COMMENTS: This book reads like a love fest. The story revolves around Kaia, whose position of favor took a turn for the worse in the previous installment when she was sent to Planet Danu. Her life plummets into disarray when she is forced to pose as Cadmus’s girlfriend, knowing that his brother—and her real boyfriend—Ajax, would be devastated. Moreover, her allegiance to the Reformation Republic is tested when the momentum around the Resistance builds up and even her own brother seems enticed with the “enemy.”
From the very beginning Kaia’s relationship with Ajax had been a bumpy one, filled on his side with frustration and feelings of inadequacy. Once on Danu the fate of their love story is even more questionable, when her relationship with Cadmus develops effortlessly. The “wrong” brother nearly confesses his love for Kaia and the difficulty of sacrificing himself for Ajax. Ajax’s arrival, despite the express orders to remain home, would seem to calm the situation, but instead it muddles the romantic waters even more. Add to that the cousin who is infatuated with the same girl whom he never met and you get the idea of the quagmire Kaia has fallen in.
As far as I’m concerned, Ajax is my favored character, not so much because he is the “good guy,” but because he is so complicated. He is torn between feelings of inadequacy, resentment for his brother’s easy-going nature, jealousy, and love. It is this very tension that pushes him harder towards success—where Cadmus feels entitled to be at the top, Ajax’s strife to be the best despite the hardship is much more relatable. Everything would be so much easier if Ajax let his feelings loose—he’d get the girl and together they’d rule the world. By the time he does this, the chaos in their love story is so advanced that reaching a happy ending requires three times the initial effort.
What I absolutely loved about this installment was the Resistance. How simple would have been for Kaia if the resisters were nice people! She already hated the commander, so changing sides would have come naturally. But that is till you get to know them better... Not only the resisters aren’t the “nice guys,” I found them completely unlikable, which was a huge surprise for me—in a good way. They are bordering on stalking and abusive, the least desirable attributes a reader would expect from the resistance. Their behavior invoked from me unanticipated emotional responses—annoyance, in the best cases, anger, in the worst ones. This leads Kaia into an even worse situation—choosing between two evils, where both sides treat her like nothing more than genetic material. I absolutely loved this twist, because it makes her decision so much harder. When she chooses, she doesn’t take the convenient path a normal teenager would walk. No, she has to “bushwhack” in order to find a third choice, harder but right.
This was a lovely read that made me reflect on the choices we make in love and the need to open up before it’s too late.
TECHNIQUES: This is a multi-narrative told in the first person, with a linear timeline.
COMMENTS: This was a real page-turner–I finished itGENRE: dystopia, post-apochalyptic, young adult
PUBLISHER: Clean Reads
PLOT: See the GoodReads pitch.
COMMENTS: This was a real page-turner–I finished it in two sittings. You get love and adventure, in a setting similar to ENDER’S GAME meets DUNE. There are certain passages where the love story
tugs on your heartstrings, particularly since it isn’t fulfilled until the very end. The two protagonists, Kaia and Ajax, are very young, but they make the same mistakes people twice their age repeat over and over. So the love story never feels juvenile.
Through Kaia’s eyes, we witness a world that many people today dream of–that of performance athletes. She and her fellow football player are showered with honors and glory. What most people don’t envision is these athletes’ life of work and sacrifice. I found their resentment of the “simple people’s” privileges (the parties, the easier schedule, having a girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.) realistic and lacking the fake luster that sometimes taints sport books. Both parties (the students and the athletes) believe that the others’ life is perfect and such, a mutual resentment is born. Even Ajax, Kaia’s love interest, begrudge her genetics, fact which snowballs in an “I hate that I want you, but I don’t want anyone else to have you either” situation. While unfortunate, I found Ajax’s reaction quite realistic and it made me pine even more for a happy ending. When at last Ajax accepts himself as Kaia’s equal and welcomes her in his life is very satisfying and leaves room for further development.
What really stood up for me about this book was the well-fleshed futuristic world. We encounter a believable high-tech civilization, with a historical backdrop that justifies it. Even the frivolity you’d would expect from teenagers is dampened by a society in which children must earn their energy. Through Kaia’s reverence for the order and asceticism of her life, the reader imagines what all other people desire–or fail to desire–we see the humanity’s obsession with the idea of energy. And here comes the interesting aspect: in a general sense, the totalitarian regime is right. Squandering the energy caused the downfall of the human civilization. So are the antagonists wrong to toughen the measures that would prevent a similar turn of events in the future? They aren’t. Their crime occurs when they use history as a brainwashing instrument for furthering their own goals–genetic manipulation.
I'm looking forward to the sequel.
TECHNIQUES: This is a multi-narrative told in the first person, with a linear plot.
COMMENTS: Do you know those people who accuse others of being “evil,” then speGENRE: Young Adult, Coming-of-Age, Low Fantasy
PUBLISHER: Viking Children
COMMENTS: Do you know those people who accuse others of being “evil,” then spend the rest of their lives trying to prove themselves they had been right? HALF BAD is the story of a teenager who has been accused since birth of being (half) evil—the child of a white-magic witch and black-magic wizard. As more people join the crowd that waits his downfall, he becomes angrier and angrier—culpable of every crime the world had charged him with before he even understood the meaning of the word crime.
HALF BAD is a universal coming-of-age story, placed in a contemporary reality with “specialized” magic, which gives it a nice twist, but also an ease of flow.
TECHNIQUES: The story is mostly told in the first person present tense. However there are a couple of chapters told in the second person present tense, probably to created the sensation of the character encouraging himself when faced with impending danger. This isn’t a problem in general, but I found that the longer the second-person sections, the harder it was to immerse myself on the story.
I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy. ~~~
While, as I write this review, one of the other books on my shelf is The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft bI received this book as an Advance Reader Copy. ~~~
While, as I write this review, one of the other books on my shelf is The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft, I have to admit my ignorance when it comes to the Cthulhu Mythos and the Necronomicon (I didn't reach those stories yet). I mention this, because the premise of SUMMONED is that H.P. Lovecraft's account is based on real events and that one of his characters is Helen Arkwright's uncle. I see from another review that I have missed some references. Possible, but even reading this story without any prior knowledge, I had no problems grasping its context and content.
SUMMONED is the tale of a teenage wizard, Sean, trapped in a trial of sorcery and forced to defend himself and the ones he loves against the most puissant Master of Magic—Nyarlathotep or the Black Man. While his journey takes him through several action-packed adventures, the biggest test is one of discovery and knowledge. Sean is not just another Harry Potter, or even worse a blend of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. He is an insecure teenager, tempted by the allure of power through knowledge. He finds the strength to fight the antagonist not due to mindless courage, but due to desperation to protect his family and friends. In the end it is this love for his family that yanks him away from Nyarlathotep's temptation. If there is a aspect that IMO could be improved in this story it is the protagonist's reaction—his behavior seems a bit immature for a sixteen-almost-seventeen-year-old near-adult.
Otherwise, the other characters are nicely rounded for a YA story—the father is overly protective, due to being the only parent, the best friend is brave and wise, though overly critical, Helen—his sister is learning—is as wobbly on her path to discovery as Sean. By the end of the story everyone gains not only more understanding about the essence of magic, but also about their loved ones. Everyone is more tempered in their reactions and criticism and more willing to admit their own errors and lack of knowledge.
The author crafts some imaginative settings, as for instance Geldman’s Pharmacy in Arkham. The idea of a dual place, which is perceived differently based on the magical-ability of the viewer, might not be new. Nonetheless I found its descriptions fresh and captivating due to the minute details, like the old-fashioned soda fountain.
With an almighty god hungering for Sean's magical ability and a secret society advocating a formal wizard education, the ending indicates that Sean's adventures have just began. Adventure, mystery, magic, evil gods who pose as benevolent, and heartwarming family and friendship links—this book includes something for everyone young at heart. I really liked the first encounter with the world of SUMMONED and I would definitively continue to read about it....more