Since my recent conversion to the cult of Nalini Singh a couple of years ago I have anxiously awaited eachOriginally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
Since my recent conversion to the cult of Nalini Singh a couple of years ago I have anxiously awaited each and every new addition to Singh's Psy-Changeling series. Throughout this series Singh has created a rich futuristic world that is full of all kinds of race tension, but also fabulous romances. I can't think of another series that so well combines complex world building with fully developed romantic relationships. Nalini Singh, she is a master, and this is again proven with her newest book, Allegiance of Honor and its shift for the entire series. Allegiance propels the series into new territory while also giving readers a glimpse into the lives of so many of the beloved characters of the series.
For those who are new to the series, Allegiance of Honor is a bridge book. The author's note at the beginning of the book explains that Allegiance is a change in the series as she moves into "season two" of the Psy-Changeling series. In order to propel the story forward the author has chosen to change up the format of the book. Instead of focusing on a specific couple like the last books in the series, Allegiance takes a look at the ensemble cast. For fans of the series, the connecting of certain characters that have not previously met before will be squeal-worthy. For example, Kaleb finally meets the grown woman whom he rescued from a train accident when he was a boy (fans will know exactly who I'm talking about). These connections and moments with favourite characters will appeal to any fan of the series; there's great satisfaction in being able to connect your favourite books of the series to events that are happening in this book.
Despite the fact that Allegiance focuses strictly on characters that readers already know and love, I think Allegiance would also be a good starting place for new fans of the series. There is a lot of recapping of what's happened in previous books, which I think makes it easier for new readers of the series to jump right in. That said, you should totally read the previous books in the series because they are amazing and that will make Allegiance all the more amazing (no pressure!).
No wanting to give too much away, I think Allegiance does exactly what it sets out to do. The author establishes new conflict in her world now that the reign of Silence is over. There are certain factions that are not happy with the intermingling of human, changeling, and Psy races and they'll go to any lengths to put a stop to this. This mysterious force behind events designed to inject dissent into the newly formed allies is the focus of Allegiance. Not much is revealed, but it's clear that this organizer is a dangerous threat to the hard won peace that the Psy, changeling and humans have fought for. Tidbits of new players are dropped, leaving readers looking for what's next in the series (thankfully Singh is dropping her next novella collection this August).
Fans of Nalini Singh will not be disappointed with this game-changing installment in the series. Beloved characters come to forefront, new conflict is introduced, and we finally get to see the pupcubs! There's a lot to like in Allegiance of Honor; in fact, the only thing not to like is the long wait in your future before the next book comes out....more
I like books set in space. I like YA. I like reading about aliens. NOVA had all these things but unfortunately it did not live up to its namesake. WhaI like books set in space. I like YA. I like reading about aliens. NOVA had all these things but unfortunately it did not live up to its namesake. What started out as an intriguing and mysterious read:
My name is Lia Johansen, and I was named for a prisoner of war. She lived in the Tiersten Internment Colony for two years, and when they negotiated the return of the prisoners, I was given her memories and sent back in her place.
And I am a genetically engineered human bomb (p. 10).
Turned out to be a lot disappointing.
Lia Johnansen is masquerading as a sixteen-year-old girl who’s mission it is to blow up the New Sol Space Station. Lia’s not sure why she’s been chosen to blow up this station, but she is compelled to complete her mission. So when the countdown malfunctions Lia is left at loose ends and begins to question her ultimate purpose, which only becomes magnified when she meets Michael, a young boy who knew her when they were children. Should Lia complete her mission when she doesn’t even know why? How can she decide to go ahead now that she knows the people that she is going to harm?
For a book that draws much of its suspense from the mystery surrounding Lia’s true identity and real memories, I found that the narrative was strangely disconnected from any emotional response. Lia seemed to feel token emotions with regards to her situation, and for me it didn’t ring true to the circumstances. This emotional disconnect isn’t only true for Lia but the other people she interacts with. When the truth finally emerges and Lia shares her past and her mission with Michael, it’s strange how quickly he is to take everything she’s said at face value. It’s bizarre how quickly Lia convinces those around her to go ahead with her plan; it came across as too simplistic to be realistic.
While I think the themes of self-discovery and purpose will resonate with readers, the lack of dimension to the characters will be a difficult hurdle for many readers to overcome. This character-driven space drama is lacking in emotional meat. It’s an interesting concept, but the execution is off. Even simple atmospheric elements like the use of futuristic slang terms, “bull-slag” “you’re one in a galaxy” “you glitch”, came across as forced rather than contributing to the world created. Quite simply, NOVA did not work for me.
When I heard about Melissa Lander’s Starflight I was pretty darn excited. I am Originally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
Space adventure? Count me in!
When I heard about Melissa Lander’s Starflight I was pretty darn excited. I am a huge fan of anything set in space and if there isn’t an over abundance of science-y things, that makes things even better (for me, at least). Facts matter not! Starflight was a fun, space-set adventure, perfect for readers looking for something fast-paced and entertaining.
Solara Brooks is a young woman with a past. She’s branded as a criminal and because of that she can’t get a job. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Solara indentures herself to former classmate, Doran Spaulding, so that she can get passage aboard a ship. Doran had made Solara’s high school life…not pleasant and doesn’t do much better now that she’s working for him (and I do mean that she works, she’s doing his laundry, fetching his meals etc. I thought the whole servant thing would be more problematic than it was). Of course, the tide turns when Doran’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit and now has to rely on the very woman that he’d rather ignore. Space adventure gone sideways.
What I liked about Starflight is that it was exactly what it claimed to be. It was a adventurous romance. There was a lot of action, space chases, but there was equally a lot of emphasis on the romance between Solara and Doran. Now, for those who feel some trepidation about a romance between two characters where one is so obviously in a position of vulnerability (Solara is Doran’s servant after all), I don't think you need to be concerned. The idea that Solara is Doran’s servant and therefore bound to his authority made me a tad nervous, especially because I knew romance between them was going to be a big part of the book. There was potential for this to really, really not work. While I didn't think the potential power disparity between Solara and Doran was fully explored in Starflight, I still enjoyed the book. Doran treated Solara like crap when she was working for him, but he didn’t cross the moral Rubicon. That said, I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities of what could happen to someone like Solara in this situation and the potential for gross abuse if she had indentured herself to someone else. So, I think some readers might need to suspend some belief when it comes to this whole indentured servitude thing.
The thorny issue of class and unequal power aside, the romance between Solara and Doran was a lot of fun. These two hated each other and they both made it very clear. Solara even gets the chance for Doran to act as her servant, which I think helped to balance out their initial uneven status. Being forced to work together, made both Solara and Doran realize new things about each other, making them see each other in a new light. The tried and true enemies-to-lovers trope is in action and doing well in Starflight.
The only other niggle I have about Starflight is that I personally found it really long. While the action and adventure element had a lot of appeal, at times, I found it made for a lengthy read. There was a lot of stuff going on in Starflight, a lot of stuff that Solara and Doran find themselves involved them. I didn’t always find this to be effective, but it will likely appeal to readers that enjoy heavy plotting. And, it sets up book two very nicely.
For a sci-fic adventure/romance, Starflight accomplishes the job. The characters were engaging, the romance was mature for a YA book, and it was all-in-all a fun read. I need more space adventures in my life!...more
Fortune’s Pawn was an excellent sci-fi adventure with a kick-butt heroine. Devi Morris is an ambitious mercenary and she is not ashamed to admit it. EFortune’s Pawn was an excellent sci-fi adventure with a kick-butt heroine. Devi Morris is an ambitious mercenary and she is not ashamed to admit it. Everything that Devi does is with one goal in mind: to become a Devastator, one of the elite soldiers of her people, the Paradoxians. When she signs on with the Glorious Fool Devi thinks she’s found her ticket into the Devastators, only to find all is not as it appears on this seemingly unassuming trader ship.
What stands out in Fortune’s Pawn is the character of Devi herself. Devi is unapologetic about her ambitions and she’s not about to allow anyone stand in the way of her ultimate goal. It would be easy for Devi to be a one-dimensional character, but that is clearly not the case. Devi may name her weapons, but she’s not a trigger-happy mindless soldier, she cares about what she’s sent to do and because of that she gets curious. And in this case, curiosity is not necessarily a good thing. Devi lands herself in the soup by the end of Fortune’s Pawn and it’s anyone’s guess exactly what Devi has gotten herself involved in by signing on the Glorious Fool. The captain clearly has more authority than a simple trader. The handsome cook has skills more suited to the battlefield than the kitchen. And then there’s the captain’s silent daughter. What aren’t they telling Devi and why does her knowledge put her in even more danger?
The unanswered questions in Fortune’s Pawn will keep me coming back for the next book. Devi is clearly being used, but I can’t see Devi allowing this to continue. The question is why Devi is being used? What is the big secret? Readers are only treated to small snippets of what this secret is. There’s a mysterious big bad out there and Caldswell and his crew seem to be doing something about it, but that doesn’t make them heroes. What side Devi is going to come down on is anyone’s guess.
While there is a lot of action and guns blazing, there was a strong romance throughout Fortune’s Pawn. Rupert, the mysterious cook, attracts Devi’s eye from the moment that they meet. It’s very clear that Rupert is hiding something and it doesn’t play out well for their budding relationship. But, never fear romance readers, this is the first in a trilogy, so I suspect there is more to the end than meets the eye, and hopefully a happily-ever-after is in store by book three. Although since Devi is a warrior woman, I'm rather sure this happy ending is going to be anything but conventional.
Fortune’s Pawn was a fun, action-packed read, filled with mystery and romance. I loved the space setting, the aliens and the characters. Devi Morris was one determined woman, and I loved the fact that readers really get inside her head. I can’t imagine that this super soldier will be kept down for long. On to book two!
I had Ancillary Mercy sitting on my shelf for over a month before I actually picked it up to read. Not because I didn't want to read it, but because rI had Ancillary Mercy sitting on my shelf for over a month before I actually picked it up to read. Not because I didn't want to read it, but because reading it means that Leckie's fantastic trilogy is at an end.
Ancillary Mercy fantastically wraps up the story arc established in the first two books while also leaving readers frustratingly unsatisfied, after all, "Every ending is an arbitrary one. Every ending is, from another angle, not really an ending" (p. 316). And that contradictory ending, which is is both satisfactory and unsatisfactory, pretty much sums up what I have enjoyed about Leckie's trilogy: she makes me think. Whether I'm thinking about the nature of language, or the nature of personhood, or the concept of citizenship, or the host of other compelling subjects tackled, I'm always deeply engrossed in this world and the cerebral nature of it. In Ancillary Mercy, Breq finally comes to the point where she can get the revenge on the ruler of the empire, Anaander Mianaai - or at least the segment of her that Breq comes into contact with. Anaander Mianaai arrives at Atheok Station soon after peaceful protests begin and Anaander promptly moves to have Fleet Captain Breq taken into custody as she is an ancillary and not actually a person capable of running a fleet. Of course, another version of Anaander put Breq into this position of power in the first place...
Confusing, I know. But, I like this confusion and the way that this is explored in theme of identity that has been threaded through all three books in the trilogy. In Ancillary Mercy we see this notion of identity or personhood taken to the next level as Breq starts to consider her own identity as well as that of other ships (i.e. artificial intelligence). Why should Breq be the only "thing" to be considered unique and "human"?
Oh, I knew that Ship cared for me. It couldn't help caring for any captain, to some degree. But I knew, from when I had been a ship, that there was a vast difference between a captain you cared for just because she was your captain, and a favorite. And thinking that, alone here, outside the ship, in utter emptiness, I saw that I had relied on Ship's support and obedience - and, yes, its affection - without ever asking what it wanted. I had presumed much further than any human captain would have, or could have, unthinkingly demanded to be shown the crew's most intimate moments. I had behaved, in some ways, as though I were in fact a part of Ship, but had also demanded - expected, it seemed - a level of devotion that I had no right to demand or expect, and that likely Ship could not give me (p. 133-134).
This new awareness in Breq of her fellow Ships and Stations was a really important part of Ancillary Mercy. Breq is not unique in her ability to be an individual, her fellow Ships and Stations, her cousins, are just as capable of being as individual as Breq. And ultimately, it is her fellow cousins and their right to individuality that Breq ends up fighting for. And it is those cousins that fight for Breq in return. Yes, Breq is still after revenge for the wrongs done against her, but her mission expanded into something far more pervasive. And that, my friends, is why this trilogy is so important. Ancillary Mercy is more than a good story, it's a statement about many things, and it's up to you as the reader to discover these nuggets of wisdom.
Another wonderful element to Ancillary Mercy is it humour. I'm not sure if this humour passed me by in the previous two books. Perhaps when I was too busy pretending to be a serious reader who must read deeply in order to appear more serious. (Occasionally, I feel the need to be a more serious person who needs to prove their seriousness in their reading material.) At any rate, Ancillary Mercy was funny! Why this surprised me, I don't know, but it did delight me when reading. In particular, the addition of the Preseger Translator Zeiat to the cast of characters was genius in providing comic relief in the midst of rebellion. There are so many instances of Zeiat's alien nature peppered throughout this book and each serves to bring a great deal of levity to the most dire of situations:
"What's this I head?" Translator Zeiat came into the doorway. "You're going to the station, Fleet Captain? Excellent! I'll come along."
"Translator," I said, still standing in the middle of my quarters, hand still partly outstretched from giving Seven Brilliant Truths Shine like Suns to Kalr Five, "we're in teh middle of a war. Things are very unsettled on the station right now."
"Oh!" Comprehension, recognition showed on her face. "That's right, you said there was a war. A very inconvenient one, as I recall. But, you know, you're all out of fish sauce. And I don't think I've ever seen a war before!" (p. 293-294).
Translator Zeiat is just one of many wonderfully captured characters. And all these characters serve an important purpose. Even Zeiat for her unintentional hilarity serves a very important purpose in the grander scheme of things. So if you like your sci-fi character driven, you will not be disappointed with those you are introduced to in the trilogy. Really, how could you be went a central theme is identity? If that's going to be a theme, you characters certainly must be good.
If you've read the first two books in the trilogy you're certain to like this final book that wraps up many loose ends. If you haven't yet started the trilogy than I urge you to start. If you like your science fiction compelling and thought provoking, smart and witty, you absolutely can't go wrong with Leckie's trilogy. Just make sure you start with book one, Ancillary Justice.
Finally, a book that has actually lived up to the hype! I've been hearing a lot about The Martian. It's been on many "Best of 2014" book lists, and isFinally, a book that has actually lived up to the hype! I've been hearing a lot about The Martian. It's been on many "Best of 2014" book lists, and is the GoodRead's Choice winner for 2014. Generally, when I see a title gaining a lot of buzz I feel quite skeptical. I am the first to admit that I don't tend to enjoy the literary titles that tend to be seen on these lists; I enjoy lighter reading, stuff with happy endings. Happily, The Martian is worth the hype that it has received this year. It was sci-fi without being inaccessible to readers less likely to pick up a book with that genre label. And it most certainly was not the depressing, dull, yet, well written, material that I associate with "Best of" lists.
The Martian picks up after astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, presumed dead. Much to everyone's surprise, Mark is very much alive and has proved ingenious in extending his life in such a inhospitable habitat. He's the first potato farmer on Mars, he's MacGyver in space. This survival is not completely unexpected, after all Watney was "the mission's fix-it man who played with plants". What becomes the million dollar question is whether or not Watney can keep up this survivor mentality until he's rescued, if he's to be rescued at all.
Once earth learns that Watney is still alive, the big decision has to be made. Do they spend the money to go back and rescue Watney, assuming he can live on Mars for years until this as-yet-to-be-determiend rescue? It's not exactly a quick fly by to Mars, nor is the rescue going to be cheap. Fortunately for Watney, the answer is yes (the press loves the survival angel).
I didn't expect to like The Martian as much as I did, and I really didn't expect it to be as funny as it was. I loved the humour in this book. Watney was irreverent and plucky; you couldn't help but hope that he would survive. I really liked how the character was crafted. Here we have this guy stranded on a planet with little hope of rescue, but he keeps going and keeps up his good humour from page one:
I'm pretty much fucked. That's my considered opinion. Fucked. Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it's turned into a nightmare. I don't know who'll read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe a hundred years from now. For the record...I didn't die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did, and I can't blame them. Maybe there'll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say, "Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars."
Watney's is stranded in space and he's thinking about his Wikipedia page. Morbid, but I think it speaks to his attitude throughout the book. Watney's personality goes a long way in endearing him to readers. He's not just the super-smart and serious astronaut that you would expect. He's personable and entertaining; readers become invested in his fight for survival. To me, this personality is a very important facet of the book, and I think it's this character that will draw readers who don't normally read science fiction.
I also loved that The Martian was pretty much a love letter to nerdiness. I loved the references to nerdy pop culture, especially this one:
"What the fuck is 'Project Elrond'?" Annie asked. "I had to make something up," Venkat said. "So you came up with 'Elrond'?" Annie pressed. "Because it's a secret meeting?" Mitch guessed. "The e-mail said I couldn't even tell my assistant." "I'll explain everything once Teddy arrives." Venkat said. "Why does 'Elrond' mean 'secret meeting'?" Annie asked. "Are we going to make a momentous decision?" Bruce Ng asked. "Exactly," Venkat said. "How did you know that?" Annie asked, getting annoyed. "Elrond," Bruce said. "The Council of Elrond. From Lord of the Rings. It's the meeting where they decide to destroy the One Ring." "Jesus," Annie said. "None of you got laid in high school, did you?" What can I say? I love a LOTR reference.
In addition to Mark's recounting of his "projects" readers are also treated to brief interludes back on earth. I thought this really helped with the momentum of The Martian and I also think that it kept the book from getting too repetitive. We get it, Mark's a smart guy, he can deal with adversity. We don't need to see this cycle over and over again without reprieve. The return to earth provided a much needed break from Mark's narrative that could have become repetitive and tiring. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing, and that is nicely avoided in The Martian.
To sum up, The Martian was an excellent read. It's not your average science fiction story. It's a read accessible to many readers. Don't be afraid of the sci-fi label. Yes, it's a space story, but at it's heart, The Martian is a survival story, and one that I think will appeal to many readers.
Review originally published at The Book Adventures. ...more
Company Town is a science fiction novel that checks all my boxes: great characters, a compelling plot, andOriginally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
Company Town is a science fiction novel that checks all my boxes: great characters, a compelling plot, and complex ideas that aren’t bogged down by didacticism and explanations.
Hwa is a young woman living on an oil rig. On this self-contained ecosystem Hwa stands out. Hwa is one of the very few who does not have any augmentations that enhance her humanity. Hwa can't fix herself with tech. As a result, Hwa constantly strives to be work harder than anyone else, a skill that lends itself well to her job: bodyguard to the prostitutes that work the rig. Hwa is dedicated to her job; however, when the Lynch corporation takes over the rig, the man in charge offers Hwa a new job as the bodyguard to Joel, the son and heir to the head of the Lynch empire. Why would a seemingly all-powerful corporate bigwig want Hwa, who cannot afford the most basic of upgrades, as bodyguard to his son? What does Hwa have that other bodyguards do not? Well, with technology comes certain vulnerabilities:
“She can’t be hacked.” Siofra said the words a little too loudly. He stared at the elder Lunch as he spoke. “She has no augments. So there’s no recognition algorithm in her eyes that can be rewritten. There’s nothing in her pancreas that can foul up and send her into diabetic shock. She has no neural implants. She can’t hear voices or see visions or be made into someone’s puppet. She doesn’t have legacy code floating around under her skin, waiting to be exploited. She’s…” He trailed off. “Pure” (p. 33).
In a world where everyone can be hacked, Hwa is special because she is invulnerable to external manipulations that come with being augmented. While one might want to be upgraded, those upgrades come with a steep price if someone decides that they want to take advantage of you. So, the fact that Hwa is free of augmentations positions her as a near perfect bodyguard; no one can highjack her body and force her to take out the very person that she’s protecting.
Despite many misgivings about this new bodyguard gig, Hwa decides to accept the offer from the Lynch family. Hwa is dedicated to protecting Joel and even becomes a friend of sorts to the young man. Another perk of the job is the access to information and technology that Hwa has, courtesy of the Lynch family of course. These benefits come in handy when Hwa’s former clients start turning up dead. Determined to discover who is killing her friends, Hwa embarks on her own investigation into who is targeting vulnerable woman, only to discover that the murders are unexpectedly connected to the Lynch family.
Company Town is a book that worked for me on so many levels and it basically typifies exactly the kind of science fiction that I want to read. There are thought provoking things happening in Company Town such as the idea of augmenting one’s person, which in turn, forces readers to question what it is to be human. Are you less human after you let machines into your body? How does this symbiotic relationship between humans and technology change what it means to be human? These questions are explored throughout Company Town with Hwa and those that she interacts with.
While I certainly appreciate the ideas that the author forces readers to consider, what I think makes Company Town extra special is the fact that these ideas are grounded in an entertaining story. Company Town is fast-paced and exciting, featuring a murder mystery plot and multiple attempted assassinations. If action-adventure isn’t your thing, the character of Hwa as well as the secondary characters of Siofra and Joel also brings a human element to the plot. Hwa is strong woman; she’s not without her vulnerabilities, self-consciousness about her appearance being one of them, but she is well-developed and interesting main character. For me, Company Town is one of those rare books that will translate to a diverse audience depending on what appeals to them. There’s something for the sci-fi fans, something for those that have a fondness for mysteries, and something for those that need character drama. The strength of Company Town lies in its diverse appeal. I know I will be recommending it to as many readers as I can.
Company Town is an engrossing and thought-provoking read. I was hooked by the Canadian connection in the setting and description of the future, but I loved it for the engaging and endearing character of Hwa. I want more from this author ASAP. Highly recommended for sci-fi fans that enjoy stories that explore the future of humanity and it's relationship with technology....more
I've been putting off writing this review for awhile now, as I'm not really sure how to convey in intelligible writing how much I loved Shards of HopeI've been putting off writing this review for awhile now, as I'm not really sure how to convey in intelligible writing how much I loved Shards of Hope. This book was seriously awesome and I think it just might be my favourite book in Singh's Psy-Changeling series to date, and I can now say that with authority since after finishing this one, I went back and read each book in the series that I hadn't read.
Shards of Hope is Aden's story. Aden is the leader of the Arrows, the deadly, military arm of the Psy race. For years they were the personal assassins of Councilor Ming, and now that Silence has fallen, these men and women are now free to start new lives. Aden is at the forefront of this change. He wants something different for his family and he needs to model that for them, which is why he needs a partner. Aden's chosen partner is Zaira, a damaged woman that he's known since childhood and one of his most trusted fellow Arrows. Unlike Aden, Zaira is convinced that she is not good for Aden, seeing herself as too damaged and too reliant on Silence to actually have a real relationship with another person. And when they're not dealing with relationship woes, Aden and Zaira have to content with kidnappings (their own as well as others), a new conspiracy, and building a home for the Arrows.
Shards of Hope was a book jammed pack with stuff going on. While the romance was strong here, I think the focus on other threads was equally strong, something that Singh has excelled at balancing out in this series. If fans of the series were concerned that the fall of Silence would bring this series to an end, Singh sets those fears to rest with the new conflict that she has introduced, and I couldn't be more happy to continue to expect more Psy-Changeling books.
I also really appreciated the fact that Zaira was such a strong heroine. In so many of the books in this series the hero is the one who is all possessive and overbearing. Really, if it were real life, the heroes would be creepy, and giving stalker vibes. In the case of Shards of Hope it was Zaira that was the possessive one and I have to say, I found this a refreshing change in the series as well as when I consider the romance genre at large. In romance you don't generally see a possessive heroine, that's more likely to be the characterization of the hero's ex (i.e. a characterization of a "bad" woman). It's always okay for the hero to be possessive and I really appreciated the fact that Zaira owned her possessiveness for Aden. Her traumatic past certainly informed her need to "own" Aden and I liked how the author explored this in a female character. Very well done.
Aden was a less dramatic character. He was determined to have a relationship with Zaira but he wasn't pushy about it. In fact, Aden and Zaira's romance altogether was somewhat subdued. Shards of Hope was not as steamy as some of the other books in the series, but I really liked that the author focused more on the emerging emotions of Aden and Zaira rather than the earthier side of the romance, which makes sense considering who these characters were.
Shards of Hope really hit on everything that I like about this series. I am especially keen on the Psy race since I think the concept of Silence and how it's explored, so I was more than happy that two Psy were the focus of this latest book. I am intensely curious as to which characters Singh is going to focus on next.
Nalini Singh was recommended to me by a co-worker after we raved and discussed Anne Bishop's Written in Red. Of course, I decided to start with the moNalini Singh was recommended to me by a co-worker after we raved and discussed Anne Bishop's Written in Red. Of course, I decided to start with the most recent book in Singh's Psy-Changeling series. I wanted to jump right in and the latest book to the series seemed intriguing, despite my long standing ambivalence to urban fantasy; I'm not generally an urban fantasy fan, Bishop's series being one of the exceptions. To my surprise, I loved Shield of Winter and I immediately snagged the other books in the series on my lunch break.
Shield of Winter is set in Singh's rather complex world where humans, psys and changelings all co-exist. This installment is more deeply embedded in the psy world than the changelings as the psy's are dealing with the aftermath of the fall of Silence. Silence was a protocol or way of life that stripped the emotions away from all the psy's - making for a very cold existence. Since the fall of Silence a virus has been attacking the psy's and the psy's only hope is the empaths of their race. Shield of Winter focuses on how and if the virus can be combated.
Ivy is an empath. All her life she has felt that she was defective; she was never able to rid herself of emotions under Silence. As a result, her parents have done their best to hide her from the larger world. They had succeeded, but now Ivy's help is needed. Vasic, a deadly Arrow, has been sent to get Ivy's assistance and protect her from the psy community who's looking for a scapegoat in the chaos of daily life. While many feel that the empath's are the problem, it is soon clear that the empath's are the only one's that can circumvent the virus.
I was completely blown away by the world building in this one. I've always been aware of Singh's series; there's many that rave about it on Goodreads, but I didn't know how intricate her world would be. This society that she's created was so fascinating. Each of the races in the world have such different characteristics and customs, they were so interesting to learn about. The concept of living without emotion was intriguing and I loved that the author explored how these people have to now deal with what's it like to now be able to express them without fear of reprisal.
This newly discovered emotional state was what I found so interesting about the romance between Ivy and Vasic. Ivy was an empath, so she's always been more aware of her emotional state even if she thought it made her unnatural. At the same time, she's never been in a romantic relationship in the traditional sense; it's never something that's been allowed. Cold and sterile contracts sure, but a true relationship? It just wasn't on the table for Ivy (or anyone else). Likewise, Vasic is also a psy and has also never had the experience of being in a relationship. But unlike Ivy, Vasic has undergone severe training (or torture) as an Arrow. This training has seemingly stripped him of any ability to express emotions; however, with Ivy, he learns that it's possible to be more than just a soldier or killer. It was lovely to watch these two explore their new-found emotions. They certainly had their complications and uncertainties, but this added to the overall tension of the book and made for an excellent romance.
The only thing that I struggled with in Shield of Winter was the numerous other characters that were mentioned. Overall, I think Singh did a remarkable job at making this book accessible for someone new to the series, but I definitely felt that I was missing something. Readers spent time with several other couples from previous books, and I personally felt a little lost and impatient to read their stories. I also felt a little out of touch with what life for the psy's would have been like before the fall of Silence. I've very curious about this, so it's a good thing I've tracked down the previous books in the series! This one likely would have been a five star read had I read the other books in the series (as I will be doing as soon as possible).
Shield of Winter was an outstanding read and I'm so glad that I took a chance on this series. The world is fascinating and I can't wait to learn more, although I have a sneaky feeling that I'm going to be more interested in the psy world than I will be the changelings. I don't have a lot of books to compare it to, so I would love recommendations for other similar books.
“It’s all about the soil. Out here in the scratch, we still have devilry in our dirt. Makes stitched things stay stitched.” (p. 5)
House Immortal is th“It’s all about the soil. Out here in the scratch, we still have devilry in our dirt. Makes stitched things stay stitched.” (p. 5)
House Immortal is the start of a new, futuristic series by Devon Monk. It played with the concept of Frankenstein; in this world there are twelve (and now thirteen) immortal men and women who have been stitched together. In order to save the innocent from slaughter, these twelve sold themselves into service, they are no longer considered human, but property of the highest bidder. However, the conclusion of House Immortal leaves the impression that change is imminent for these immortals, as well as society at large.
Matilda Case has been living under the radar since the death of her parents when she was a child. Ever since her brother disappeared, Matilda has been caring for her grandmother and maintaining her farm and the strange stitched creatures her father created. Matilda has always needed to maintain her privacy, she’s not like anyone else, in fact, she’s not living in the body she was born in, hers has been stitched, making her a valuable commodity when her existence is learned.
When an injured man, who is also stitched, winds up bleeding on her front porch, Matilda finds herself becoming a pawn in a much larger game. Instead of countries, the world is now ruled by houses, and all of them would very much like to control Matilda, the first modern immortal to be created.
Matilda’s mysterious visitor, Abraham Seventh, is contracted (or owned) by House Gray, the house the deals in human resources. He received a message from Matilda’s dead mother asking him to find her husband and daughter. In order to protect Matilda, Abraham brings Matilda into the heart of the conflict, which forces Matilda to claim a house and surrender her right to humanity and all the freedoms associated with it. But that certainly doesn’t mean that Matilda is going to meekly obey those who think that she is inferior, which has severe repercussions for all of the twelve.
House Immortal really wasn’t what I was expecting, but it did remind me of Monk’s Age of Steam series. While Age of Steam is a Western steampunk and House Immortal more conventionally urban fantasy, the tone in both is very much the same. Since I liked Age of Steam, I did enjoy House Immortal. That said, I did find myself underwhelmed by this novel. For a book that is filled with such big ideas, it seemly strangely lacking in passion. Even Matilda, for all her anger and thoughts of revenge, seemed a little flat to me. For a reader like me that reads primarily for the characters, I did find myself less interested in Matilda as an individual character.
What I did find myself more interested in was the futuristic world that was introduced in House Immortal. There is a lot that I feel that I do not know about this world yet, but I went in expecting that since this in the start to a series. The idea that the world is ruled by houses, or companies, is interesting and speaks to the concept of commercialization that is apparent today. House Immortal takes this commodification further by placing the control of good and services in the hands of a few, stripping away the rights of those that create these goods and provide these services. As we start to learn more about the heads of these houses this concept becomes even more unsettling considering that these people have the same petty motivations as everyone else. I thought this was a pretty interesting set up and I was eager to learn more; however, I have many questions about the viability of this world.
My other questions about this world relate to the immortals, otherwise known as the galvanized. I simply find it hard to believe that these twelve willingly gave up their humanity to save the humans that dared to rise up against the houses. I struggle to understand their motivation, especially after meeting more of them and learning that they weren't all as outwardly empathetic as Abraham is. Further, I feel confused as to how the galvanized are both revered as heroes and reviled as monsters. When Matilda first comes to Chicago she is shocked by the billboards that show off the immortals heroic feats where they are saving the lives of humans, and so was I. Why has the general public allowed for their heroes to be enslaved? How do these heroes even have the freedom to commit heroic acts? It's okay for them to save the day, but it seems that they are nothing more than objects or commodities to the public gaze. Again, this is rather disturbing and it does make you question whether or not people do critically consider what they are consuming in the media, a question I often find myself asking and one that I love seeing explored in my reading.
Ultimately, I think the fact that I have so many questions about this world will bring me back to the series. I need to know whether Matilda will be a game changer for the galvanized. Will she win these inhuman creatures back their freedom? I'm also very curious about the origins of the immortals. There are hints throughout House Immortal but nothing concrete is offered. It was a bit of a strange experience for me, being more invested in the world rather than the characters, which is the complete opposite of my usual reading experience.
Their Fractured Light is the third and final book in Kaufman and Spooner's spacey Starbound trilogy. I've enjoyed both These Broken Stars and ThisTheir Fractured Light is the third and final book in Kaufman and Spooner's spacey Starbound trilogy. I've enjoyed both These Broken Stars and This Shattered World, but I have to admit to feeling a bit let down by Their Fractured Light.
Their Fractured Light picks up soon after the events in This Shattered World; however, readers are now following two new characters Sofia Quinn, teen con artist, and Gideon Marchant, computer hacker extraordinaire. Like the characters in the previous books, Sofia and Gideon are both fighting against LaRoux Industries. LaRoux Industries has a dastardly plan and both Sofia and Gideon are fighting back unbeknownst to the other. This is the big tension between Gideon and Sofia; neither know that they are essentially on the same side. Secrets. Unnecessarily complicating teen lives since forever.
Sigh. I have to admit the whole secrets and teens fighting against a large corporate conglomerate beggared belief. Perhaps I could have rolled with it, it's fiction after all, had the other characters from the previous not arrived and then they all saved the day because of team work. I don't know, it just came across as kind of unrealistic and too warm and fuzzy for me.
As for the romance, I was kind of disappointed. Don't get me wrong Gideon and Sofia have some great moments, but I felt that their relationship kind of fell to the wayside with all the action and fighting against the man that was happening here. And in all honesty, I kind of felt that way about the romance element in the previous two books in the trilogy. I like the idea of switching up characters with each book, but I don't think it completely worked if you look at the romance aspect of the books, especially the last two books.
I guess what it really boils down to is that I don't have much to say about this book. Apologies for the short review. It was just an "okay" read for me. I loved the setting, but I found myself bored with the characters and plot more often than not. I really liked the author's writing style and the inclusion of multiple points of view (not enough of this in YA land) but ultimately it was not the book for me.
The Ophelia Prophecy is a sci-fi romance that I was really looking forward to. The premise sounded amazing:
Our world is no longer our own. We2.5 Stars
The Ophelia Prophecy is a sci-fi romance that I was really looking forward to. The premise sounded amazing:
Our world is no longer our own. We engineered a race of superior fighters -- the Manti, mutant humans with insect-like abilities. Twenty-five years ago they all but destroyed us. In Sanctuary, some of us survive. Eking out our existence. Clinging to the past.
Some of us intend to do more than survive.
Asha and Pax -- strangers and enemies -- find themselves stranded together on the border of the last human city, neither with a memory of how they got there.
Asha is an archivist working to preserve humanity’s most valuable resource -- information -- viewed as the only means of resurrecting their society.
Pax is Manti, his Scarab ship a menacing presence in the skies over Sanctuary, keeping the last dregs of humanity in check.
Neither of them is really what they seem, and what humanity believes about the Manti is a lie.
With their hearts and fates on a collision course, they must unlock each other's secrets and forge a bond of trust before a rekindled conflict pushes their two races into repeating the mistakes of the past.
We’ve got a heroine that has a missing memory, a bioengineered hero – how could it not be a great read. Unfortunately, this one missed the mark for me.
What worked for me in The Ophelia Prophecy was the set up and the world – it was just so cool. We have the Manti race, which humans engineered. Then the creations took over. I loved the descriptions of this humanoid race and I enjoyed the subsequent race relations that emerged out of this scenario. This was interested and intriguing and a lot of food for thought. The fact that the Manti are essentially herding the humans and allowing them the illusion of freedom reminded me of many utopian novels I loved that this can be seen as social commentary. While this utopia setting was not central to the novel, the fact that Asha comes from a utopic village added another dimension to a complex world.
So, in the end what I liked about this one was the more hard-core sci-fi elements. This expansion of real world problems (like bioengineering), that forces you to think about it in the context of the book and in real life is what sci-fi is all about and I think in this respect, the author nailed it. However, there was one element that I didn’t like…
I like romance, folks, and it likely fills the bulk of my reading material. So the romantic element to The Ophelia Prophecy is what initially got me intrigued. The sci-fi elements were, to my mind, icing on the cake. Unfortunately, the romance did not work for me.
Asha and Pax have a forbidden romance; they’re on different sides of an ongoing battle. This is a great trope in romance and generally I really like it as you get to see the characters start to come to understand their enemy’s point of view. I may have missed something here, but I just didn’t feel that Asha and Pax really understood the other’s side. I’m not convinced that Asha and Pax will have a happily ever after.
But what really bothered me was that their relationship was based on an instant physical attraction. This is fine, but I never felt that the relationship progressed past just the physical. For the bulk of the book Asha and Pax were at odds with one another or on the run and heading into danger. There just wasn’t time for a relationship to be built. Again, this is fine and it’s even finer if the book is the start of the series, but what really bugged me was that physical relationship ended with a declaration of love. Personally, I didn’t see the basis for either of the characters be “in love” with the other and this completely brought my enjoyment of this book down. It was a case of insta-lust disguised as insta-love.
Ultimately, I can’t say that I recommend The Ophelia Prophecy for die-hard romance fans like me. There was a lot of promise here with the world-building, in the end, the characters were flat for me.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Wen Spencer's Endless Blue is, in many ways, very similar to The Ophelia Prophecy. There's complex world building going on, but there is a big focus on race relations and the creation of super soldiers through gene manipulation. Turk is one of these super soldiers, and like Pax, he's got some issue with it, although I do feel Turk was a little more tortured by it. There's also a romance in Endless Blue, but it does not overshadow the main plot, so it would be a good read for those who are not as obsessed with the romance genre like me.
If you liked the enemies to lovers theme in The Ophelia Prophecy, Marcella Burnard's Enemy Games would be a good choice. Jayleia and Damen are on the opposite sides of an intergalactic war and they certainly don't need the added complication of a relationship, but alas that's exactly what they get. There's definitely a more significant emphasis on the romance here. It also came to mind because there's some sort of genetic modification going on with Damen.
My final recommendation is Eve Kenin's Driven, which was a complete surprise read for me. Like Pax and Asha, Raina and Wizard (seriously awesome name) are thrown together by circumstances and they find themselves involved in a much larger conspiracy. Again, this one has more of a focus on romance, but it's fast paced and has a cool futuristic setting.
This was not what I was expecting, and I was kept guessing until the end. Quite enjoyed it. Review closer to pub date.
*ARC provided by the publisherThis was not what I was expecting, and I was kept guessing until the end. Quite enjoyed it. Review closer to pub date.
*ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Tin Star is the first in a new teen sci-fi series, and it certainly fits the sci-fi bill.
Tula Ban is fourteen when she makes a stop at the Yertina Feray space station as part of a colony from Earth. Unfortunately, Tula asks too many questions and finds herself brutally beaten and left behind while the ship departs. Left for dead, Tula is taken in by an alien, Heckleck, who reluctantly develops a soft spot for this human and teaches her to survive within the alien species at Yertina Feray.
Years go by and Tula adapts to her new way of life. She’s now seventeen, a well know trader in her own right, just skirting the law on this less-than-civilized space station. What keeps Tula going is her need for revenge. She wants to kill the colony leader that left her for dead and is seemingly responsible for the death of her mother and sister. When a group of humans arrive on the space station, it seems that Tula’s revenge is much more imminent, but can she trust these humans? And why does the head of law enforcement, Tournour, seem adamant about Tula keeping out of things?
Tin Star was a wonderful first installment to a series. The writing was sparse and direct but this world was beautifully created. The politics of the galaxy played centre stage, which was surprising for a teen novel:
The rules of the galaxy had been made up long ago. The first worlds to travel and settle were the Major Species. Those Major species fell in and out of power. They passed off power, keeping the center of the map rotating like a fiery ring of suns. They stretched their reach as far as they could. But new planets were always being discovered. New life. New civilizations (p.51).
Humans are only a minor species in this world, and Tula is looked upon with suspicion and disdain when she first arrives at Yertina Feray, but she gradually gains many aliens respect as she deals and trades in favours on the station. For the most part, Tula stays out of the larger politics that govern the station and the galaxy, but she is about to realize how her revenge and the larger world are connected.
The political planning in Tin Star was intricate. It was fascinating to see how the world was established and who gains power and how this power changes hands. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of this type of plot line in novels; however, I think because this storyline was combined with such an interesting character, I was happy to learn more about this world.
Tula Bane is a character with many facets. At first glance she’s skirting the law on the station by working with Heckleck; she’s an almost criminal. However, when the humans arrive on the station, you realize that there is so much more to Tula. She’s been without human contact for years and this has changed her completely. In some ways, Tula is just as much an alien as the other species on the station. It was fascinating to see how Tula’s interactions with the humans are played out.
While I loved how Tin Star combined a political sci-fi thriller with a character-driven plot, I could have used more interaction with Tula and the other characters in the novel, especially the aliens. If there is a weakness in Tin Star is would have to be Tula’s relationship’s with others. While Tula is connected to some, these relationships come across a little wooden since readers don’t really “see” the interaction between Tula and others. One specific example that comes to mind is Tula’s complicated relationship with Tournour. Tournour is the head of security at the station and over the years he’s dealt with Tula and her almost-criminal ways and they seem to have developed a friendship. Readers don’t really see a lot of this friendship, so when I got to the end, I felt thrown for a loop with regards to the relationship. I think a little more “show” and less “tell” of the relationships Tula has had with the aliens would have went a long way in understanding the ending.
Overall, I loved Tin Star and I will be recommending it to fans of sci-fi. This isn’t your average teen romance in space, this was something much more complex and I was kept continually guessing throughout the whole novel. This was a wonderful character study of a complex young woman and I cannot wait to see how Tula changes in the next book.