The Accused: The Chaos of Stars' cast, writing, plotting
The Offense(s): Criminal waste of time, cover fraud, squandering a great premise, using cliches and juvenile writing
The Prosecution: Jessie, a disappointed reader
Opening Argument: Ladies and gentleman, I present to you a blurb that promises Egyptian gods, a creative new take for young adult supernatural fiction, and an interesting plot. The Chaos of Stars delivers Egyptian gods, sure -- but shallow, lifeless representations of them. Instead of a new, fresh plot, the same old tropes and themes are trotted out to the reader's exasperation. It is a boring affair - full of instalove, a cheesy romance, and lackluster execution.
Exhibit A: Isadora's lack of personality. Surliness and self-absorption do not a character make. She doesn't even qualify for antihero status. She's boring, she's immature, judgmental, and impossible to care about. If it doesn't directly concern Isadora herself, she is uninterested. It's hard to stomach such a badly-written character.
Exhibit B: The Chaos of Stars uses the same theme so many other young adult novels fall prey too - magical girl, who is beyond gorgeous (of course) must wrestle with familial expectations while trying to figure out what she wants from life. If you're going to use the Egyptian gods as your main characters, make use of them. Don't make them fade into the background until it's too late.
Exhibit C: The writing. It's juvenile. It's unpolished. There's no subtlety, no depth or any real emotion evoked in the nearly 300 pages of the book. You can skim the last 50ish pages and miss nothing. That is not good. There should be ethos, pathos, building tension, a dramatic conflict. There is sadly none of that to be found here.
Exhibit D: The plot. Where was it for most of the book? Your guess is as good as mine and I read the damn thing. For the most part, White focuses on a romance with an impossibly gorgeous Greek boy who is more than he seems to be (think about that for more than two minutes and you will have figured out a twist.) and who is in love with Isadora because...well... who knows.
Closing Argument: I was disappointed by this book from the beginning. For so much potential, the premise is neglected and the execution is lackluster. The characters are one-dimensional AND unlikeable or wooden, and the conclusion lacks emotion.
Verdict: Do not waste your time. It's not worth it, and you're honestly not missing anything by skipping this. Don't be lured in by that cover, or the promise of something original. There's none of that to be found in The Chaos of Stars....more
#1. Do you like strong, flawed and inherent compelling female narrators?
#2. Do you enjoy reading new twists and interpretations of old fairytales?
#3. Does historical fiction with excellent place-as-character (for both Versailles and Venice) appeal to your reading tastes?
#4. Do you like a little magic subtly interwoven into your historical fiction?
#5. Have you read and enjoyed similar books like Kill Me Softly, Strands of Bronze and Gold, or The Brides of Rollrock Island?
#6. Are you attracted to novels with romance, but ones that don't focus solely on the love connections of the main characters?
#7. Are you constantly looking for a novel with length that will keep you engaged and curious from start to end?
#8. Has it been a while since you've had the chance to read a fresh and original story?
If you answered yes to the above questions - and really, I can't imagine why you would say no - then Bitter Greens is a book for you. An interesting and unique mashup of fairytale lore, court politics, and thwarted love, this captivating and darkly fascinating look at three intriguing and multi-faceted women is unlike any other book I've come across. I put it down when I reluctantly finished, and I immediately wanted to start it all over again; to spend more time in this world, and with these distinctive characters. This is an author with talent, and one that can clearly and easily spin an engrossing and compulsively readable story. This is my first Kate Forsyth novel, but you can bet it will not be my last.
Without hesitation, Kate Forsyth's newest novel is my favorite novel of 2013. It may be only March, but with 60 books under my belt, this was far and away the standout of the group. It's beautiful, sad, creative and compelling. Bitter Greens is so much more than just a simple, historical fiction retelling of Rapunzel's well-known and often-told fairytale. It's a story about love and power, about destiny and desire, and about what lengths a woman will go to to fight for her love, and to find her freedom. With her three capable main narrators, either in first person or third, Kate Forsyth brings this novel, these characters and the various locations to life. A vibrant read on all counts, Bitter Greens is sprawling, ambitious and impressive. It more than succeeds where it tries for something different and manages to breathe some fresh air into historical fiction.
All three women the novel focuses on in turn have passion, determination, and talent. Their lives are complex, and their characterization three-dimensional - not even neglecting the villain/anti-hero of the piece. Though their lives span different eras and troubles, there are parallels between the stories of all three. Each want something they cannot have; one thirsts for perfection and power, one for love and an independent life, and one for family and freedom. But despite their various wishes, each story meshes well with her compatriots. For each, life is full of unexpected twists and surprises - and those, usually out of their control. One is doomed by the choices of her parents; another by the capriciousness of a spoiled King; and another by the harsh retribution of a vicious nobleman. In each disparate arc, the loves and lives desired by Charlotte/Margherita/Selena are lost in favor of power, revenge, or dark magic. I couldn't pick a favorite from the three of them - all of them are compelling and interesting, and all of their stories demand attention.
The court of Versailles and the water-world of Venice are the most described locations (the homes of Charlotte and Margherita respectively), and they are exquisitely well-rendered. Set in the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King, for Charlotte's tale, Versailles, and occasionally Paris, create the perfect backdrops for her story of religious, romantic and independence struggles. Romantic, oppressive, and opulent, Charlotte's frustrated endeavors to control her own life in the time of a divine despot provide a nice dichotomy to the supreme will Louis exerted over his people, and his court in particular. Venice is another supremely romantic city, and one that lends itself well to the beautiful but deceptive stories of the other two characters. There is more than meets the eye to the tales of these characters, as the settings chosen more than illustrate.
Clocking in at a respectable five hundred pages, Bitter Greens has some heft to it. Thankfully, Forsyth has the capability to keep interest high and the pace moving along. I was never bored, and I never wanted to put the novel down once I had cracked the cover. This is a book I finished in one day, though I kept trying to extend the time I spent with it. I would put it down, only to mull over the plotlines in my head until I had to pick it back up again to see where Kate Forsyth was going to take her characters. There were a couple twists that came into play later in the story, and though I called one, the other was a genuine and believable surprise.
Sadly, this seems to be a rather hard novel to get a hold of. So far, I've only found available copies for sale on FishPond - no listings on Barnes and Noble or Amazon. However, if there was a book worth that steep $30 price, this is it. If more copies become available, I plan to do a giveaway. But you can rest assured my own copy is never leaving my house. I'll need it for the several rereads I plan to do in the near future....more
This is a mess. I've long since grown out of most of my misguided, uneducated affection for Philippa GrRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is a mess. I've long since grown out of most of my misguided, uneducated affection for Philippa Gregory novels, but any lingering chances I will read her subsequent novels were firmly ended by this read. From beginning to end, this is a dull, vapid and uninvolving novel. Full of undeveloped, one-dimensional and just plain boring characters, with little to no plot to speak of, there's nothing to recommend about Changeling. It's a sloppy and anachronistic mess of a book, and one that doesn't leave much hope for the rest of this series. Simply and best put: Changeling is a disappointing mess, even for those who have grown inured to Gregory's ham-handed attempts to write historical fiction.
Changeling is supposedly the tale of two (very dry, very flat) protagonists, Luca Vero and his female counterpart of Isolde of Lucretili. It's hard to connect with these cardboard cutouts masquerading as characters, and even more difficult with their cliched background characters of Freize and Ishraq. I don't have anything to say about either protagonist; both Luca and Isolde failed to come to life as people, nor gave me cause to invest in their respective stories. There's no real "mystery" to anything that Luca investigates, nor is the "changeling" label ever fully explored by the author. It's mentioned maybe twice, and then... just dropped in favor of a ill-fated (and inauthentic) romantic plotline between two sets of characters.
With no plot to speak of and with the adventures the group encounters coming across as sporadic, unrelated vignettes, it's hard to get a clear picture of the world that Gregory is attempting to create here. Is the supernatural real? Where are my alchemists and death dancers I was promised? This is an "Order of Darkness" novel, the first in an expected series, but bare lip service is paid to the idea of an overarching theme or message. This is Gregory's weakest effort on many fronts, and it shows throughout the dialogue-heavy novel, and badly. Events and reveals, plot twists are all predictable - from the twist about Isolde's fortunes to the "mystery" of the stigmata and poisoned nuns - each new revelation failed to achieve the any impact author was going for.
Changeling is affected, obvious and anachronistic. This review is unexpectedly hard to write because I cared so little about anything that was going on, nor about the main characters. Gregory's earlier novels aren't "good" per se, but they at least managed to entertain the reader, instead of bore them to tears, as this one does. You would think a novel with a trail about possessed and poisoned nuns would be a little more riveting. You'd be so so wrong. Lacking any significant character development, with a staid and predictable plot, Gregory is better suited to staying in the genre she's come to dominate. Stick with her fluffy, bodice-heaving novels and stay far, far away from Changeling....more
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
I'm still not sure how many of those stars are for sheer nostalgia - at least one? - but this was a hell of a wrap up for a 12 year journey. I startedI'm still not sure how many of those stars are for sheer nostalgia - at least one? - but this was a hell of a wrap up for a 12 year journey. I started reading these books when I was 13, I am 25 now, and I can say there were times when I didn't see this ever ending. Through its ups (books 1-6), its downs (8-11), its not-bad-but-could-be-better (7, 12) this has remained a big force in my fantasy reading. Forgive me for this pun, but there will be a void where The Wheel of Time once stood.
Favorites died, nations crumbled, deception and betrayal abounded, but fans who flocked to this series for its strengths - the characters, the immense worldbuilding, the complicated plots and plans - will at least be satisfied with Sanderson's strong finale. ...more
It's a rather large understatement to say I had high expectations for Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It was - and still is - pretty ubiquitous and lauded everywhere you find it mentioned. I was so keen on reading this novel I preordered it. I rarely preorder anything; bookbuying before seeing/touching the actual novel is one of the few area I can exercise some patience in. For example, the last book I preordered was George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons after nearly six years of anticipation. But, lo and behold, even before the promised release date of September 27, a beautiful copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone appeared on my doorstep. I devoured it in two days, only stopping because of a headache so bad I literally couldn't see straight. Laini Taylor's amazing novel more than met my high hopes: she exceeded them in every way. It's a novel that delights and entertains, neither stinting on the drama and humor nor on acutely attractive brooding male characters.
It's hard to review something you love - I've had trouble reviewing this as well as The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman and Kate Morton's epic The Distant Hours. I sat on this particular review for over a week trying to analyze how I felt about it and how to express my opinions other than just fangirl squeeling ("Oh my god, I wish I was Karou. Oh, My. GOD. Akiva.<33," etc). When you love a book, it's personal in a way few things are: you want everyone else to love it unconditionally, too, and hiss at any detractors. While Daughter is not the end-all be-all my review might sound like, it is one of my top favorite reads of the year/all-time. From the tagline "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well," alone I knew I was in for an epic star-crossed love affair and had faith that Laini Taylor would handle it with aplomb and not melodrama. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fresh read with unique elements, and note as well this is a young-adult novel that is certainly not just for young-adults.
Daughter is not a paranormal romance. Daughter is not an urban fantasy. Daughter is not a fantasy. Daughter is not a coming-of-age young adult novel with significant supernatural elements. Or rather - it is not just one of those genres individually. It is a marvelous and utterly unique mix of all four. It's the story of Karou, a blue haired, tattooed, lonely artist in Prague. A girl that "moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx," and an utterly striking protagonist. Though clearly 'special' Karou is a magnetic character and one I like immediately without reserve. She's funny, human in the most defining sense of the word and not above a little petty revenge against those who need it. Surrounded by a cheeky best friend, the "master of the eyebrow arch" Zuzanna and her strange (more on that later) family, Karou manages to come across as a lonely and very alone young woman trying to balance a hidden demanding supernatural life with human problems like exyboyfriends, though without straying into self-pity. As the mysteries pile up around the young artist, I felt questions piling up in my head, wondering if the author would pull of answering all of them to my satisfaction: who is Karou? What is Karou? Where did she come from, and where/who are her parents? And like most reviews note: what exactly is up with the creepyass teeth?! While I thought the mystery went on too long at the time, the pacing and reveal feel absolutely perfect when they are - finally - uncovered. I should never have doubted.
The secondary characters are also mysterious, powerful... and above all, different. Hinted at in the tagline, Karou's adopted family is firmly in the "devil" camp - though the correct name is chimaera and one and all, from the snakelike Issa to the giraffe-necked Twiga, are never anything less than kind to the bluehaired waif they raised. I enjoyed the "humanness" Laini Taylor brought for her monsters. No side is black and white in this eternal way between angels and devils, and I thoroughly appreciate the 'human' monsters/crazed angels over a more black/white/ absolute scenario. Karou runs messages for Brimstone, a mysterious chimaera collector of teeth and granter of wishes - which allows her to eventually run into the angel foretold: the sexy and dangerous Akiva. A beautiful and forbidding seraphim sworn to fight the chimaera, Akiva sells his brooding mysteriousness and past pain without overplaying it. It took me a while to buy into more than his obvious superficial appeal, but the haunting backstory added a layer of depth to his personality. His looong life is a nice foil for Karou's shorter mostly conflict free existence of whim.Their chemistry is palpable and sizzling: one of the more exciting YA romances I can think of, honestly. (Wow, this is still waaaay fangirlly. It's just that good.)
More love: Laini's writing. Not only is it lyrical and poetic, but she manages to personalize everyone and everything - often with a dab hand at humor or image. Like Zuzanna'a master eyebrow mastery perfectly creates a sardonic, but caring face. Zuzana bursts with flair and personality: all the fun isn't reserved for lead role Karou. And the sparkle is not just reserved for the people: the setting benefits from the author's talent as well. Prague. Oh my godPrague. Between this and Wasserman's addicting The Book of Blood and Shadow I'd say this has rocketed to the top of my "Cities I MUST Visit in Europe" list. From poetic and vibrant passages like this,
"The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century - or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreams, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies."
to the day-to-day life of Karou, I was struck again and again by Ms. Taylor's narrative, consistently in love with the vibrant prose and the very-much-alive city it gave birth to. I loved the beautiful, not purple, prose, which consistently evoked colorful imagery of the setting, the characters, and the amazing world (in, within, around Prague) that wordsmith Laini Taylor has crafted. In a vibrant city of such history - and supernatural myths too of foundation by a witch - Laini Taylor breathes fresh life into old themes of forbidden love, fallen angels, and even the battle between good/evil/Heaven/Hell.
My few, teensy complaints: the "big reveal" to Zuzanna wasn't. It was offscreen and almost hastily brushed aside with a demonstration - and I wished for more time with the diminutive Czech scenestealer. I also felt that Karou and Akiva had a teensy bit of an instalove situation a la Twilight, but that fear was happily quashed. SPOILER AHEAD, please do not read if you've yet to get your hands on a copy. Seriously it's the next sentence. I also worry that the Karou I liked so much, identified with so closely - might "disappear" due tothe big twist/revelation near the end. I worry that the essential "Karouness" will be lost and I'll feel different about her in the second book. I hope not and have almost every faith Laini Taylor will not steer me wrong.
The story is striking and imaginative and unforgettable. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a genre-blending exercise of win, unlike anything I have read. It's a new, charismatic spin on the angel/devil/seraphim/nephilim/chimaera theme, populated with real characters with actual personalities - relayed by dialogue and deed rather than an infodump. I loved the nicely tuned balance of action and wit, drama with imagination and wordbuilding on a grand-scale. When's book two out? I cannot and hope not to wait long for another installment in this spellbinding world....more
Hype is a strange beast, and one that is certainly no stranger to this long-anticipated fantasy novel gRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Hype is a strange beast, and one that is certainly no stranger to this long-anticipated fantasy novel geared towards young-adults. It can prime the pump for a well-deserved novel, or it can drag down an otherwise entertaining but not very well executed novel with unfulfilled expectations, as is the case here for my read of Maas's Throne of Glass. Advertised as a "Game of Thrones" for teens meets an assassin version of The Hunger Games, the similarities and comparisons to other young-adult fantasy novels (particularly Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder -be sure to check out Amanda's great comparison review!) are unavoidable and lamentable. In addition to the misplaced hype and the whole "been-there-done-that feel", Throne of Glass suffers from a wide array of issues that kept me from wholly loving this. I've had several days to digest and work out my-not-so-happy feelings towards this (and vacillate on my rating!), and while I will inevitably pick up the sequel, I do think Maas has a lot to learn about the fantasy genre, writing a credible romance, and crafting a better method of authorial sleight-of-hand.
Celaena Sardothien is a complex character, that is without a doubt, but one that is a little too enamored of her own looks, instead of worrying about, oh I don't know, LIVING. Even Katniss, for all her faults and flaws, doesn't worry about her good-looks when confronted by the people who ruined her life, and oppressed her people. I think Celaena will be divisive among readers: some will respond to her hard-edged confidence and others will be much less enthused with her inability to look at the bigger picture. There are many sides to her personality, and I will admit that she is admirably flawed and realistic for a YA protagonist. She's a strong, smart, capable, and decisive young woman, while only slightly suffering from Special Snowflake Syndrome. She's also arrogant beyond belief (though I didn't start to dislike that aspect until her arrogance about her skills was never backed up by her actions! One sparring match does not a Master Assassin make! And, after all, how many times, exactly, can Dorian sneak up on Celaena before she loses all credibility as The Greatest Assassin Ever?), cunning, deadly, and way, way, too invested in the superficial facets of Court life. The sheer amount of time clothing, especially Celaena's and Dorian's wardrobes, are described, lusted after, and compared is simply exhausting and dry.
Another main issue I had while reading this was the clear and present focus on romance, a love triangle and angst instead of THE ASSASSIN-TASTIC DEATH MATCH. It's supremely frustrating to be told that Celaena is an amazing assassin and then see no proof of it, outside very few isolated events. What is the point of a Hunger Games death match between assassins if it's all offsides and offscreen? For almost the entirety of reading about the tournament, I was thinking "KILL SOMEONE, DAMNIT. Prove you're what you've been so enthusiastically saying about yourself." It's too much telling about Celaena's prowess, and far too little actual "showing" on Maas's part. The Tests and trials are glossed over, or focus on the least-actiontastic events (a poison ranking? Really? Harry Potterish much?) to the overall detriment of what was actually the most compelling aspect of the whole novel. Instead, the author ignores the good stuff in favor of awkward flirting, and endless descriptions of what every character is reading. It's a shame and a glaring misstep for any novel that seeks to be compared for the bloody and dark Game of Thrones.
Maas is a capable author, but sadly not one readers will be able to call subtle after reading first-in-a-series Throne of Glass. Celaena's mysterious past and real identity are both easy to suss out, and it's remarkable that none of the other characters manage to do so in the 400+ pages of the final edition. The super-obvious plotting and writing, the easy-to-spot red herrings, and not to mention the heavy-handed approach to the love-triangle that takes up 75% of the novel, make for a very predictable novel. The "mystery" of who is behind the competitors death...isn't. It's both obvious from the start and then subsequently, hilariously frustrating how long it takes Celaena to cotton on to the real culprit. (view spoiler)[ Celaena's whole "Nehemia has a secret! Therefore, she must be the killer or maybe just politically savvy. Never mind that I've been lying the entire time we've known one another!!1!" subplot is particularly dumb. Be smarter than that, Celaena. Respect your readers more than that, Maas! (hide spoiler)]
Third-person omniscient makes it easy for the POV to rotate around Celaena, Dorian, the Crown Prince of Ardalan, and Chaol Westfall, the earnest and awesome Captain of the Guard, and show a wider view of the world. It also caused me to feel a bit distant from the characters and kept me from fully investing. (Exception: Chaol. MOAR PLEASE.) Were the other two perspectives really needed? No, but nor do they detract from the narration. The love triangle manage to do that allll on its own. You can see it forming from the first chapter, and Maas never makes it worth reading about. It's all overwrought glances and touching, with little real emotion to back up the overused trope. It's not used to illustrate that Celaena is torn between two men who genuinely appeal to vastly different sides of her character, but rather to show how beautiful and alluring she is. No, thank you. The writing itself can be bloated with over-description (the clothes! the glass castle! WE GET IT!), but Maas does reign it in occasionally to let a plot emerge.
Fun, but very flawed is my final verdict. Great ideas need great execution and that is not at all what happened here with Throne of Glass. Though Throne of Glass has been grossly overhyped and is quite often amateurish in its presentation, I can't deny that there are moments of great entertainment... but, sadly, they are not enough to earn this novel more than 3/5 stars. ...more
I made it 53% and I either hate everything or it bores me.
It utterly fails to make a point with the genderbending aspAnd we have my first DNF of 2014.
I made it 53% and I either hate everything or it bores me.
It utterly fails to make a point with the genderbending aspect, so if you want to read a YA fantasy set in a non-white society in a jungle that does make some good points in a thoughtful exploration of gender -- read Alaya Dawn Johnson's The Summer Prince instead....more
There's a lot going on in those three-hundred-odd pages, the first-of-a-new-series by authoRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.5 out of 5
There's a lot going on in those three-hundred-odd pages, the first-of-a-new-series by author C.J. Redwine. Defiance boasts a mix of several genres and subgenres, two decently flawed and interesting narrators and protagonists, and one of them a strongish female main character, as well as plenty of action and adventure to lure in readers and keep them invested. Like my other 3.5/5 ratings, I want to stress that I really enjoyed this, particularly after the rough beginning, but just thought it could have been better with a little time and finesse. As it is, there's a lot to enjoy about this easily read, fast-engrossing young-adult novel. Uneven pacing, character issues aside, I am pretty impressed with C.J. Redwine's debut novel, and think it will find a wide audience. Defiance, at its best, is an inventive, creative and unpredictable novel, and for me, that was enough to merit an somewhat enthusiastic review.
The setting of tyrant-controlled Baalboden and the destroyed world Rachel and Logan live in is both a strength and a weakness for Defiance. The interesting mix of fantasy with flightless dragons (or "the Cursed One") and the post-apocalyptic clues/vocabulary ("periodic table" "algorithms" "Pythagorean theorem") make this world seem like it's possible version of the real world rather than a pure-fantasy imaginary land. But sadly not enough detail or worldbuilding is provided to for readers to form a clear, believable picture of what lead to this apocalyptic scenario or the picture the current conditions that the characters live in. What we do know about it/Baalboden/the world before the Cursed One comes early in the novel, and then bare lip-service is paid to creating a plausible current situation as much more time and attention is given to Rachel and Logan's struggles against the Commander and their alternating inner monologues. This is a first in a series so I am sure more detail and concrete answers are on the way, but the omission and neglect of information often got in the way of my truly being involved in the story.
Much like the setting, Rachel is both a credit to and a flaw for Defiance. (It doesn't help that her "voice" and that of Logan's can read almost interchangeably for the majority of the novel.) She's presented as a strong, headstrong girl in a misogynistic, patriarchal world that misuses and mistreats its women so it's obviously very easy to root for her, but she's also careless, self-absorbed, and stubborn beyond belief. The respective backstories for both her and Logan are delivered somewhat clumsily in infodumpy dialogue, but Redwine outgrows that early on and it doesn't overshadow the the narrative for too long. I like flawed characters, I appreciate them much more than a perfect protagonist with no life or vivacity, but Rachel can sometimes be very frustrating to read because she is so determined to make her own way without telling anyone or trusting her family.
It's also frustrating for me that Rachel is literally the only girl in her walled city-state that can defend herself - it can make her bloodthirsty and dangerous personality look a bit inorganic for the novel and its setting. Surely Jared can't be the only parent who wants his daughter to able to defend herself in a world where a woman can be flogged to death for going outside without her "Protector"? That quibble aside, Rachel does eventually grow up and change for the better throughout the novel, so it's impossible to call her a one-dimensional character or even stagnant. I have high hopes for this character and her further characterization in the future books, as well as for fellow females Willow and Sylph to grow into more than just cardboard cutouts.
A strong-ish female protagonist, an interesting mix of fantasy and tech, dystopia and post-apocalyptic scenarios all make for a unique novel in the vein of The Hunger Games, etc. Fans who aren't too picky about their worldbuilding and detail with find much to enjoy here, especially those who enjoy bittersweet teenaged romance. The beginning is the roughest part to enjoy and get into, but once things start to gel together, it's easy to get lost in the story at the heart of the novel. ...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
THIS BOOK. This book right here. It just... It wrecked me. It played with my emotions. It gleefully tossed me form the height of happiness to the depths of despair. You know that saying "heart wrenching"? That is Crown of Midnight in two words. I get it now. I am wrenched; my heart is so wrenched it may never recover.
I wasn't expecting to have such an emotional, visceral reaction to this book. I readily admit that I went into it with a lot of trepidation. Though there were things I enjoyed from Throne of Glass (Chaol, strong female characters, hints of magic, Chaol), there was a lot of room for improvement as well. Celaena herself was a bit of trope, she didn't assassinate nearly enough people to back up her incredible arrogance, the mystery tied into the plot was overt and way too obvious, and don't even get me started on the love triangle. But, here in the series' second outing, almost none of those issues reappear. Maas has grown into a much more deft and subtle author; I understand and can empathize with her characters better; Celaena's romantic life is an important facet of the story but not a main focus.
Crown of Midnight may not be technically perfect. I can see some of the technical issues others will have, but my rating is 4 stars for the writing, plot, characters and another star for how much I was engrossed and captivated by the entire novel. This book left me feeling so very many things. Vindication because I called it - a big reveal. Despair because Maas whiplashed me from joy to despair so many times in just 440 pages. Anxiety because I don't have a sequel in my hands waiting to be read. Excitement because Celaena kicks so much more ass in this installment. Hope because I refuse to give up. Envy because this book is so good and I know I will never write like this. Worry because I absolutely can't predict where the story will go from here.
The plot of the novel is more straightforward than the murder mystery/race to the finish at the heart of Throne of Glass. There are some minor questions that Celaena has to work out, but she does, and not dozens of pages after readers have already figured it out. The mysteries are less intrinsic to the plot, and the more subtlety Maas writes with, the less predictable her books and plots become. The solid hints about Celaena's past are also woven into the story with more care, and though I had that figured out before the start of the book, the big reveal at the end was set up very neatly and works well to hint at future plots in the next books.
Celaena was a big obstacle for me in Throne of Glass. I didn't exactly sympathize or identify with her before. Thankfully, I was directed to read the four prequel novellas before embarking on this heartbreak of a book (thank you, Gillian!), and it really adds to Celaena's depiction. I understood her better going into Crown of Midnight, and Maas took more time to flesh out her protagonist into a truly three-dimensional person. I like a flawed, human character better than any paragon of perfection, and oh boy is Celaeana flawed. She's stubborn, arrogant, tends to underestimate anyone without the last name Sardothien, and she makes a lot of mistakes. However, for all her imperfections, this is a great, strong female character. She might make mistakes, but she learns from them too.
Let's talk about love triangle, because it's still hanging on here in Crown of Midnight. Happily, Maas doesn't jerk her main character from love interest to love interest as she did before. Both Dorian and Chaol may have tender feelings for the deadly Celaena, but for all her flaws, the girl isn't indecisive. She makes a choice, and though there are complications between the two, it isn't about what man Celaena wants to be with. I can't say the love triangle is entirely dead (this is YA, after all) but Maas handles it with maturity and I didn't mind how it was used for tension amongst the three principles.
I may have been a tepid fan before, but no longer. I'm fully on board this ship (and the Chaol + Celaena ship), and will be buying copies of this series. I was so entertained by this actiontastic thrill ride; I was heartbroken at some of the twists and turns; I was emotionally whiplashed as Maas kept the reveals and betrayals coming. For better or worse, I am invested in this series, these characters, this world. It's going to be a long hard wait for book three, but I am counting down the days. This is an author that has grown into her story and really impressed me with her sophomore effort.
If you're on the fence like I was, if you liked but didn't love Throne of Glass -- don't give up. Read the prequels. And then read the second because you won't be disappointed. Crown of Midnight is the rare sequel that exceeds expectations and surpasses its predecessor. This is YA fantasy - with a female main character! - done so right....more
Wow - what a beautiful and original cover; I defy anyone to see that and not want to at least peak atRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Wow - what a beautiful and original cover; I defy anyone to see that and not want to at least peak at the inside novel. I caught sight of this beautiful, evocative cover a few weeks ago on GoodReads and once it had popped up on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it. For once, this is not a case of a beautiful, alluring young adult cover hiding a big ol' mess of plot and characters inside (unlike numerousothersI couldname thatlied to my eyes); this is a novel worth that eye-catching picture. Boasting a wholly fun and quick-moving storyline about Pirate Confederations, blood-magic, assassins, battles and more, The Assassin's Curse tries for a lot for a debut novel and happily, it succeeds in most of those areas. Immediately entertaining, original and full of compelling characters, this is a welcome addition to the fast-growing young-adult fantasy genre. Fans of the soon-to-released Seraphina and other such fantasy offerings will find a new strong heroine to root for and identify with, in an alien but vaguely familiar world, populated with the weird and strange sprung from this author's fertile imagination.
Though The Assassin's Curse is truly just a bit too short to see all its potential awesome to its full fruition, this is a novel rich in imagination and atmosphere. With islands of mists that can drive men mad, magic, pirate allegiances and Orders of assassins, there's an obviously medievally-influenced fantasy feel to the world being built by this author and it works for both the story and the characters being created. And the characters are a tretat -- for all that I was enveloped in the feel of Clarke's world, the strength of this novel rests mainly on its strong teen protagonist Ananna and her foil, the withdrawn Naji. With a sluggish, almost juvenile beginning, it was my interest in the mythology and in Ananna's story that kept me engaged. As it turns out, the novel matures from its initial impression of simplicity as its leading heroine does: quickly and smoothly once the narrative gets going. The introductory infodumps are not the best method of storytelling (duh), and thankfully the author matures out of that foible soon enough.
Ananna is one of those memorable heroines: strong, difficult, smart, and deadly. She is a wonderfully complicated, flawed woman - this is a girl who will kill to stay alive but will feel regret for it after. She's a hard woman, but not a cruel one -- and that's perfect for the cutthroat pirate world she hails from. A wide-eyed innocent wouldn't escaped from her wedding on a stolen camel, but a fully proficient one wouldn't be caught in the situation she finds herself in with Naji. It's a delicate balance, but one that is well-struck here. The first person POV is used skillfully with this particular protagonist; though I did grow tired of certain phrases she used, I felt connected to the independently-minded Miss Taranau immediately. Her strong and defiant voice, coupled with the conversational tone of the novel make for a vibrantly fleshed-out young-woman. I was really impressed with the air cultivated for both Ananna and Naji - both are prickly and difficult people, but you root for them because of (or in spite of?) their often harsh outlooks. Naji, whom I love, does still need a lot of personal development. I'm a sucker for any brooding assassin but I hope more characterization is down the road for him. A tortured love interest is well and good -- but don't leave it at that alone. Naji has potential and though I love him, I will be pissed if he is wasted and becomes a stagnant character.
As much as I was wrapped up in Ananna's inner monologue and travails, I didn't fail to notice that some aspects of this novel can feel a bit shortchanged, and that the plot can feel a bit thin in places. There's a lot of rushing about from place to place, long treks from one location to the next, all to find Person X and then Gandalf Dumbledore, the old Hermit Mystic Wizard trope...which didn't exactly light me on fire with its originality or do anything to fix the lack of tension. Those are all fairly common fantasy tropes and its a shame to see a novel as original as The Assassin's Curse fall prey to such easy traps. Ananna and Naji are more than able to carry the novel and create momentum between them that makes me want to read, but I never really felt any tension or suspense when confronted with the Mists, or other enemies. There's not a lot of worldbuilding here, and as this is character-driven, I'll allow a pass. For now. The bittersweet ending is open-ended enough for a sequel or companion novel (in fact, I am counting on a series for this) and that is one area that sorely needs some detail and attention.
Cassandra Rose Clarke is an author to watch. This novel was quick, fun, unique and filled with two wonderfully imagined characters -- all the more impressive for The Assassin's Curse being her first. Though not free of a few pitfalls, I greatly enjoyed reading this and eagerly look forward to the next adventure on the horizon for these two characters....more
Sooo... I think I am suffering from Maas fatigue. Between this series and ACOTAR, her stories are everywhere... and they are so reminiscent of one anoSooo... I think I am suffering from Maas fatigue. Between this series and ACOTAR, her stories are everywhere... and they are so reminiscent of one another.
That said, I did mostly like this. It's my least favorite since the eponymous novel that launched the series for a couple reasons, however. It's thin on plot, long on running around the world, and is beginning to feel... somewhat overblown. The sheer heteronormativity of this series is also problematic afff ((view spoiler)[Aedion being bi/pan is great but having a tertiary never-before-seen person be the only canonically gay character outside of Emrys and his mate sucks. Manon is also shoved into a ill-fitting hetero relationship -- one that doesn't really work for either character.... (hide spoiler)])
Not my favorite and I think Maas may be scrambling here in the later novels, but this was at least mostly entertaining. ...more
I went into this UF/PNR pretty hopeful: spunky heroine, a secret wizard organization, HurriRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
2.5 out of 5
I went into this UF/PNR pretty hopeful: spunky heroine, a secret wizard organization, Hurricane Katrina, and an undead sexy pirate. What's not to love, besides the Louisiana location (seriously, hasn't another paranormal series coughSookiecough dominated that locale for the last 7 years?)? Well, if you're an apparently unsatisfied reader like me, three out of those four items did not live up to expectations. DJ failed to impress me throughout her misadventures, and the much-advertised Hurricane Katrina lacked the emotional pull the author was aiming for, and this is no Harry-Potter level of wizardry. Suzanne Johnson has the large and unenviable task of setting up a series from this introductory book, and based on the "strengths" of Royal Street, I wish her much luck and patience. '
It's never a good sign when you can't even agree with the heroine on the nickname she gives herself. Drusilla Jaco prefers to go by "DJ" but in my head, she was always Dru. As in, "Dru, why are you doing that?", "Really, Dru, really?!" and "Don't you want to maybe think that through before you do it, Dru?" Dru is a deputy sentinel and is oh-so-very aware of the first word in her title. She doesn't believe in herself or her abilities and feels crippled when her mentor goes missing in the aftermath of Katrina. My problems with this novel really began with Dru: despite my chummy nickname, this is not a character I invested in, even marginally. I managed to finish this because I was powered by an interest to see how everything would wrap up, rather than a desire to see Dru grow and change as a person. She's also mind-numbingly slow to put things together - example: (view spoiler)[when her supposedly dead mentor appears to her and tells her to lie to everyone, especially the authorities, she doesn't take this as a sign of something bad. She just blithely accepts his word and goes along. (hide spoiler)]
In an ironic twist, it's not DJ, or her partner Sentinel Alexander that is the character with the most life. No that honor goes to Jean Lafitte, a pirate who is technically...dead. He's a bastard alright from the first moment he speaks, but damnit, at least he is an interesting and dynamic one. In a cast of so few, where I dislike most of the few, Jean was the one character I would root for continually. He didn't add the most to the story, but when I wanted to slap Dru for her wishywashy romantic love triangle BETWEEN COUSINS, Jean was the only tolerable part of the page. The love-triangle isn't as pronounced as some UF/PNR novels, but is fairly shameless and stupid on DJ's part. Within pages, Dru decides she doesn't want Alex, and goes on a date with his cousin Jake, only to be jealous of a girl looking at Alex while she is on the date with Jake. What? Really? At that point, I just thew up my hands and accepted that DJ was not a girl/character to whom I would ever relate.
If it was all just characterization issues with Royal Street, I could've easily seen a 3or maybe even a 3.5 rating for this novel. However, the twists and turns of the story are sadly predictable and telegraphed to the reader prematurely. I foresaw the resolutions to the main plot as well as most by plots easily and early on - I mostly continued reading to corroborate my correct guesses and see in what capacity Jean LaFitte would sidle into DJ's life. Perhaps best along with Jean, the villains of the piece are worth reading about. Unlike their cliched main character counterparts, Marie Leaveau and Baron Samedi are interesting and unpredictable for the duration of the novel. The murders committed at the heart of the mystery are semi-interesting but tend to get lost in the endlessssss searches for Gerry and the non-ending back-and-forth reporting to the Elders and waiting for a response. So much of this book is research or reporting or waiting that I got bored and would set it aside for several hours before returning to the story.
The world that Johnson has envisioned for her characters to play within is barely sketched out. It seems to be the same world as the one we actually live in (notable appearances: Louis Armstrong, Marie Laveau), but with wizards, vampires, undead, ghosts and other supernatural ilk. The wizards themselves were given a bare framework to illustrate the mechanics of the Sentinels program that was slowly fleshed out as the novel progressed. I liked the separation of talents into different spheres of influence (green congress versus red congress, etc.), though it does severely limit the possible scope of Dru's abilities. Also: (view spoiler)[ I also have to wonder why other European sentinels did not come to help with the influx of supernaturality after Hurricane Katrina. It is mentioned that American sentinels went to Europe in 1976 for the "Wizard War", so why is no help forthcoming in this apparently most drastic of times for New Orleans, with 'pretes' and historical undead just waltzing into the city? Holes like this, in the logic of the main plot of the entire novel, just distract me. I kept wondering why the author would mention a possibility to fix every thing (call them in to help with the pretes AND finding Gerry! Both plotlines wrapped up in thirty pages) and then ignore it for the rest of the book. It was...odd. (hide spoiler)]
This is the first in a series, and one I doubt I will pursue. Though my first impression formed ("I like that dead, dastardly pirate!") was one of the few favorable ones I took away from Royal Street, I believe this is a novel that will find a wide audience. Dru is far from a horrible protagonist, and some will genuinely like her wide-eyed and innocent approach to life - this is just not for me. 2/5 stars and a "no, thank you" - I will wonder what Jean LaFitte gets up to in his afterlife on Earth, but curiosity won't make me pick up book two when its out. ...more
looks a lot like Dave Grohl has a lot of imagination a tendency to pull no punches the ability to craft a viable, complex, interesting world breaks my brain with every book he has written
Last year, Jay burst onto the scene with his steampunkian fantasy of an almost-Japan (here called the Shima Imperium) with his debut novel, Stormdancer. The hype began early, built over months of anticipation, and swelled to immense proportions before the book dropped. And when it did, Jay delivered -- Stormdancer was a tour de force of fantasy, steampunk, kickass characters, and rebellion. Immense in scope, in creativity, and filled with unforgettable writing, and complex, realistic characters, it exceeded my expectations in every way -- and they were HIGH.
I am here to tell you that Kinslayer, book two in this Lotus War series, is even better. You want more death, destruction, struggle? You got it, in spades. The scale is bigger, the stakes are higher, and this is an author that can, and does, improve on his already-impressive first book. If you liked what Kristoff had to offer in Stormdancer - chainsaw katanas, a fresh and inventive take on steampunk technology, an incredibly well-drawn world, betrayals, secrets, conspiracies, rebellion, action aplenty - then you'll love what he serves up for round two. The Lotus War is a story told on a grand scale and one that doesn't shy away from making readers flinch.
While in book one we were told, "the lotus must bloom", now the rebels have modified it to the more ominous, "the lotus must burn." This is a darker book. The lines have clearly been drawn and a civil war is on the brink. Yukiko wrestles with her role, with what she has done, and with what she will do. People die. People you like will die. People you like will surprise you -- and not always in a good way. The risks that Jay Kristoff takes with his plotting and characters more than pay off. He creates suspense with ease as well a genuine fear that no one -- and nothing -- is truly safe with Shima on the brink. He writes with a clear eye for the visual and a lot of the action scenes read cinematically. The detail is dense, the worldbuilding intricate and complete, and it all serves to create an Empire that feels dangerously real and frighteningly familiar.
Kinslayer is epic. It's an epic story with several major plotlines across an empire; there's Yukiko and Buruu going about doing what they do (no spoilers!), there's the Kagé stronghold in the mountains, and there are the subversives hiding in Kigen city, waiting for a chance to hit back at the authorities. Widening the focus of the story allows for more prominent characters than just Yukiko and the antagonist of the soon-to-be-Emperor/Yukiko's former lover, Tora Hiro. Both Yukiko and Hiro play important parts, but they are mostly removed from the main action - Hiro through the dense administration system surrounding a clan Daimyo, and Yukiko through her own struggles to rectify what has happened to her life in the previous novel. Buruu remains a key participant in Yukiko's storyline, and remains one of the best animal characters to ever grace a page. However, even he is full of surprises as the hundreds of pages race by.
We've met Michi before as a minor character, but here in Kinslayer, she gets the time and pages to shine. Her storyline is taut, full of deception and suspense. While Yukiko has spearheaded the fight against the Guild and the Emperor, Michi is in the trenches (credit for that line goes to the lovely Christina at Reader of Fictions!) fighting however and whoever it takes to win. She emerges as a major player and easily surpassed Yukiko in my affections, due to her pragmatic and bad ass approach. Hana, another newcomer with more to her than meets the eye, also more than proves her worth. Between her characterization and Michi's, it's obvious there is more than one strong, dangerous woman in Shima. Yukiko may be the Arashi-no-odoriko, but these two women are capable, smart, cunning, and each play pivotal parts in all that plays out in the pages. While most of my appreciation, character-wise, is for these two newish characters, older and more familiar faces continue to operate in various functions. Akihito, Kin, Kaori, etc. all are prominent and important, but do lack the liveliness of Michi and Hana's storylines.
Though there are clearly the good guys and the bad guys, Kristoff creates a cast that is not black and white. Yukiko is the heroine, but not everything she does is heroic, or even right. The Kagé are the good side, compared the power-hungry Guild and the omnivorous Empire, but not all of its members are truly good people. Similarly, the people that surround Hiro, the book's clear antagonist and foil for Yukiko, are not all evil power despots. The shades of grey that the author imbues into his characters make them all more realistic, more complex, and thus, interesting. Clearly the most sympathy will lie with the Kagé and their struggle to topple a corrupt government, but I appreciated how deftly Kristoff handled the creation the characters on all sides of the conflict. I always say I want a complex antagonist over a one-dimensional psychopath, and that a conflicted heroine is better than a perfect paragon, and I am proved right by the layers each of these two key characters possess. I may not like either of them too much, but I can understand where both are coming from and what they hope to gain.
The worldbuilding is truly some of the best I have ever read in the fantasy genre. It's on par with series that have taken twice as many volumes to create their version of Earth. In just two books, Jay Kristoff has created a viable, deadly, believable world. He has shown how a once-prosperous country can find itself on the verge of failure. From the mythology to the government, there is more than enough detail to flesh out the culture of the Shima Imperium to a reader's satisfaction. No stone has gone unturned, no idea unexplored. New cultures are shown, and new ideas are explored. Above all, Kinslayer never stagnates or dawdles. While the steampunk technology is less featured here (exception: Earthcrusher, clockwork arm!), it retains its originality, usefulness, and flair. Jay proves that less is more and doesn't oversaturate his plotline with nifty gadgets and chainsaw katanas. This isn't a version of steampunk featured on dirigibles and tea -- this is steampunk focused on war, domination, and destruction. And it. is. AWESOME.
Kinslayer is a book with everything you could hope for in steampunk fantasy with arashitora and sea dragons. It's packed to the brim with action, drama, and suspense. It takes characters we know and changes them, makes them evolve and hopefully grow. It proves that in war, no one is safe and anyone can betray you. It shows all sides of a conflict and doesn't flinch from murdering off favorite, beloved characters. It's a brash, loud, completely fun read. It's dense, and detailed, and still the pages fly by. If you want originality, or an inventive fantasy, or a book that combines dire straits with a dash of humor, or all of the above, this is the book you want to read. This is one of my favorite books of EVER, and I will be rereading it for years to come.
My only worry is how Jay Kristoff will manage to top this.
--And when I can get a copy of the third book. ...more
A swing and a miss for veteran fantasy author Maria V. Snyder. The first novel, Touch of PRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
2.75 out of 5
A swing and a miss for veteran fantasy author Maria V. Snyder. The first novel, Touch of Power, was a great introduction to the newest series by this prolific writer, but much like what happened for me with her Study series, the sequel left a lot to be desired. It took me a while to sort out how I felt about this novel after finishing it, especially deciding on the rating. 3 stars? 2.5? I just split the difference and settled with 2.75/5. What I have decided is that this is a far cry from its action-packed predecessor. All the key elements are here - Avry, Kerrick, their chemistry [for the 30ish pages they're together...], the monkeys, the new spin on magic. Where Scent of Magic fell apart for me was the slower pace, and the complete and utter lack of any actual plot momentum. I was bored for a lot of this read - and for a novel that clocks in at a hefty 416 pages, that's a lot of time to be bored.
I had to sit and think on this, but I seem to see a pattern with Snyder's inability to follow-up awesome first novels. It's a shame, because this series, with these likeable, usually interesting characters, has a lot of potential. I was frustrated with so much of what doesn't happen over the duration of the book. There's a lot of Kerrick missing/worrying about Avry, and her the same about him. EVERY CHAPTER, it must be stated how worried one is about the other - give me a break. It feels like filler, and it doesn't help that in the first 120 pages, nothing important happened. I distinctly remember thinking, "C'mon, Snyder, you're better than this." Another irk for me was the POV shifts from Avry's first-person to Kerrick's third person. They go their separate ways early on, and while I can see why Snyder's used multiple POVs to show the larger story at play, I will never be a fan of such rapid, and vastly different POV styles.
For all the POV headjumping, all the trekking around from one place to another, the endless woods-training and all the hidden identities and secrets and foul play, not much of note happens in Scent of Magic. While the characters can pick up some of the slack, there isn't a whole lot of evolution going on for them, either. It's unfortunate, but it doesn't seem like Avry or Kerrick or anyone else really grew or changed from the version shown of them in the first novel. Avry is well-written and a strong female character in a fantasy world (which are few and far in between), but her trials and tribulations seem small - except in the case of her sister. Kerrick, whom I loved in the first book, was somewhat..... wooden and flat in this. He had moments of brilliance and interest, but I didn't invest in him the same way I had before. Sequel syndrome struck with a vengeance here, for both plot, characters, pace, and momentum. It's a shame, because this series (still) has the potential to be awesome. I'll hold out hope for book three - Taste of Death - but not my breath.
I always want to like Maria V. Snyder's novels, but I can't help but see patterns and similarities the more of them I read. Even characters can read reminiscently of ones from before (like the "monkeys" from this series and Ari and Janco from the Study series, or Valek/Kerrick). Snyder really seems to struggle and end up disappointing with sequels after a promising first novel (see also: the Study series rapid decline from awesome to blah to baaaad). With so much potential and so many plotlines to engage with, it's a shame that Scent of Magic fails to live up to its predecessor and fails to advance the plot in any meaningful way. So - 2 stars for fun, interesting - if stagnant - characters, and .75 for all the mess rest....more
Just.. wow. This is such a novel. I don't even have the words to articulate how rich, lovely, and special this book is. I knew I loved the first,Wow.
Just.. wow. This is such a novel. I don't even have the words to articulate how rich, lovely, and special this book is. I knew I loved the first, with its blue-haired, quirky protagonist and it's legions of monsters and angels, but this one is better.
Days of Blood and Starlight is a far cry from Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but it s a deeply magical and thoroughly unique, beautifully written piece of art.
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.) ...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 Rook is an interesting and innovative novel, combining favorite aspects from various genres into onRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
The Rook is an interesting and innovative novel, combining favorite aspects from various genres into one odd 500 page gem of weirdness. If you were to mix up the most prevalent aspects of some of the most popular books and movies out there today, The Rook is likely what your mixture would spit out as an end result. Take, for instance, the school for only British magically/supernaturally gifted kids - much like Harry Potter's Hogwarts with a dash of UK-only X-MEN thrown in. Add to that potent mix a female Jason Bourne-type with amnesia but the added ability to kick some serious ass when provoked and this novel is the result.
Sounds a bit mad, doesn't it? And to be quite honest, The Rook is quite mad to read, but in an absurd and absorbing way. The initial chapters will pose the most problems for readers and is the biggest hurdle to climb in the book; The Rook is basically the story about one woman, in two different time periods. Letters from Myfanwy's previous self to her current self comprise a lot of the bulk of the beginning and most of it is exposition and worldbuilding to reinforce the large framework O'Malley has envisioned for his alternate world full of unnatural things and an MI5 for supernaturals. The letters illuminate the complete, detailed secret history and lore of the Checquy more than cast light on the character of Myfanwy herself; the present-day portion of the novel reveals much more about Myfawy the person and less about Myfanwy the Rook of the Checquy Court. Much like there are two Myfanwys contained in the novel, there are two different main plots for each woman. The first Myfanwy is all about preparing and planning for what she knows is coming, and the second Myfanwy is all about kicking ass and taking names.
Myfanwy is a distinct and well-rounded character, with the added bonus of a truly original name (she pronounces it "Mif-un-ee", rhymes with 'Tiffany') to set her out immediately from the crowd. I have to admit that for about 90% of the novel I was completely confused as to who she was in the present-tense. Was Myfanwy II the same person as Myfanwy I, but with no memories? Or was she an entirely new person shuttled into Myfanwy's skin? While that may seem like a loaded question, it's well within the frame of abilities of this book. The original Myfanwy was timid in personn, but strong with her policies - an interesting combination of contrasting behaviors. The newer, betrayed Rook isn't afraid of her powers and is bold both personally and professionally. I liked Myfanwy in both versions, but the latter's sense of dry, very British-esque humor ("Gentlemen, please try not to jostle my interrogational gynecologist.") was what sealed the deal and kept me going past chapter one. And how rewarding that decision was - the book evolves into a humorous, creative and unique vein, as does Myfanwy herself. I don't want to spoil her character arc or development since the mystery at the heart of her problems is hard to guess, but this is one of those characters - the ones you remember long after reading the book. I also really appreciated how romance-free ths book was - the strongest relationships shown here are friendships. Between women. In fact, in a happy surprise for me, outside of main character Myfanwy, my two favorite secondary characters were strong, intelligent and capable women (Shantay the sassy black envoy from America's Checquy, the Croatoan and Ingrid - who "possessed no inhuman powers apart from an abundance of common sense and an ability to keep this organized". Think a female Alfred, but a secretary and AWESOME).
The Checquy is the highly regimented government organization that Myfanwy runs - or the one that ran her, back before the events of The Rook. The Checquy is a large, sprawling and hidden organization that protects the UK from all manner of unnatural threat - like I said, it's an MI5 for the paranormal. While the idea of a secret government paranormal protection agency isn't exactly revolutionary for the UF/PNR genre, how O'Malley utilizes his Court of Pawns, Rooks, Chevaliers and Bishops is. From the design of the Court on, it's obvious that O'Malley's version of government-sponsored paranormal entity is both unique and mysterious. As is immediately obvious from the sheer amount of detail provided on the Checquy and its modus operandi, O'Malley has certainly planned out intricately how this 'part school, army, prison, research facility and arm of the government' will operate and affect his characters and novel. The beginning suffers the most from the info-dumps used to introduce the hidden agency, but once the reader has a grip on what they are reading about, the info-dumps don't seem as bad and progress to interesting on their own merit. O'Malley's version of an England with the Checquy in power since Cromwell's day is neither beyond the scope of imagination nor reminiscent of any other I've read.
The mystery at the heart of the novel (What exactly happened to Myfanwy? Who is behind it? Why was she targeted? Who knows her secret?) is complex and not easily guessed. Luckily for me, the overall BigBad wasn't obvious from the outset, or telegraphed to the reader long before the end and thus, I had the privilege of being shocked by the reveal and the author's impressive narrative sleight-of-hand. This book has a healthy dose of the absurd to make the gore more palatable but I wasn't surprised for how.... violent... parts of this was. While it's not true movie-type gore with bodies and parts flying about wildly, there are disquieting scenes with faces ripped off, people being eaten and general deadly, gross mayhem.
While it's been coming up all roses this far into the review, but I did have some slight issues with The Rook. The Big Bad falls victim to what I am calling the Syndrome Syndrome - the inexplicable need that a winning/succeeding villain feels to explain every last action and decision on the road to the final conflict/proselytize their own ideas to their victims for lengthy amounts of time. I also had issues with the family plotline introduced late into the novel; though it gives Myfanwy an additional layer of depth and a reason to accelerate the 'panic' she feels, it feels unneceasy and superfluous. It could be easily excised and the pace that began to flag would bounce back easily. Bronwyn, though likeable if not very defined, doesn't do much or add much to the overall story, besides slowing the speed at which everything happens.
I was both impressed and somewhat surprised at how tidily everything herein was wrapped up. There were so many various threads and plotlines throughout the novel, I had sincerely wondered if O'Malley could possibly pull it off with any degree of satisfaction, or I was going to left holding the bag, so the speak, as a reader. Against my fearful and increasingly worried expectations, since the resolution is left until the very last 25 pages of 500, he did so, and with humor and aplomb. O'Malley is a very gifted storyteller that gets caught up perhaps a bit much in his own creativity but finds a way back to the compelling story at the heart of his monsters and magic run amok in England. ...more
Yes, this was good and fun and imaginative. It's also kinda overhyped? I mean it's a good story... but it's not hitting any of my best-of-2016 lSooo..
Yes, this was good and fun and imaginative. It's also kinda overhyped? I mean it's a good story... but it's not hitting any of my best-of-2016 lists. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I liked it, but I am whelmed by it -- it's all a tad undercooked for me. The world is very "insert generic fantasy idea/name here." The prose is serviceable but nondescript. It's pretty good but not perfect; a solid debut....more
Best novel of the 50 I have read so this year. A stunning sequel that does not disappoint fans of the first, and one adds on the exisiting world, defiBest novel of the 50 I have read so this year. A stunning sequel that does not disappoint fans of the first, and one adds on the exisiting world, defines the characters more, and creates a taut plotline to tie it all together....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
-told in inimitable and thoroughly cheeky prose brimming with deeper meaning
-filled to the brim with adventures
-creative with new fairytale creatures
-a wonderful mix of classic fairytale staples blended with new interpretations
This book is not:
-just for children
I've had my eye on this particular book for a while - with that cover, it's not hard to see why - and, thankfully, it is that rare novel that holds up to hype, expectation, and hopes. From the first page with the cheeky omniscient narrator to the last with its hints to a sequel, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is delightfully absurd tale of magic, corrupted power, friendship, and perseverance. Catherynne Valente can spin a tale like no other (as I learned reading the heartbreaking Deathless earlier this year), and her adaptation of the fairytale genre is like no other I've read.
One part Persephone myth, one part Alice in Wonderland, and one part odd and wonderful, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is not just a children's story. With darker elements and themes subtly wwoven into the episodic frame, Valente creates a story that will resonate with readers of all ages. While I wouldn't say there is an exces sof plot - or even much of a general one, as the story weaves its way around the Fairyland - the Wyverary, Gleam, Saturday and September herself will more than keep the audience firmly tuned in.
With sly humor, and subtle allusions to other famous novels, this weirdly charming, occasionally quite funny little book balances wisdom with adventure, creativity with evil, and the modern with the fantastical. It's a highly original novel, full of some of the best prose I've had a chance to read in some time. Nearly perfect, engrossing and lively, I can't really express how much I loved my read of this. Without a doubt, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is more than worth a read. It's a winner from beginning to the too-soon end.
"But luck can be spent, like money; and lost, like a memory; and wasted, like a life."
"All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one. [...] (It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.)"
"Only because you are small. You are young and far from your Death, September, so I seem as anything would seem if you saw it from a long way off — very small, very harmless. But I am always closer than I appear. As you grow, I shall grow with you, until, at the end, I shall loom huge and dark over your bed, and you will shut your eyes so as not to see me."
"Do not ruin today with mourning tomorrow."
(I also think it's delightfully fitting that I read this book in September.)...more
It's hard to duplicate a success - countless series and books that follow-up first-in-line beloved storRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
It's hard to duplicate a success - countless series and books that follow-up first-in-line beloved stories can easily attest to how hard a feat that is to accomplish. Happily, that is so far from the case here with Catherynne Valente's second foray into her magical, modernish fairytale series with The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. Told once again in the same wistful, cheeky tone, and with the same immediately immersive feeling as the first one, but with a more mature September and a more convoluted journey, Catherynne Valente once again proves how imaginative and capable a storyteller she is. Set a year after the first novel wrapped up, readers will have all new marvelous adventures, new anthropomorphic creatures, more wondrous and weird locales to sink into as they go along with September in her fight to once again save Fairyland.
These two books have been absurd, funny, poignant, and filled to the brim with odd, hard-won wisdom. The second adventure with September in Fairyland and Fairyland-Below has lost none of the originality or charm that so defined the first. Without a single doubt, this newest novel from the author is another winner from prosemaster Catherynne Valente. I loved this. Even more than the first, which I would've bet wouldn't've happened before I got a chance to read an ARC of the eagerly-awaited second.
With the same narrator, who frequently breaks the fourth wall to directly address his audience about the goings-on of September and her "new" motley band of misfits, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is as highly imaginative, and uniquely told as its predecessor. Though told in the same inimitable and thoroughly cheeky prose brimming with deeper meaning, Valente has a subtle way of intertwining hard-won wisdom amid her world of absurd and wonderful creations. With just as many quotable sections as the first, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland... benefits from a larger focus on plot than the novel before. The novel still reads more like episodic vignettes than a straight-forward novel, but the overarching need to save Fairyland from Fairyland-Below drives September ever on.
The first September novel came across as an original and compelling mix of a modern fairytale, with a lot of ideas and events borrowed from the ages-old Persephone myth. The forced return for eating food, the regular mention of pomegranates further reinforced that feeling for me as I progressed in my read. Here in the second, I caught vibes of the Orpheus myth - someone sent into the underworld to retrieve something vital to her/others. Though in The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland..'s case, it is not someone but something that must be retrieved. So far, both novels in this hopefully-ongoing series have uniquely and successfully blended adult themes, ideas into an easily readable and immensely enjoyable, highly original take on fairy tales. This is a series and book like no other.
More mature, and darker than the first novel, September's journey shows how much the main protagonist has grown and her battle with her darker self will appeal to readers of all ages. Filled with "mad and savage beasts", September's journey to save the world and put herself right easily blends classic fairytale ideas with new, more modern adaptations. With hints at a third, and more secrets than previously imagined, I anxiously hope that this is not the final adventure with September, Ell, Saturday, and everyone else. Full of brilliant prose, multilayered meaning, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is another winner from a very talented and original author. These books -and this author - are nothing short of remarkable.
"The sky glowed deep blue and rose, and a little yellow star came on like a lightbulb in the warm evening. That's Venus, September thought. She was the goddess of love. It's nice that love comes on first in the evening, and goes out last in the morning. Love keeps the light on all night."
"[September] did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts, cunning or or powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery and boldness. And all of those brave and wild and cunning and marvelous and beautiful parts they hid away and left in the dark to grow strange mushrooms – and yes, sometimes those wicked and unkind parts, too – end up in their shadows.”
"A book is a door, you know. Always and forever. A book is a door to another place and another heart and another world."