.
2013 Reread Thoughts: 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 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....more
And a "well done" to both Kaufman and Spooner for bringing it with book two in their shared series. With better plotting, a great female lead, a well-And a "well done" to both Kaufman and Spooner for bringing it with book two in their shared series. With better plotting, a great female lead, a well-written romance, I think This Shattered World was an improvement on its predecessor These Broken Stars. ...more
Better than the first and getting better with each chapter. Character-wise, this series and Elisa have come very far -- with some to go, but kudos for
Better than the first and getting better with each chapter. Character-wise, this series and Elisa have come very far -- with some to go, but kudos for the vast improvement over the course of book one and into The Crown of Embers.
This was so so good. I loved 95% percent of it (those of you who have read it can probably guess where my 5% of dissatisfaction comes from4.5 out of 5
This was so so good. I loved 95% percent of it (those of you who have read it can probably guess where my 5% of dissatisfaction comes from) and I am in awe of Maggie Stiefvater. This was my first read of one of her books, but I plan to search out her bibliography ASAP. Impressive, eerie, funny, entertaining - The Raven Boys is damn near perfect.
Glow is set in the semi-distant future, when mysterious circumstances have made "Old" Earth practicallyRead 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.
This is a novel that crept up on me. It exceeded my expectations - a rather hard thing toRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.75 out of 5.
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. ...more
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 tFirelight 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.