I wanted to like this book. Honestly, I did. It seems right up my alley. If you were to tell me everything that happens in this book, I would nod alonI wanted to like this book. Honestly, I did. It seems right up my alley. If you were to tell me everything that happens in this book, I would nod along with a big grin on my face and say “wow, that sounds so cool!” It really is a great concept. Not just the basic premise, but all the way through, there are so many good ideas in here.
But it just didn’t pan out for me.
This is a book that is begging to be a doorstopper. In a market right now were too many books get inflated past all level of reasonableness, this one needs to be huge and it’s on the short side of average instead. Thanks to that, a lot of stuff feels glossed over and short-shifted. A lot of the emotional points in this book are told in summary instead of shown, and the setting ends up being very narrow. Not just the physical setting (although we do mostly just see the one isolated area) but the emotional setting as well. There’s supposedly a lot of tension between two factions in this country and a lot of simmering prejudice born of bad economic times…and really all we get to see are a few really happy parties and some fabulously wealthy background characters. Great idea, but not really selling it, there, book. Then we’ve got the Dagger Society, full of people who should be extremely interesting, and supposedly Adelina forges relationships with them enough to create conflict when she might have to betray them…and yet we don’t really get to see them interacting a lot. Mostly they’re only around when she’s training, at which point they’re sort of trying to attack her. They all had the potential to be interesting, but outside of a few broad brushstrokes I don’t know anything about them. (Same for the ‘romance’ in this book. There’s just a lot of violent training scenes and them BAM MAKE OUT TIME. And then WE MADE OUT THAT ONCE, WE’RE TOTS IN LOVE. If this is the trade-off for having the romance be a minor element, I’d almost rather have it more prominent.) If the book had taken the time to really explore all of these ideas and show them and delve into them, it could have been extremely interesting. As is, it feels more like a sales pitch than a story.
But what suffers the most from all this tell-y brevity is Adelina herself. I’ve seen other reviews debate over if she’s a strong character or not, if she’s a horrible person or an anti-hero or just delightfully surly. I…well…I sort of forgot she was there most of the time. Which is impressive since she’s the main character in a first-person novel. But really, I don’t see either side in that argument. She’s so bland she’s practically a non-entity. She’s a narrator more than she is a character, and all of the things that should make her interesting are just summarized for us. Beyond that, her central conflict is supposed to be how “dark” she is and all this “darkness” that is in her soul or whatever. Besides saying “the darkness stirred inside me” about 1983729834782093 times, I didn’t really pick up anything all that dark about her. Frankly, she has the patience of a saint considering all the shit she goes through, because a bit of self-defense and then getting mad at someone who keeps throwing fire at you does not constitute “dark” in my book. Nor do a few random thoughts that never get acted on. And “darkness” is never really explained very well. I get the feeling they mean something akin to evil, but going by what’s presented in the book, it really feels more like she’s “aligned” to depression. She just sits there, being sad and self-loathing a lot. Too much of her flibberting about “dark” was pure “tell” for me to buy into it at all, and since that’s most of her presence in this book, she ended up feeling like a placeholder. A good idea, but a terrible execution.
Plus, she doesn’t really have a place in this story. The author’s notes at the end say that she originally intended to write it about Enzo and switched to Adelina somewhere in the editing process, and it really shows. Adelina doesn’t affect the plot until the very end. She has a minor role to play in one of the missions, but nothing they couldn’t have easily worked around. They make plans to do stuff with her, but those plans always get abandoned. Even the big twist (which really should have come from Adelina, given the plot thus far) was generated by other characters. In fact, by a completely unknown character! (view spoiler)[ We never do find out who turned in Rafaelle… (hide spoiler)]
The ending did have a bit of a saving grace to it. I certainly didn’t see that coming, and Adelina’s relationship with her sister gets a very nice bit of complexity layered on it. Plus there’s a lot of potential for a second book, one where Adelina actually gets to do some stuff. Maybe the author will actually take a risk and let her do a bad thing or two.
Again, this book had a lot of potential, and if it had been expanded I think it could have been something incredibly marvelous. If you read for concepts, it’s certainly worth that. But this is sort of like the window shopping of books. You can look at all the pretty things, but then you have to move on before you get to play with them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
BZRK Reloaded took everything BZRK had to offer and kicked it up to eleven. On the other hand, the whole thing suffered frSee more reviews on my blog.
BZRK Reloaded took everything BZRK had to offer and kicked it up to eleven. On the other hand, the whole thing suffered from a bit of “middle-book syndrome.” It was…good, but it didn’t really have its own story so much as it was a vehicle for moving us along to the final book.
Middle books are really hard. There’s a mix of good and things that are pretty distinct to middle books, especially in a series like this, which tells one long story instead of something with a more episodic set up. For instance, we got a lot more intensity out of the characters, because we didn’t have to spend any time setting them. Backstory, establishing scenes, “meeting all the other characters,” all of that was already done with, so we could jump straight into the development. And in this book’s case, it was quite excellent. There’s a lot going on with these characters are they get more and more embroiled in violence and all the guilt that goes along with that, and the connections between the characters get pretty intense.
On the other hand, the plot of the book turns into more of a very long set-up for the big shebang at the end. There wasn’t much of a goal in this one. Things just progressively got worse in an attempt to make the main conflict extra sticky and tense in BZRK Apocalypse. And it was, unfortunately, more obvious than usual in this book that that’s what was going on. It was all very interesting stuff, there’s no lie about that, but there was a sense that it didn’t really have a purpose besides 1) making chaos and 2) providing impetus for the characters to get more depressed.
Still, those character moments are what made this book. I would, quite honestly, read just about anything for the sake of those character moments. There was some stuff in here that was just really, really brilliant, and a lot of it happened outside of our main group of kids. Especially the plot line with the President, I was blown away by that. I loved the amount of focus that was put on people out in ‘the world.’ It gave the story a sense of being complete, of being part of a more complex world, instead of being focused on just a few random teenage kid-heroes. Of course other people would learn about the megalomaniacs. Of course they would try and do stuff about it. There are, after all, a lot of very observant people in the world, yeah? And there were just enough of those outside POVs to make the point without pulling too far away from the core group. (Although, I do wonder if that’s because our core group wasn’t doing much? Maybe I just didn’t mind being pulled away from them…)
Overall, it was a very emotional read for me, and that’s probably most of the draw. Yeah, the horror and the action are both still there, but give me that introspective despair any day of the week. ...more
Oh, what is it with this series? Why can’t I ever stop reading it, even when I want to?
So, this was a whole book about Cally’s not a person anymore.
About 400 fucking pages of “oh, I’m just so dead inside, everything is dead, I’m useless and dead, I have no feelings, I can’t do anything, I’m just going to sit here, did I mention I’m dead inside? Really, it’s a total wasteland in here, I think I’ll just sit and stare at the ceiling.”
Repeat ad nauseam for 400 fucking pages.
I tried to make my peace with it. I tried to understand. I tried to come at it from that old stand-by of “everyone deals with grief differently.” And yes, sure, she’s been through a lot and shutting down is a thing people do and it shouldn’t be brushed aside lightly.
But for 400 fucking pages? There’s a point at which you have to remember that you’re writing a book, and unless you’re writing a contemplative piece about depression, maybe 400 fucking pages of that is a little bit too much. Especially when it puts a complete stall on character and plot progression.
I will admit that, aside from that whole “400 fucking pages” thing, these books are getting better. The writing is smoother, the characters (except for Cally) are toned down a good bit, the worldbuilding is coming up slightly. There is definite improvement. But…they’re just approaching normal levels. The potential is there, but for the most part, the stuff that people flail about makes me think “but that’s…really average…” I am un-blown-away. Outside of a couple of cool monsters, there doesn’t seem to be anything stand-out (in a good way) about the books or the characters.
We meet two new guys in this book, Rowan and Aedion. Rowan is about as typical as you can get in a fantasy novel. He’s brusque, he’s quiet, he’s rude, but he’s got a heart of gold and such a ~*~*~*~sad and tragic past you guuuuyyyysss~*~*~*~. A sad and tragic past that, surprise surprise, involves a frigdged woman. I tell you, I’m just so shocked I might have to sit down and fan myself. Anyway, so much is banked on this tragic past and angst that the book rather forgets to give him anything else in the way of personality. He’s just sad, you guys, okay? That’s it. That’s all he’s got, and if your heartstrings aren’t tugged by that, well…too bad. (I mean for those it does work on, he’s a decent example of the trope. So there’s that.)
Aedion is a bit better, as his tragic backstory involves…you know, actually doing stuff. He’s also got the passion and drive to keep working through his pain, instead of just OH MY GOD I’M SO TRAGIC, LET ME JUST STAND HERE TRAGICALLY AND LET THE WIND BLOW THROUGH MY HAIR AS I CRY A SINGLE TEAR TO SHOW HOW HEROICALLY TRAGIC I AM ISN’T THIS TOTALLY HOT? (Okay, fine, so I do have a few problems with Rowan). Anyway, Aedion had potential and was actually interesting to read, even if his angst did get a bit…purplish at times.
But like a lot of the plots in this book, potential is the most you can hope for. Even when we break away from Cally’s constant I’M DEAD AND USELESS parade, the boys aren’t doing much in this novel except talking and planning. There’s a lot of set-up for machinations, but no pay-off.
And that ending. Well, the ending for the boys’ storylines. Let’s go ahead and talk about that, since it was a last-ditch effort to make the book interesting. That…would have been an interesting beginning. As an ending, it had no build-up, no lead-in, and I wasn’t really invested in anything that was going on. Sure, it was shocking, but just going “haha, I can do something completely new!” doesn’t exactly knock my socks off. I would like to see what happens after all that, because as I said, it’s a good set up for stuff. But it was slapped together so fast that I found it hard to get into it as an ending.
Cally’s story’s ending was better, but predictable.
The only part of this book that I was actually interested in was Manon, the “evil” witch. She and the other Ironteeth witches have been hired by the king to fly the dragons he just got done breeding, and while her story is just as slow and plodding as the rest of them, it is infinitely more interesting. For one thing, there’s actually interesting machinations and hierarchical jockeying going on within the Ironteeth clans, as well as the fact that they’ve got a culture. (Yay, worldbuilding!) Manon’s character growth is actually slow and not spelled-out for the reader, it’s heartwarming, it’s subtle, and Manon herself is a delightful no-nonsense kind of kickass heroine I wish Cally could be.
Actually, yeah, I think that’s why I like Manon so much. She’s the character Cally should have been. She’s even got the character arc Cally should have had. Except, since she’s supposed to be “bad,” she’s got the free reign to really explore all the negative aspects of that sort of life, and all the consequences it would bring about. If this series had been about Manon secretly being the lost Terrasen heir, I would its number one fangirl....more
After looking at the rave reviews this title has, I have to ask: did I read a different book from everyone else?
There’s actually nothing wrong with Half a King. It’s a perfectly serviceable little novel. Quite entertaining, hits up a lot of the high points of low fantasy, all that jazz. However, I was underwhelmed.
Most of what lost me on this book rested on the main character. Yarvi had a lot of potential as a character, he really did, and I hope he realizes that potential in future books. In this one, however, he seems to just drift along. The central point of this book is his ‘quest’ for revenge, but his participation in this quest is mostly just ‘sit there, let other people do stuff, occasionally make a suggestion.’ He seems the kind of character that was mean to be a manipulator over an in-your-face-doer, which is more than fine. Unfortunately, all the people he needed for his quest already wanted to do the necessary stuff. All Yarvi had to do was say “hey, so, I’ll come with you, yeah?” Yarvi did not need to actually set anything in motion or nudge anyone in a particular direction.
Also, this quest is more of a road trip. He leaves home, travels in a big circle, arrives back home again, and basically says “hi, I’m back.” Eh. The twist ending wasn’t much of a surprise, especially if you’ve spent any amount of time in this genre.
I did love all of the characters. Yarvi included, for all he wasn’t given enough challenge to shine. But the side characters were the ones that stood out the best, and they were a fun little collection of ‘motley outcasts.’ The adventuring part of the novel was still full of adventure and challenges, even if they were more of the traveling than of the rebelling sort. I do like a good deadly chase over a frozen tundra as much as the next girl. Even though I saw the ending coming, I still appreciated it and the tone that it set. The whole thing felt like a very natural conclusion, and it was quite satisfying.
This is a good, solid, middle-of-the-road fantasy for anyone who already likes the genre and wants to be entertained for a day. It just…didn’t knock my socks off. ...more
So, like most of my five-star reads, this one gets that final push due purely to that THIS WAS JUST SO PERFECT FOR MEEEEEESee more reviews on my blog.
So, like most of my five-star reads, this one gets that final push due purely to that THIS WAS JUST SO PERFECT FOR MEEEEEEEEE! factor. A lot of my readers probably wouldn’t actually like it all that much. And to be honest, it has a lot of things in it that I usually don’t enjoy, but that were done with enough panache to carry me through. Caveat out of the way? Okay, onward!
I REGRET NOTHING! I LOVED THIS BOOK! THIS WAS THE MOST ADORABLE AND SIMULTANEOUSLY BADASS BOOK I’VE READ…well, since my last fivestar read. :D
Our poor, poor hero by the name of Owen Wedgewood is a French-school-trained chef who’s just been kidnapped by pirates! Oh no! It’s an utterly ridiculous set up, but one that’s legitimately dangerous, like seeing a giant marshmallow take over New York. You want to guffaw, but also, deadly. And the book balances those two elements very well.
The story is told through Owen’s diary entries. Normally, I dislike diaries, and all my usual complaints are there. It’s also quite a slow story, the sort where they ‘mystery’ is less about figuring it out and more about waiting for it to be revealed. But there’s a few things that made me not care about any of that in the least.
Owen’s voice. Owen has an incredible voice. And I don’t mean just the fun pompous-sounding nature of his actual writing. Owen is a chef whose first love is food, and whenever food comes up in the book, it’s made exceedingly clear how much passion he has for the subject. It’s incredibly engaging to read about a character doing what they love when you can feel that love come right off the page. Add to that, I just love reading about people figure stuff out, so the detailed descriptions of how he put together his cobbled-together meals appealed to me as well. Also, he has clear prejudices and beliefs, but the book does a very good job of keeping the book/story/world separate from Owen’s own thoughts. I would highly recommend it for someone who wants an example of how to write a character’s beliefs without looking like you’re condoning them. We get to see Owen struggle as his own convictions bash up against contradicting evidence, as he changes his mind or just gets unsettled. One scene that sticks out in my memory particularly is when he tries to tell bible stories to a group of people, and they respond by sharing their own native creation myths, and he walks away frustrated. You can tell that he’s annoyed that they didn’t see the “light and right way” immediately, but it’s done without presenting the other people in any sort of diminishing light.
The history. The whole thing is about the opium trade, England selling opium to China in order to get tea and make fortunes by basically trading on addiction. It’s a fascinating period of history that I think really needs more attention. We also get to see a really fun pirate ship which, as near as I can tell, is one of the more accurate that I’ve seen in fiction. It’s a very multi-cultural crew, all of them have complex personalities and motivations that are humanizing, and yet never do we forget that these are dangerous pirates who murder and pillage. They do good things, they do bad things, they do quasi-good things in a rage, it’s all great. Plus, high-seas battles for the win.
So, there you have it. Fascinating history told by fascinating people in a fascinating way, with plenty of funny and recopies thrown in for flavor....more
I came into this series at the end (by accident, oops!), but the book was good enough that it kept me hooked anyway. It had enough explanations for aI came into this series at the end (by accident, oops!), but the book was good enough that it kept me hooked anyway. It had enough explanations for a newcomer to follow along without being so overbearing with them as to bog down the story, which is a pretty impressive balance to strike. Although it pretty much has to get introductions out of the way fast, there’s so much story to get through!
This plot was right up my alley: political machinations told by someone from the sidelines. We get enough of the politics to know what’s going on, but since Helena isn’t a politician herself, when those get too boggy we get to bounce off to something more interesting. Not that we need to do that often, because whole plot line of magical civil rights activism and backlash and riots and speech-i-fying is pretty exciting in its own right. Not to mention I found the antagonists in this novel toed the line of being heinous without being so cackling that they felt unreal. I hated those guys, but I always believed they were acting like real people might really act. Bravo!
The setting was interesting, if a bit bland. We could have been reading X-men fanfiction if you just changed the terms around, because there wasn’t much to set it apart from “real life” besides “there’s special people around.” Which isn’t really a bad thing, it kept everything pretty tight and focused on the action. Helena is my dear, dearest, darling little baby for very professional flavor of badass. As someone who has worked in security before, I always appreciate when safety measures aren’t thrown out the window with the excuse of “I can handle anything, I’m the heroine!” Helena can kick ass and do it within the rules and then explain to you why the rules are there for a good reason so quit you’re bellyaching.
But who cares about that, what about romance, right? And there’s where this book falters a little bit. Because as much as I did love the main characters (and do truly, madly, deeply love Helena), and even though they did have good chemistry together, I just didn’t buy their end-state romance. The A-plot was too big and too busy and on too short a timeline for them to do “fall in love and get married.” I could very easily see some explosive sex after and long and lusty bout of sexual tension all in the name of stress relief, sure. Maybe some feelings thrown in to make life more complicated, okay. But every time Helena said “I’m too busy with all these KKK wannabes trying to kill us to make a new relationship,” I was nodding along right with her. The book didn’t leave much room for more than stress-relief sex, either, so when more got shoved in it felt quite rushed. Which is a shame, because “riots + sex” would have been a perfectly fine outcome. ...more
I…honestly have no idea what to think about this book. It was just so…strange. Not always in a good way.
Though this book had some interesting conceptsI…honestly have no idea what to think about this book. It was just so…strange. Not always in a good way.
Though this book had some interesting concepts in it, none of them really came together well. The plot had too many subplots, and instead of coming together, most of these just sort of…existed in the same space. What did time travel and KGB agents have to do with each other? Not a damn thing. Seriously. In fact, I’m not sure why the ‘time travel’ was included, other than for some fun descriptions. Or, since it seems like it’ll be a series with more focus on the time travel plot, why the KGB agents?
Speaking of those KGB agents, the inclusion of the antagonists POV once again ruined all tension in the book. The sections focusing on the academics had them trying to figure out who (what why where), but since we already knew because of the POV switches, there was no tension for us, no ‘reveal,’ and really very little to get us invested in this lack-of-a-mystery.
In fact, there was very little payoff for anything in this book. There are things to figure out, but either they are left for the sequel, they’re given away too soon, or their just…sort of tepid.
And to add to that…why was there sex in this book? It’s not that I’ve got anything against sex (clearly) but it’s just so random in here. Sarah just occasionally gets super horny out of the blue and then they screw, and it’s soulless and pointless and (since it’s usually done in vague summary) really dull. If the sex isn’t in there for character development, and if it’s not there to be salacious, what is it there fore? Speaking of a lack of character development, that wasn’t just with the sex, that was throughout the book. Supposedly at the end Sarah and Max are in love and Sarah learns all these life lessons…which it’s a good thing she out and out told me because I wouldn’t have gotten that from the actual novel at all.
I did like a lot about this book, and it had some very fun concepts that it played around with. The setting was vivid and the history was fascinating. But it was too fractured to really make for a compelling read....more
Final books are hard to review, because you can never truly review just the book. It’s always “the book in relation to theSee more reviews on my blog.
Final books are hard to review, because you can never truly review just the book. It’s always “the book in relation to the rest of the series” as well as “the book itself.” Throw in my rather flip-flopping feelings on this series in general, and I don’t really know what to say. Forging the Sword was a solid ending for this series that continued with all the good things, and if you’ve read and enjoyed the first two books then you won’t be horribly let down here. But it’s not really got much flair, as far as endings go. I’m rather ‘meh’ on it, myself.
I think a lot of my tepid response to the book has to do with the fact that it’s so episodic. The entire plot is split up into three “tasks,” three major aspects of the rebellion, and even though there’s some attempts to draw them all into a cohesive narrative, for the most part each task is left hanging on its own. After said tasks are over, the ending pops straight the fuck out of nowhere. The most connection you can draw between that ending and the rest of the book is “well, I guess they sort of accidently annoyed him into it?” It wasn’t so much the culmination of a goal or a plot line as a thing that just sort of happened and also just sort of conveniently managed to solve everything.
On the other hand, everything that the earlier books did well is still here. I enjoyed the characters and their complex relationships, and we get to see more of that complexity as the characters interact more with Hrum individuals. I continue to enjoy the Hrum themselves, especially as they are presented as a varied group of people, not a homogonous force. I really liked the Big Bad of the group, not so much for his character (he had very little page-time) but for the way the book portrayed him as being just stupid enough that he flubs up running a country without being so stupid as to be incomprehensibly incompetent. That’s a mark that a lot of people miss, but not here. Bravo, book. And even though each ‘task’ in this book was annoyingly self-contained, they were each interesting stories in their own right. The fantasy-militarism in this book is pretty awesome, and the schemes and tactics are clever. I do so love me a rebellion book with clever rebels.
I was a bit put off by the inclusion of the Kadeshi, though I think that’s because of my own history with these books. The first one tried so hard to paint the degans as being cruel rulers (to justify Kavi’s story) that it did too a good a job, and when it was time to go “no, wait, Farsala ain’t so bad a place,” the Kadeshi were brought in as a foil. “Look, look at how bad these rulers are, the degans don’t seem so bad now, do they?” Of course, I have no idea if that was the intent or not, but that’s how it felt to me, and it irked me. I dislike backtracking in my books. (Also, there weren’t enough swords. They title of the book is “Forging of the Sword,” but after the things were made they stopped playing any kind of role in the story.)...more
I was attracted to this book because of the setting, and wow this book delivered. I have an unabashed love for out-in-the-open urban fantasies, and thI was attracted to this book because of the setting, and wow this book delivered. I have an unabashed love for out-in-the-open urban fantasies, and this book mixed it with a kind of dystopia/quasi-apocalypse feel. Everything was dirty and gritty and dangerous and falling apart, but the book toed the line of making it hard without going so overboard that it went into melodramatic. I loved a lot of the details in here, and their society makes sense.
Our two main leads were fun, as we got to watch them muddle through attempts at mutual lying and secret-keeping. Each of them has a hidden agenda, and that made for some good tension in the relationship. Again, without going completely over-the-top with it, though. Kudos. I thought Silas was a bit bland, with really nothing to set him apart from all the other muscle-y, brooding guys in this genre. On the other hand, if that’s your type, he does fill it out rather nicely. Jessie had the more interesting conflict, and I did greatly reading the chapters that were focused on her. The two of them had decent chemistry together, but…the sex scenes really put me off. Not because they weren’t hot, but rather because they kept bumping uglies at the most inappropriate times possible. Why have a sex scene in the middle of a murderous chase when five pages later they’re back in a safe house? Why not just have sex there? Maybe it’s just me, but that level of self-destructive lust always feels disingenuous.
The plot had a lot of action to keep it moving along, with the romance tucked in here and there but rarely slowing things down. Although I can’t say I was very invested in the mystery. The whole thing was so fantastical that there was no way for me to even try to figure it out. Usually with mysteries the thing keeping me going is seeing if I guessed right, but in this book, that wasn’t an option. Dead bodies all around? Well, it was something magic that we haven’t explained yet, so your only option is to wait in the dark.
Overall a good start to what promises to be an interesting series....more