I'd seen many favourable reviews for this book before reading it myself, which is always a dangerous thing. Hype and hoopla surrounding a book can often lead to high expectations not being met. And although this wasn't quite as mind-blowing as I'd hoped it would be, it was still a very good, very well-written read, and has great potential for future plots.
I loved the whole idea of the different factions and how it forces our young characters to examine their own personalities and decide exactly what kind of person they want to be. The system initially seems to work well, although it's odd to our eyes, but soon cracks begin to show and insurrection seems inevitable.
There were a couple of great characters in there, including the main one, Tris, a girl with unique qualities and a great sense of honour, as well as others that were not quite as well fleshed out as they could have been.
It's quite a violent world for ones so young, but anyone who's read the Hunger Games will be accustomed to reading about those type of things by now. And they are also handled realistically here, which I appreciated.
Unlike the Hunger Games, which gets off to a very quick start and maintains a fast pace throughout, Divergent slowly creeps up on you instead, culminating in a fantastic tension-filled ending. The training section is long (perhaps overly so), but the plot twist at around 3/4 of the way through was thrilling and slightly terrifying.
The romance was pretty cute. The boy (I shan't say his name for fear of spoilers) is a total sweetie-pie, and admires our heroine despite her own insecurities about being so small/looking so young.
I will definitely be reading the rest of the series, but since I've heard Insurgent has a killer cliffhanger, I've decided to wait until book three comes along, which will be on September 26th 2013.
Recommended to fans of the Hunger Games and other YA dystopians.
This review will probably be rubbish and not do the book justice at all, for the simple fact that I was enjoying it so much thaLove, love, loved it!
This review will probably be rubbish and not do the book justice at all, for the simple fact that I was enjoying it so much that I actually forgot it was an ARC (for review read) and forgot to take ANY notes. Not. One. Single. Note. Normally, I keep a pad and pencil next to my eReader at all times and I'll jot down little scribbles whenever they come to me, but I was so engrossed, I forgot.
And, funnily enough, compared to other similar books of this genre, the book wasn't even particularly action-packed or fast-moving, so it wasn't that that had me flipping the pages. It was more that I was simply enchanted by it. By the world, the story and the writing. This is my first book by Marillier, but will definitely not be my last. Her writing style is immediately engaging, no doubt in part due to being in first person, which is quite unusual for this type of book.
Full confession time: this genre is fast becoming by own personal literary crack, I can't seem to get enough of it. So that will have upped my enjoyment and my rating because I was in my element, my happy place. It's a difficult genre to pin down, really. It's essentially a historical fantasy setting (in this case loosely based on a magical ancient Scotland) with lush world-building and a strong (either of magic, character or body) and often quite young, female main character, and usually has a slow-forming but very sweet romance. I may not know what the genre is called, but I know exactly who I would recommend it to. If you are a fan of any or all of the following, you should love this book.
Maria V. Snyder. (Study Series, Healer of Avry series) Kristin Cashore. (Seven Kingdoms series) R. L. LaFevers (His Fair assassin series) Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass series) Kristen Britain (Greed Rider series)
And probably more I'm forgetting or haven't 'met' myself yet.
I've seen from other reviewers who have had the pleasure of reading Marillier before, that this isn't even necessarily her best or most thrilling book, no doubt due to the aforementioned lack of action or solid conclusion. But it's a great opener for a series I'm now extremely excited about continuing. The main conflict of the story arc—the evil King Keldec and his mission to cull every town of anyone who has Canny magic (unless they work for him, of course) by whatever ruthless means necessary—is all still to come. It was only talked about in the abstract in this book because, as of yet, our brave young heroine—a girl called Neryn of almost 16 summers—isn't ready to face him. I would have had to suspend all disbelief if she were to have had a showdown with him in this book. This is no Mary Sue character and there was no Deus Ex Machina ending. She's not ready yet. She's on a journey, and it's only just begun.
At the start of the book, Neryn has just about lost everything and finds herself on her own and on the run. Help comes in the most unexpected of forms and there are many a challenge and test of wills along the way. Much like in the great fairy tales of the past, our heroine first has to prove her worth, have her mettle tested to breaking point, and that's exactly what this book shows us. Seeing these early stages of our heroine's growth, while she's still so young and even a little bit naive, will no doubt make seeing the rest of her journey that much more fulfilling.
Flint, who was the other main character out of the wide and varied cast, all of whom were vivid and essential, was a real treat. Not your typical hero by any means, but what an amazingly complex and conflicted character! I can't wait to see more of him.
Even lacking in action or any big, climactic ending as it was, this was not a boring book by any means, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page. There is a lot of time that Neryn is alone and travelling, but she's faced with constant challenges that kept me entertained. And then when Flint came on the scene...well, I was entertained for all kinds of different reasons then :)
Recommended to fans of all of the above authors, and to anyone who loved a good (and often rather gruesome) fairy tale as a child. Suitable for younger readers, but perfect for big kids too.
As amazing as I'd hoped. I cannot wait for the next one!
I admit to being slightly scared of starting this book. I don't think I've ever seen such aAs amazing as I'd hoped. I cannot wait for the next one!
I admit to being slightly scared of starting this book. I don't think I've ever seen such a positive buzz about a book that hadn't (at the time) even been released yet. Book Bloggers and Advanced Copy readers were going wild about it; doing these amazing, gushing, hyperbolic reviews. This worried me, because it wouldn't be the first time that that's happened and then I've picked up the book myself and realised it's very prettily written, and highly descriptive, but is otherwise only an average story. And I can't get excited about the talent of a wordsmith alone. You have to tell me a good story as well. That's kind of my mantra when I'm reading: Tell the story, tell the story, tell the story. So when writers get too wordy or try and simile me into submission, I get turned off. Where did my story go?
And for the most part, I would be lying if I didn't say that Kristoff's writing is highly descriptive in places. More so, even, than some of the ones I ended up not liking previously. But holy freaking cow does he back that up with a great story, incredible world-building, phenomenal fantasy, sci-fi and steampunk elements, and to top it all off, a cast of fantastically diverse and complex characters!
Of course, anything worth having is worth working hard for, and for around the first 50-60 or so pages of the book, I was working pretty damned hard! The Japanese language; mostly used for names of weapons, clothing, races, species, gods, myths and of course, character names, made reading difficult initially. I don't really like having to struggle so much, but after all the reviews I'd seen, I felt confident the pay-off would be worth it if I persevered. It was, and then some.
So, what is the book about? Well, it's a very complex world and plot and overall story arc, so I wouldn't even like to try summarising it. But I will tell you your main character is a young girl named Yukiko. She is an excellent strong and positive heroine who needs no hot boy brooding at her to make her appear so. It's not a coming-of-age story, exactly, but definitely an eye-opening journey. It set in a futuristic, or maybe alternate history? (not sure) Japan, where a plant called the Blood Lotus has been discovered and put to great and terrifying use. It powers the great machinery; the sky-ships, the war machines, even the brass and iron body armour of the samurai warriors. But the cost to the world and its citizens is immense. The choking fumes are killing everyone and everything, slowly but surely. Breathing masks and goggles need to be worn at all times. Man is playing a very dangerous and greedy game; thinking only of the benefits now, and not the consequences later. It's quite thought-provoking in that it's not that much of a stretch to imagine our species doing exactly this--especially such an industrious nation as Japan--and its message is clear, and the most ingenious use of entertainment to deliver it since WALL.E.
So, it looks like someone needs to shake things up a bit, right? But our Yukiko is just one girl, and only 16 at that. She has no power. But perhaps she has the strength after all (spot the Princess Bride quote), if only she has the help of oh, say for example, a badass THUNDER TIGER!
Check out this awesome image of Yukiko and her Thunder Tiger—or griffin—Buruu. Isn't it cool?
Stormdancer by GENZOMAN
Buruu's character—and he definitely is a character—was a fantastic part of the story. His dialogue—which is telepathic and all done in shouty capitals—was excellent and often highly amusing. I loved him!
There were several other characters I grew to appreciate and as the epic final chapters came to a close, I found myself deeply concerned over their whereabouts and well-being. That's not to say it ends on a cliffhanger—it doesn't—but there are many unanswered questions and threads left unresolved and I NEED THE NEXT BOOK RIGHT NOW!
In summation, do I recommend this book? Hells yeah. Who to? I don't know... everyone? I'm not sure who to recommend it to specifically, because it's so unlike anything else with it's blend of genres. Even if you've read Steampunk before that will in no way prepare you for this book. My advice is to just go and buy it, if it's not for you, hand it to your friend and they'll probably read it, love it, and tell you you're a crazy person not to have loved every single syllable. And they'll probably give you a cookie or something. So everyone's a winner.
5 phenomenal Stars ★★★★★ ARC provided for an honest review.
P. S. I found some more pictures I thought were very Stormdancery:
The sky-ship with the dragon on the front. [image error] Airship by ~SnowSkadi
The Horngate Witches series is set in a post magical apocaFind more reviews like this one at The Demon Librarian book blog.
Five action-packed stars!
The Horngate Witches series is set in a post magical apocalyptic America and features badass sword-wielding, not quite human, warriors, mildly sociopathic witches, not very angelic angels, and all manner of other weird mythological creatures and beasties. With a splash of romance enough to make me grin like a weirdo, worldbuilding that knocks my socks off, and action by the bucket load, you can see why this series is right up their with my other Urban Fantasy favourites like Kate Daniels, The Hollows, Mercedes Thompson and all those other great female-led UF series. If you haven't started this series yet and you are a fan of any of the above, add this to your TBR today! You will not be sorry.
The warriors in this series—Shadowblades and Sunspears—act as guardians for the witches and are, in fact, the main focus of books, despite the slightly misleading series name. They're woven with spells that make them nearly indestructible, as well as faster, stronger, more resistant to extreme temperatures, etc. But the downside to all that is eternal servitude to the witch who turned them. Which wouldn't be so much of a problem unless, say for instance, that witch used to be your best friend and did it to you without your permission.
Our main character is Max (that's a girl, btw), but at this point in the series, it's fair to say that Alexander is just as much of a main character as it's told in alternating third person POVs between them. Max and Alexander not only have to fight all manner of nasty things in this book as part of their role as leaders of the Shadowblades, but they're also fighting some more personal demons, as well as their increasingly complicated feelings for each other.
Following on from the giant waves of magic that erupted a couple of books back, and then Max's trials in Shadow City, she and her fellow Blades are reunited once again and decide it's time they get out from behind the safety and insulation of Horngate's wards to check out the aftermath and find out what's happening with the humans still out there in the towns and cities. Which is nothing good, as it turns out. Food is in critical demand, people are reverting back to their baser natures, and where there's chaos and panic, there's always some douchecanoe wannabe dictator ready to lead them all up the creek without a paddle. Which loosely sums up the premise of this book, in a very crude and ineloquent way.
I thought the use of the split POVs proved really useful once again; allowing us to see the action from all sides at once. The awkwardness that's developed between Alexander and Max was showcased brilliantly, too. Max, being Max, isn't handling the new dynamic with Alexander very well. She's been acting like Jekyll and Hyde with him and he is both perplexed and annoyed by it. I fully expected Max to make some mistakes at the whole "relationship" thing, and she certainly didn't disappoint! I thought that entire situation was really well-written, and with a few unpredictable twists thrown in for good measure.
Overall, I thought the story was engaging, well-paced, amusing, emotional, exhilarating, intense...I mean, I could just go on and on. It was just superb urban fantasy.
So what are you waiting for, hmm? Go grab yourself a copy right now!
5 Stars! ★★★★★ ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Engaging from the first page. Absolutely wonderful YA (or adult) fantasy fiction with a heroine worth championing.
This little gem of a book is the f
Engaging from the first page. Absolutely wonderful YA (or adult) fantasy fiction with a heroine worth championing.
This little gem of a book is the first of hopefully many more chronicling the life of Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan's most notorious assassin. It's set in a fantasy world that's similar to our own in many ways, in a time of swords, sorcery, castles, princes, evil overlords, forgotten magic, oppression, slavery, deception and treachery.
I was a gone, gone, goner from page one. This is so far up my street. It's that kind of fantastical, historical setting with a strong female protagonist that gets me every time. Reminiscent of the kind of worlds built by Maria V. Snyder (try her Healer series), and R L. LaFevers (try her His Fair Assassin series) only I think this might just be my favourite of all of them.
The book begins with Celaena in residence at a Death Camp, the Salt Mines of Endovier, where she has slaved in the dark for around a year. Which already is quite an achievement in and of itself since the average life-expectancy there is less than half that. It's not all down to a strong will to survive, however. The guards there were under instruction not to end her life prematurely, to make sure she served out every last day of her punishment. She's Adarlan's assassin, after all. It's no more than she deserves. That, however, was their only instruction towards leniency, and sometimes death is preferable. So she's in very poor physical condition when she's met one night after her day's work is over by a hooded figure who escorts her under guard into the building of the countries officials. It's the first time she's breathed such fresh air for too many months to remember, but that doesn't mean she's not paying attention. So when the hooded figure tries to confuse her bearings on the walk, taking her around in circles and therefore curtailing any potential escape attempt she might make (or so he thinks), she can only grin at his naivete. She may have been betrayed and caught, but some training is too ingrained to be forgotten.
I basically fell in love with Celaena right from this first scene. Her smug satisfaction, that she managed to keep to herself, endeared her to me instantly, and it only grew as the story progressed. She's clearly been through hell but her character, her tenacity, is not so easily diminished. She's a strong-willed, witty, teasing, aggravating, exasperating little tinker who doesn't know when to stop talking. And I LOVED her! She's deliciously spiteful, deliberately annoying. I mean, what else can they do to her? It's not like they can sentence her to life as a slave twice.
But that's not what they have in mind for her at all as it turns out, and as the back cover suggests, they come bearing an offer she can't refuse: Compete against the best of the worst that Erilea has to offer to become the King's champion and earn her freedom, or die in the Mines.
Um.... Option one?
I loved the developing relationship between Celaena and the prince, Dorian, who couldn't be less like his pig of a father. And also with her guard/trainer Chaol, who's aloof but not uncaring. There's the budding beginnings of a love triangle situation, kind of, but it's not ridiculous teen angst and silliness. Celaena is far too developed for that. It's more of a complication of more than one interested party, and a girl who's mind is on freedom, not frivolity. If I were in Celeana's shoes I would have a hard time deciding between both men. Both characters have some wonderful qualities as well as some realistic flaws, and the repartee between each potential pairing is fantastic to watch. I loved Mass' dialogue. It flowed wonderfully and was snappy and often funny. I'm keen to find out where it all leads in the end.
Celeana also developed well as a character in her own right. Although strong of mind right from the word go, she was physically a wreck, quite understandably, but works hard, above and beyond what's asked of her, to regain her strength with the help of Chaol. It also becomes apparent to all that underneath all that grime and stink, Celaena was once a beauty, and with a little more meat on her bones, would be again. She's a contradiction to all that meet her. How can this young, smart-arsed woman with such beguiling features, be such a notorious killer? Well, we only got snippets of exactly how it came about, but I know there's so much more to come. And even though I finished the book with still lots of questions burning, I was totally satisfied and will gladly wait for further instalments to get the rest of her backstory. Because that means more books!
The fighting and training scenes were well done and easy to visualise. Celaena is a smarty pants at times but it was never crossing that line over into unnecessarily snarky or bitchy. She was arrogant, but she backed up every drop of it with action. I thought the balance was perfect.
I feel like there's so much more to come from this story and this world. This was just the tip of the iceberg. Maas said in her acknowledgements that this book was a decade in the making. I can believe that. But seriously hope the next one doesn't take so long and maintains this incredibly high standard. I'm so excited to get to it. It can't come soon enough.
5 Phenomenal Fantasy Fiction Stars and a Big Fat Favourite Heart ★★★★★ ♥
Review Copy: Received from the publisher for an honest review.
Ahh, so good to be back in this world! There are a select few urban faFind more reviews like this one at The Demon Librarian.
Don't fear the Damphir.
Ahh, so good to be back in this world! There are a select few urban fantasy authors that really take their worldbuilding seriously, and probably none quite as seriously as Ms. Chance. She knows her vampire lore inside and out, and is steadily increasing the intricate layering of her fey mythology as well, both within this, the spin-off, and the main Cassandra Palmer series. And it's fabulous stuff, let me tell you.
Everyone does vamps slightly differently, of course (although, let us never again mention the sparkly vegetarian variety, please, if you don't mind), but Chance's are without doubt my favourites. From their ability to take blood without biting, to the sense of family and loyalty they have within their feudal society, to the various extra abilities they acquire once reaching master level status. And just when you think you know exactly what it means to be a first level master, such as Mircea or Louis Cesare, there's more! And I do so enjoy the richness of it all; that no detail has been overlooked, even though I'm sure much of it doesn't even make it into the books, it's clear Chance knows the rules and limitations of her world, and that leaves us as readers feeling completely secure and able to just sit back and enjoy. Which I did!
In this instalment, we not only delve deeper into both the vampire and, to a lesser extent, the fey societies, but we also look more closely at our very own, very rare, resident damphir, Dory. Or should that be Dorina....?
She's not the only damphir in existence, but they are so rare and so short-lived, she might as well be. But we've never really examined too closely the why of it, of her. Why has Dory lived centuries longer than all other damphirs in existence? Why has she managed to stave off the insanity where none of the others have? Why wasn't she killed on sight like vamp law says she should have been? And why can't she ever remember what happens during her rages?
Wanna know? Read this book!
As well as the excellent worldbuilding, you've also got some pretty fabulous characters that are all equally fleshed-out and real. In some cases, quite literally real. Real historical people, that is. I thought the scenes with Mircea and Dory were really nicely done, and although I like Mircea in both series, it's nice to finally see him in a better light through Dory's eyes in this one. Also seen in a slightly new way were Kit and Louis Cesare. The latter of which gets a bit of a hard time from Dory. There's nothing quite as resistant as a scared damphir, it seems.
For me, though, the stand out character, the scene-stealer, the handsdown winner for best dialogue and most improved character, has to be Ray. I'm not even going to try to describe him or explain why; I wouldn't do him justice, I'm sure, but I just loved him. He has a new fan!
As is often the case with Chance's writing, although brilliant, it can sometimes seem a little hectic in places, or, in complete contrast, over explanatory in others. You've got some action scenes where it's hard to follow what's happening because everything is moving so fast—Whose foot was that that just kicked Dory in the face? You fell through where into a what now?—Then the next thing you know, you're reading a conversation over a chessboard that takes almost three entire chapters. Go figure.
Once the story had built sufficiently, however, and the mystery was in place, it was one of those books that you just wished would never end. Just keep going forever. More adventures, more fight scenes, more worldbuilding, more revelations, more sweet, sexy moments. Please just keep them coming!
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. And I'm even more sad this it will likely be two years until we get another Dory book. They are most definitely worth the wait though, much as it pains me to admit it. But please, Ms. Chance, for the sake of my sanity, couldn't you just write a little faster?
And so, my love affair with Juliet Mariller's writing continues. I'd been so lookFind more reviews at The Demon Librarian.
A Fairy Tale for grownups.
And so, my love affair with Juliet Mariller's writing continues. I'd been so looking forward to this. After reading my very first Marillier book, Shadowfell, last year and absolutely loving it to pieces, I decided to go right back to the beginning with this, her début novel, Daughter of the Forest. It's loosely based on the Brother's Grimm fairy tale, The Six Swans, about a girl who, had she been born male, would have been the seventh son of a seventh son. Instead, she is the much doted on sister of six older brothers, and daughter to a stoic but steadfast father. Set in a magical ancient Ireland, the beauty of Marillier's historical fantasy setting has once again completely captured my imagination, and Sorcha has won my heart with her determination against impossible odds, and the way she handled the nightmarish tasks set before her. A heroine worthy of respect, if ever there was one. The story spans 3-4 years and so feels quite grand on that scale, and yet the biggest aspect by far is the growth of Sorcha's character as she goes from a sheltered, protected girl of twelve, to... well, you'll just have to read it and see.
The cast of characters was quite large, Sorcha's six brothers alone making it so, not to mention everyone else she meets along the way. The secondary characters were all wonderfully realized a fleshed out. I made a comment in another review recently about cartoonish, over-the-top characterisation. I won't repeat myself, but let's just say that THIS is how your write subtly different siblings! You get to know a couple of them much more than others, but each had merit in their own way.
I found it impossible not to make comparisons to Shadowfell. Having read her most recent work first, then gone back to her earliest book, I was able to see the changes in her writing over the decade or so, particularly in the tone. This was a lot more formal, which occasional made it feel slightly stilted, but it was just as evocative and, once I'd found my flow, the hours slipped by without notice.
My favourite aspect, by far, was the romance. It was a long time coming, and the characters are painfully timid and awkward about it, but it was really beautiful. I may be slightly unnerved by Sorcha's young age, but those were the times, I guess. Their definition of "marriageable age" being very different from our own.
If I could wish for one thing, it would be that the beginning wasn't quite so slow to get going, and that Sorcha didn't spend so much of the book being 12. But I didn't feel that either of those things were enough for me to drop a star. The magic, the journey, the romance and the sense of triumph were more than enough to make up for any weak spots.