Why I Read It: After being pleasantly surprised (bit of an understatement) with Blackbringer, I immediately (I mean that lite...more Originally reviewed here.
Why I Read It: After being pleasantly surprised (bit of an understatement) with Blackbringer, I immediately (I mean that literally) picked this up and devoured it. Spoiler-free review ahead (though there are spoilers for Blackbringer, so beware of that)!
THESE BOOKS!! I love them so. In the first book, Blackbringer, the action mostly takes place in the Dreamdark forest. In this second book, readers are brought to new locations and we meet new characters. It's not surprising that Taylor made this choice, but I'm so glad she's expanding upon the world she created in her first book. It was especially nice to be able to dive right into the story without having the hangups that I had when I first started Blackbringer; I was familiar with the writing style, and the details of the first book and its world-building were still fresh in my mind.
In this installment, Magpie is the established champion of the djinn Magruwen, and he's tasked her with finding the other djinn and to bring them back to him. With her crow companions, Talon, and the demon Batch, Magpie sets out on her search. On their journey, they find out that a Silksinger, a clan of faeries that was believed to have been wiped out thousands of years ago, named Whisper has one of the djinn (Azazel) in her possession. Hirik, a fairy from the Mothmage clan, a clan that has been deemed responsible for the death of the dragon Fade and the Silksinger clan, is also looking for the djinn to become its champion and to redeem the name of the Mothmage clan.
Because new characters are introduced, the action of this story feels a lot more spread out than it did in Blackbringer. Along with Magpie's POV, we have Hirik, Whisper, Slog (a demon unwillingly working for the Big Bad, but who has a good heart), and the apothecary man whose name I can't remember at the moment (I'm the worst for remembering names, seriously.) Like I said above, I love that we're introduced to new characters and widening the scope of the world -- such as introducing the Silksinge and Mothmage clans, and how their history interweaves with the history presented in the first book -- but it did dilute the story a bit, because it has to focus on so many other characters. Taylor still manages to bring everything together wonderfully though, and the pacing is never sluggish.
I loved how Taylor characterized Whisper. She's a perfect counter-point to Magpie in that she demonstrates her strength from her iron-will and determination, countering Magpie's physical strength. Also, Whisper's ability to invoke glyphs with her voice was WAY COOL! Hirik's determination to clean his family's name was admirable and made him a likable character, and his loyalty to Whisper and to protect are endearing, so he was a welcome addition to the cast as well.
I suppose it's pretty clear how much I enjoyed these books, and I'm so sad to say that there is so much more story to tell her. The story wraps up nicely by the end, but there's definitely a "be continued" feeling to it, and this was clearly meant to be a longer series. Sadly, the publisher who was putting these out decided to NOT continue it, and my heart is BROKEN over this!! I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that the popularity of Daughter of Smoke and Bone will renew publishers' interest in putting out the series, and that Taylor is herself willing to finish them once she's done with DoS&B. It feels like a far-off dream, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed!!
Final Verdict: This was a fantastic addition to the Dreamdark series; it introduces new characters, locations, and adds more history to this already richly developed world. The new characters in introduced in this installment were likable and had strengths in different ways than Magpie and Talon, and I loved them for it. The story felt a little more diluted this time around because of the additional POV characters, but the pacing still felt spot-on and I was never bored. I'm so sad that Taylor wasn't able to finish this series, as there's still obviously so much story to tell, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed (but not getting my hopes up too high) that Taylor will one day finish the series, after she's finished with her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.(less)
Why I Read It: I've been plowing through this series for the past couple of weeks, so of course I had to read this lates...more Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: I've been plowing through this series for the past couple of weeks, so of course I had to read this latest installment. Spoiler-free review ahead.
This series is so addicting and so so fun. It features a strong heroine and a rollicking adventure -- common elements threading this series together -- but it's different enough from its predecessors to stand on its own and it's a formula that works really well (though I hesitate to word it quite like that because 'formulaic' entails some negative connotations that I wouldn't attribute to this book, or series as a whole.)
This book features Andan Cly, who was initially introduced in Boneshaker, as a main character as well as his lost love, Josephine Early. I liked Cly since he was first introduced, so I was excited that he got a whole novel dedicated to him and his air-pirate shenanigans (well, he's trying to give up that life, but his adventure in this book is kind of like his last hurrah.) Josephine was an equally compelling heroine, even though she hadn't had any page-time in previous books. She's like Briar Wilkes in a lot of ways -- she's strong-willed, stubborn, independent and tough as old leather -- but she's still very much her own person and I would never confuse the two. Josephine was almost all the traits I just mentioned, but amplified because of her situation (being a coloured and independent woman.)
There is a bit of romance in the novel, but it's really downplayed and is between Andan and Briar, not Andan and Josephine, despite having had a relationship about a decade before. The relationship between Andan and Josephine was really well executed. They never get back together and there's never any question if they will or won't, which I appreciated; these characters are grown adults and they act like it, and while meeting again after so long is initially awkward for them, they behave maturely and like people their age.
The adventure itself, navigating the Ganymede (which is a submarine), was a lot of fun and takes up a good chunk of the final third of the novel. I really enjoyed reading it, and while I had no doubt that the characters would make it through, that didn't lessen the excitement. Save for this book, I've yet to read a novel set in a submarine, so that was a fun change of pace.
As for the alternative history elements, I'm not at all familiar with the Civil War (I know I should be, but eh, I'm Canadian), let alone the nitty gritty details, so even when things deviated a lot from the truth, I could never tell. Priest does provide an awesome afterword though that details aspects of the story that were based on history and how they deviated from history. It also provided some insight into Ruthie's character (which I won't go into detail here because of spoilers, but I initially found a revelation about her character to be shoe-horned into the plot, despite the good intentions; the afterword assuaged my reservations about it though.)
Final Verdict: This was another fun installment in the Clockwork Century series. It features a similar blend of Strong Heroine and Rollicking Adventure that I've come to associate these books with, but it always uses these elements in different enough ways that it never feels repetitive. I liked seeing Andan Cly get his own book, and his relationship with Josephine was well executed; they have awesome banter and clearly still respect one another, but it never treads romantic territory, which I liked. The adventure in the submarine Ganymede was a ton of fun to read as well. I can't wait for The Inexplicables to come out this November.(less)
Why I Read It: Loved Boneshaker, so I jumped right into the sequel as soon as I could.
This is going to be a relatively s...more Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: Loved Boneshaker, so I jumped right into the sequel as soon as I could.
This is going to be a relatively short review because I actually read this quite awhile ago, but suffice it to say that I really enjoyed this installment of the Clockword Century series.
One thing I'm growing to love about this series is that Priest features strong female characters, but they're strong in different ways. Briar is more of a "run in with guns blazing" kind of strong, while Mercy has a more quiet inner strength. She's obviously affected by the recent death of her husband, and while she doesn't bottle up her pain, she certainly deals with it head-on in an admirable manner. There's also the fact that she goes through hell and back to get across the country to her dying father, but she deals with every problem with aplomb, and a fierce kind of grace. She's a super cool lady and I loved her.
I love that the alternative civil war world Priest introduced to us in Boneshaker is further expanded and developed in this installment. We get to actually see a bit of the East and see some of the war first-hand. The steam-punk elements continue to be pleasantly subtly instead of glaringly in your face, and compliment and build upon the world instead of feeling tacked on. Actually, there were hardly any steampunk elements in this installment at all, minus the Dreadnought train and the few Walkers (mechs basically) used by both sides in the war efforts.
The plot is actually kind of slow moving when you think of it; it has a lot of Mercy being bored while riding the train, but it's only slow-moving in a way that's realstic. When you're stuck on a train for weeks on end, you're going to be doing a whole lot of nothing. Thankfully though, there's plenty of action (train heists!) to keep things rollicking and interesting. There's also a bit of a mystery going on, but if you've read Boneshaker, you'll know what's going on immediately. This isn't a BAD thing though; Priest doesn't present this element like a mystery for the reader, only for the characters, and watching them put the pieces together and come to answers in their own way was well written and executed. I also know there was some crossover with Clementine, but I have yet to read that, so I didn't spot them.
Final Verdict: All in all, it was a good time and I'm excited to get my hands on a copy of Clementine and Ganymede. This world is so much fun and I love Priest's strong female characters. The steampunk elements continue to be minimal, but perfectly complement her growing Civil War America. I strongly recommend this to fans of alternative history and steampunk (though the two usually go hand-in-hand anyway). (less)
Why I Read It: This was the September selection for calico_reaction's Theme Park Book Club, the theme being "Kick-Assitude!"...more Originally reviewed here.
Why I Read It: This was the September selection for calico_reaction's Theme Park Book Club, the theme being "Kick-Assitude!" I was quite happy to be reading this, as it was my vote in the poll. Spoiler-free review ahead!
This book took me by surprise. Looking at the cover, you think it's going to be a fun and humourous romp in zombie fiction (which I thought was nice, as zombie fiction is usually full of Very Serious stories, a lot of which I like too, but it's always nice to read something different, ya know?) I did get some humour, but what I mostly got was a rather touching story of a young woman getting a second chance at life, when life initially dealt her a shitty hand. I'm still surprised by how touched I was by this story.
What really holds this story together is our heroine, Angel Crawford. I loved Angel. LOVED HER. The thing is, that yeah, she WAS a loser. She really was "white trash", but she is so incredibly sympathetic. Yeah, she makes a ton of shitty decisions (dropping out of school, pill-popping, "dating" Reggie), but she knows they're shitty decisions. But Rowland did a wonderful job of presented the cyclical nature of the circumstances surrounding Angel. When you grow up in the kind of household she did, breaking free from your history and making a new life for yourself is never easy, and while Angel certainly has the power to make the right decisions and to break free from her circumstances, it's by far the harder path to tread. Watching her make a comeback though as a zombie and setting her life straight made me really happy; I wanted to see her succeed and I wanted to see her make something of herself. And you have to love the irony of Angel only really starting to live her life after she's died.
What helps make Angel such a great character is her narrative voice. She's very self-deprecating, and while she usually tries to illicit a laugh at her own expense, her self-depravity is also really sad and just made me feel more sympathetic for her. Rowland hit the nail on the head with Angel's psychological makeup, especially with her habit to impose blame on herself for things that aren't her fault. She is funny when she wants to be (though I never had any laugh-out-loud moments), and her voice felt very distinct and authentic; you could disguise the cover of this book and I would know what I was reading because Angel's voice is that distinctive.
So yeah, Angel was great and her character arc is what largely carried this story for me. There are so many scenes I could point to that made me FEEL for Angel (ie. when Angel's dad calls from prison asking her to bail him out and she says no -- that was effing heart-breaking) and I loved this book for that.
The plot itself was engaging enough as well. The mystery surrounding Angel's being turned into a zombie and the events that led up to it kept me glued to the pages, though it took the story awhile to REALLY address those questions. The other mystery of people being beheaded takes center stage for the most part, though it does eventually tie in with Angel more closely and does so in a satisfying way. The rest of the story consists mostly of readers reading about Angel's new life, adjusting to being a zombie and the needs that accompany it, and making connections with new people, all of which I enjoyed to varying degrees.
I found the world-building behind the zombies strange. Not only are Rowland's zombies sentient and can think for themselves, but they can actually pass off as non-zombies as long as they keep eating brains. It's enough to roll with though, if you're willing to let go of any pre-conceived notions you have about zombies. Speaking of the brains, Rowland wrote some of the most disgusting and stomach-turning descriptions of brains and the eating thereof. There was one scene where angel describes a brain as bread-pudding, and it's a PERFECT description, but it made me feel kind of ill, so kudos for that (because I think being grossed out by brains is kind of the point -- I'm also really hard to gross out, especially with prose.)
Final Verdict: The cover of this book may lead you to believe you're diving into a humorous take on your favourite flesh-eaters, and while this book does offer some humour, it also ended up being a pretty emotionally-charged read for me as well. Angel's character arc is one riddled with heart-ache, and watching her break free of the circumstances she was born into made me have some FEELS. I found Angel to be a really likable character, so this arc was ultimately very fulfilling and heart-warming for me, though perhaps your mileage may vary. Rowland's zombies are very different from the ones I've seen in movies and read about in books, but the concept was enough to roll with once I got past those pre-conceived notions. All in all, I really enjoyed this novel -- a lot more than I thought I would -- and have already bought the sequel, Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, which I plan on reading soon.(less)
Why I Read It: I actually bought this before I even read Ship Breaker, so it was just a happy coincidence that I ended u...more Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: I actually bought this before I even read Ship Breaker, so it was just a happy coincidence that I ended up liking the first book set in this world so much. I mostly bought it because this book has been receiving A LOT of favourable reviews from bloggers I trust, and a lot of them claimed that it was even better than Ship Breaker.
Okay, first off, the claims that this book is better than Ship Breaker are 100% RIGHT. This is only third book to receive a 5-star rating from me on goodreads this year (the other two are A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley and Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison for anyone who's curious) and for very good reason.
While Ship Breaker's world was grim and ruthless, it looks like a rather welcoming and friendly place in comparison to the world of The Drowned Cities. It's a place plagued by civil war that no one really knows why they're fighting anymore, and it's being fought with children. Once again, Bacigalupi takes a real-world issue and infuses it in his novel that is making a commentary about it without being didactic or condescending to the reader. Child soldiers are a very unfortunately reality of our current world, and this novel highlights that; Bacigalupi doesn't try to cover any of it up, and we can't hide from the reality of it like we do so often in the real world. The whole psychology of child soldiers was dealt with brilliantly and tragically with the character of Mouse/Ghost -- watching his transformation from a kind and resourceful war refugee to a reluctant murderer was heart-breaking.
The pacing of the novel isn't quite at the neck-breaking speed of Ship Breaker; it's quite slow in the beginning, but makes up for it by further fleshing out the world we were introduced to in Ship Breaker. We learn about Mahlia's father, who was a Chinese peace-keeper who came with many others in order to try to stop the war -- which is another social commentary on the futility of peace armies -- but ultimately fled and left Mahlia and her mother behind. We're also reintroduced to Tool which made me, and I'm sure many other readers of Ship Breaker, happy as he was one of the more interesting characters. We get some back-story on him as well, without it being info-dumpy. The second half of the novel had much more action and I only put the book down with great reluctance.
The characters are what really drive the book home. I've already mentioned Mouse and his narrative arc briefly, but the others deserve mention as well. Mahlia was a fantastic lead character: she lives in a world that wants nothing to do with her (people can tell she's half-chinese and the peacekeepers weren't exactly popular) but she still strives to do the right thing. Her loyalty to Mouse, one of the only people to ever show her kindness (aside from the doctor Mahfouze) is touching and is one of the only rays of hope in a world that's so devoid of it. Tool was interesting because you never really find out WHAT motivates him, aside from feeling at home within war and violence. He follows Mahlia and protects her, but WHY he does so is ambiguous (or maybe it wasn't and I'm just missing something?) Regardless, it was touching and is another small spark of hope and goodness. It's an interesting binary that the only way that Mahlia and Tool know how to do good is to perpetuate violence, but NOT for violence's sake: they do it to survive in a world that rejects them.
The writing felt improved from Ship Breaker as well. It's a little more ornate while still retaining that gritty pointedness; it's still layered while also being simplistic, and thus offers a lot to older readers, but will not be lost on younger readers either.
Final Verdict: This companion novel was even better than Ship Breaker (which is saying quite a bit, as that title was pretty fantastic). I really hope that Bacigalupi writes more stories in this vivid and brutal world he's created (but honestly? I'll read anything this man writes.) The story was a little slower this time around, but was made up with the wonderful world-building -- real-world issues are once again applied to create a believable future -- and the conflicted characters were sympathetic. I'd recommend reading this even if you haven't yet read Ship Breaker; it's stands perfectly fine on its own and I don't think readers need the previous novel to truly appreciate this one. Very highly recommended, and one of my favourite reads of the year.(less)