(Full disclosure: I recieved an ARC from the author.)
RADIANT is a tense, wonder-and-horror-packed, political thriller at whose heart is cradled the gl(Full disclosure: I recieved an ARC from the author.)
RADIANT is a tense, wonder-and-horror-packed, political thriller at whose heart is cradled the glowing importance of the bonds of friendship; the desperation of loneliness; the pain of magic; the impertinence of power; and the misery of a child’s abandonment, misunderstanding and desperate desire for a place to rest, to be safe, for a home in a world where such a thing never comes without a price.
RADIANT follows Xhea, a Lower City dweller in a broken, filthy cyberpunk future where the rich are only rich by virtue of having been born with magic. Xhea, so devoid of magic that it has even stripped her of her ability to see in colour, scratches and scrabbles out a living in the literal underbelly of the world. To make ends meet, Xhea pawns the treasures of the time Before that she scavenges, and for a price, will take on the burdens ghosts so that those to whom they’re tethered can take respite from their haunting for a few days.
Into Xhea’s bleak and gray world comes Shai, the ghost of a girl who once lived and died in the great, powerful, and magically charged Towers that float above the Lower City. A melancholy, forgetful ghost whose harried and erratic father wants free of her, Shai glows with a magic so bright that Xhea has never seen its like before.
And, if the guards of the Tower that Shai’s father escaped from has anything to do with it, never will again. Now Xhea is on the run from Tower officials, forced to hide Shai and her powerful, terrifyingly bright magic, just save her own skin. But there are other players on the board who want to control Shai’s hoard of magic, people who know Xhea’s horrifically scarred and traumatic past, people who have debts or grudges against Xhea to either reel in or repay.
Oh, and there are the zombies too, who tear apart anyone stupid enough to be outside after dark, and who seem genuinely drawn to Shai’s bright power... and the strange, dark magic that Xhea is starting to discover within herself, something that makes the very magic that makes up the wealth of this world a poison to Xhea.
What first began as a financial transaction grows into a strong and vital friendship between Xhea and Shai. In this age of Gossip Girls and Pretty Little Liars, a book which not only features but celebrates a genuine, strong friendship between girls built on mutual trust and respect is vital for young readers of all genders.
Sparse, spare, and at the same time a rich tapestry of worldbuilding and the soft misery of her blighted main character Xhea, Karina Sumner-Smith’s smashing debut is a page-turner of the highest pedigree. Sumner-Smith’s excellent, subtle, wringing worldbuilding abilities is supported by her clean, clear, precise wordcrafting. RADIANT is a book that is both a joy and a pleasure to read, with a breathtaking climax that rivals the greatest scenery pieces of the blockbuster films, and an ending that is both satisfying and intriguing, which promises a greater world filled with bigger and brighter mysteries for Xhea, Shai, and all those who dwell in the Lower City, a place – now that Xhea and Shai are in it - is no longer without hope....more
A curmudgeonly anti-romantic interest; a weary too-wise soldier; a naïve, dying heroine; people who are not people; sharp-toothed toads; busy-body aunA curmudgeonly anti-romantic interest; a weary too-wise soldier; a naïve, dying heroine; people who are not people; sharp-toothed toads; busy-body aunts who actually help more than they hinder; an abundance of pies; and a hero’s journey that never gets past the entrance to the valley - in the hands of anyone by Julie Czerneda, this would be a recipe for disaster.
But because this is Czerneda, A TURN OF LIGHT is a sparkling, sunlight-saturated rumination on what makes a hero a hero, and how the people closest to our Dear Hearts are not only worth dying for, but also worth living for.
Jenn Nalynn’s 19th birthday is happening on the solstice, and with its turning, she’ll be a woman. And that means she’ll finally be able to leave Marrowdell, the enchanted valley where her parents settled along with a handful of other exiled families two decades prior. What Jenn doesn’t know is that setting foot outside of Marowdell would spell the end for not only her, but of every villiager, ever enchanted tress and field, every magical and mystifying creature. For Jenn was born in the Turn, a strange limbo between Jenn’s world and a realm populated with dragons, demon horses, and people who are not quite human. If Jenn doesn’t stay, Marrowdell and everyone she loves is lost. But if she does stay, can Jenn ever be happy?
What I loved best about this book is that Jenn is very much a young woman scratching out her own place in the world. She has very real fears and desires, and the way she approaches her problems – while might be seen as passive to some readers – does really reflect my experience being this age and being tossed into the adult world with big choices to make for the first time: thinking you’re ready and then freezing in horror and indecision when you learn that you are not.
For all that Jenn is out of her depth, her passion to do good, to protect Marrowdell and yet fulfill the desires of her own heart makes her a strong and worthy heroine.
Without spoiling too much, I really enjoyed the subtle shift of magic under the ‘real world’ of Marrowdell – the faint not-quite-right-ness of the flowers, the armored toads, the way a horse is not quite a horse, that a breeze is not quite a breeze, and the hypnotic, vaguely sinister way that all the denizens of Marrowdell, human or not, must love and protect Jenn, have no choice in the matter.
My favourite scenes have to be between Scourge, the not-quite-a-horse, and Wisp, the not-quite-a-breeze-nor-yet-a-man-either. Their banter is fantastic, fun, and Wisp is by far my favourite character of the novel. His self-sacrifice is admirable, but so is his Sherlockian grumpiness.
Also, my new book boyfriend is Bannan. He’s hunky, like a good fantasy-world-soldier-prince ought to be, but what I really loved about him was his loyalty to his friend Tir, and his sister. He loves his family, he wants a family, and he admires and respects other people’s families. He has a genuine desire to make a good, simple life for himself in Marrowdell. He is intelligent enough to know that while war is sometimes necessary, violence is abhorred and harming another person is unforgivable. And that even when he acts like a love-sick boy, he always behaves like a man. While rolling his eyes at himself for behaving like a love-sick boy.
Enjoy this book slowly, savour it over cider and a good warm slice of pie, and leave some white pebbles out for the house toads; you never know when you might need them. ...more
I obtained an ARC from the author at Ad Astra 2013.
"Ink" is a fantastic tale that combines all the best moments, funny tropes, and stereotypes of highI obtained an ARC from the author at Ad Astra 2013.
"Ink" is a fantastic tale that combines all the best moments, funny tropes, and stereotypes of high school life found in shojo manga and Japanese school dramas and fleshes them out, gives them deeper shading and more meaning. It was like reading a novelization of all my favourite moments from Inu Yasha, Hana Yori Dango, Sailor Moon, and Fushigi Yuugi!
As someone who did a high school exchange to a foreign country, as well as lived and worked in a Japanese high school for two years, I can say that Sun gets the social structure, the habits, the mentality, and the school life bulls-eye correct.
Diane is the perfect Canadaian-Teaching-In-Japan, and Katie is the perfect Exchange-Student-Tossed-Into-The-School-With-No-Clue. I spent most of the book nodding and wishing for a chance to go back and revisit my school and students, or savouring memories that I had forgotten, and which Ink conjoured for me.
The only wierd part for me was that I had an blonde gaikokujin student named Katie one of my classes, so I kept imagining her doing and saying all this stuff. And, actually, I think she WOULD have been that curious and that brave.