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.
The reason that I picked up Ana of California is solely due to the fact that it’s a reimagining of one of my favourite books, Anne of Green Gables. AsThe reason that I picked up Ana of California is solely due to the fact that it’s a reimagining of one of my favourite books, Anne of Green Gables. As always with retellings there is some (or a lot) of risk involved in taking on a book that is beloved by so many people. For the most part, I think Ana of California says true to the essence of Anne while standing alone as it’s own work.
Ana was orphaned followed the murder of her parents and then her grandmother by gang members in L.A. For years Ana has been bouncing around foster care until her social worker offers her a last chance in a farming program. If Ana works on a farm until she turns sixteen she just might be able to get herself emancipated. Ana knows that she has to make this new situation work, and she knows this means keeping her mouth shut more often than not. Of course, this is not always easy for Ana.
Emmett and Abbie Garber are a brother and sister duo that have been running the family farm; however, times have been tough in more ways than the financial. Abbie makes the decision to take part in the farm program that brings Ana to them. Unlike Emmett, Abbie is thrilled to have Ana living with them, appreciating both Ana’s hard work and her positive presence. Of course, having read Anne of Green Gables it's clear that Ana's growing relationship with the Garber's is going to hit some pretty significant roadblocks.
For those that have read Anne of Green Gables the plot of Ana of California isn’t surprising; it follows Anne in broad strokes. That said, Ana was her own character. Yes, she Anne Shirley-esque with her rambling words and imaginative spirit, but Ana was also her own character, which I thought was a good move on the author’s part. I’m a big Anne fan, but I don’t want to read the exact same story. With Ana of California the author succeeds in modernizing a classic tale for existing fans while also crafting an engrossing story for readers unfamiliar with Anne.
As much as I enjoyed Ana of California I did find that the ending was a bit rushed and unbalanced in comparison to the first three quarters of the book. There was so much care evident in the first part of the book in how Ana and the Garbers were introduced to readers, then all the sudden readers are thrown new characters of Rye (a.k.a. Diana from Anne) and Cole (a.k.a. Gilbert from Anne) who were not explored with the same depth that Abbie and Emmett were. Abbie and Emmett were fabulous and I only wish that as much time would have been spent on Rye and Cole. For me Ana of California needed to be longer.
For fellow rabid Anne of Green Gables fans, I think you'll appreciate this homage to a classic. Ana of California pays tribute to a classic but also offers an engrossing coming-of-age tale of a funny, endearing and quirky heroine.
For the second installment of Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, readers are introduced to a new and forOriginally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
For the second installment of Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, readers are introduced to a new and formidable character, Thorn Bathu. Thorn is the only young woman training to become a warrior, hoping to avenge the death of her father. When she accidentally kills a man during training, her death appears imminent. However, Father Yarvi swoops in and saves the day, but not without his own ulterior motives. Anyone who’s read book one will remember that Yarvi is a manipulative young man, and that certainly hasn’t changed in book two.
Accompanying Thorn on her travels with Father Yarvi is Brand, a young warrior that was left behind for speaking out. Of course, like Thorn, Brand also has his uses in Yarvi’s plans…
Half the World is the middle book of a trilogy and while it certainly sets the stage for the final battle, this one stands strongly on its own. What makes this one work so well is that it introduces readers to new characters. Thorn and Brand are both caught up in Father Yarvi’s schemes but this only plays a small part in Half the World. Rather, with Thorn and Brand we dive into the murky waters of what makes a hero. Like Abercrombie’s other novels, using such labels as “heroic” are quickly muddied since to be a hero means many things. As always, this look at the harsh reality of violence is much appreciated.
Both Thorn and Brand were interesting characters. Thorn was the strong, violent warrior and it’s Brand that’s ruled more by his conscious. However, both characters are more than they appear. Thorn for all her outward confidence and bloodthirsty nature, is just as vulnerable as others:
She was a killer, that there was no denying.
She hunched over as if she’d been punched in the guts and coughed thin puke into the grass, straightened shivering, and staring, with the world too bright and her knees all a-wobble and her eyes swimming.
She was a killer. And she wanted her mother (p. 155).
And Brand, for all his outward weaknesses, fears and seeming dullness, was strong in his convictions. He didn’t always do the right thing, but when push came to shove, he refused to back down.
The contrast between Thorn and Brand was obvious, and it added to the exploration of what it means to be a hero, a question that was asked throughout the book. Thorn and Brand both offer different aspects of the heroic, neither are conventional but it makes for an engaging and compelling story.
What I also thought was well executed was the use of multiple perspectives in Half the World. Instead of focusing on Yarvi, the central character of book one, readers are given two new characters: Thorn and Brand. The use of new characters added so much more to this trilogy, adding layers to an already complex world. Abercrombie excels at using multiple perspectives and this is no different in Half the World. In some fantasy books the use of a slew of characters can be confusing, but I thought this was handled extremely well in Half a World. Thorn and Brand offered up different parts of the story, making for a richer exploration of the larger conflict that is happening in Abercrombie’s world.
Half the World was an excellent book on it’s own and outstanding middle book to a trilogy. So often the middle book to a trilogy falls flat and this was not the cause in Half the World. I think I might even like Half the World better than the first, in part, due to the fact that it focused more on the characters than the larger conflict. I can only assume that the strong writing and characterization continues in the final book. ...more
Before the Thorskards came to Trondheim, we didn't have a permanent dragon slayer. When a dragon attacked, you had to petition town hall (assuming itBefore the Thorskards came to Trondheim, we didn't have a permanent dragon slayer. When a dragon attacked, you had to petition town hall (assuming it wasn't on fire), and they would send to Toronto (assuming the phone lines weren't on fire), and Queen's Park would send out one of the government dragon slayers (assuming nothing in Toronto was on fire). By the time the dragon slayer arrived, anything not already lit on fire in the original attack would be, and whether the dragon was eventually slayed or not, we'd be struck with reconstruction. Again.
Needless to say, when it was announced that Lottie Thorskard was moving to town permanently, it was like freaking Mardi Gras (p. 1).
The Story of Owen is an absolutely brilliant YA fantasy. It was smart, original, and entertaining and leaves you looking for more from bard-in-training,
, and her dragon slayer, Owen Thorskard.
Siobhan is your average high school student. She gets good grades and is intent in her focus on music composition, determined to get into a good musical school. However, all of Siobhan's career aspirations change when her rural town of Trondheim gets it's very own dragon slayer.
Owen Thorskard's very famous family has moved to Trondhiem following his aunt's retirement. Officially, it's Owen's father that is the town's dragon slayer, but really it's a family affair. Of course, the arrival of the Thorskards in Trondheim has the small rural community in an uproar. Siobhan doesn't expect to be involved in any of it, but all that changes when she happens to meet Owen on his first day at her high school. Suddenly Siobhan finds herself right in the middle of dragon slaying with her very own job to do. Siobhan is called to be Owen's bard, the teller of his heroic feats. But there's much more to it that simply telling a good yarn, Siobhan has also been recruited because of Owen's aunt's determination to change the world of dragon slaying. They want to return to the ways of old, move away from the commercialized and privatized career that dragon slaying has become.
Of course Siobhan's role in changing the face of dragon slaying arrives sooner than expected when Trondhiem is plagued by an increased number of dragon attacks. Owen has to step up to the plate as a dragon slayer much sooner than expected, bringing Siobhan along on this adventure.
I was completely blown away by The Story of Owen. This was an amazing story. It was fun, unique and downright smart. The first thing that caught my attention was the world that Johnston has created. In this version of Canada dragons just are. Dragons are a part of daily life and have been forever. This has impacted industry, historical events, everything down the daily lives of those that co-exist alongside these dragons. This is why dragon slayers are needed. They protect those that cannot fight off the dragons. However, over the years the position of dragon slayer has become privatized. Dragon slayers no longer simply protect their hometown, they are required to enlist with the Oil Watch and are paid big bucks to protect what they're told to. This means many small towns, like Trondhiem, are left unprotected by dragon attacks because they cannot afford to provide the same financial incentives as larger cities and corporations. Me thinks it's quite significant that dragon slayers are employed by the Oil Watch. Could this perhaps be a comment on current events? Yes, I think so.
I loved how Johnston created a rich fantasy world. Current and historical events were blended together so well with the addition of dragons, it was impossible not to see the larger social commentary that was being made (i.e. privatization, commercialization). What makes this a particularly strong book is that something is being said about the world, but the book still remains a fun and fast-paced read.
In addition to the fact that The Story of Owen is more than a simple story, the style of the story and the characters that exist in it are also well crafted. The entire book is narrated by Siobhan in her role as Owen's bard. She is recounting events after the fact but this doesn't lessen the action that is happening. This style of narration also allows for Siobhan to unravel for the readers the world in which dragons exist. It was a different style of narration, Siobhan is "speaking" directly with readers, but it was engaging and refreshing.
The characters of Siobhan and Owen are also what makes the story. Given the title and the subject you'd assume that Owen is the hero, and to an extent he is. He's not the expected hero. Siobhan originally describes him as a bit scrawny and he's not particularly good at school. But I loved the fact that Owen wasn't the expected hero, it once again highlighted the fact that The Story of Owen was something a little different. While Owen is the dragon slayer, I think you can also argue that it is Siobhan who is the real hero of The Story of Owen. It's her story after all, she's the storyteller, without her there would be no story. And while Siobhan is no dragon slayer, she is a dedicated friend to Owen and makes some hard choices because of that. I love that being a bard becomes Siobhan's vocation. It's more than a lark to her, it becomes a career choice and that dedication means Siobhan is forced to make sacrifices for it.
The Story of Owen was such a unique reading experience. It was different from all the romance-infused YA that's out right now (not that I have a problem with those kinds of books) and I think that it will appeal to a wide audience. The fact that this is a thought-provoking read and it's Canadian connection wins a lot of points with me. I'm left wanting more and I can't wait to read it's sequel, Prairie Fire.
“Follow my lead, Miss Rook,” Jackaby said, rapping on the ornately trimmed door to 1206 Campbell Street. Were my employer a standard private investiga“Follow my lead, Miss Rook,” Jackaby said, rapping on the ornately trimmed door to 1206 Campbell Street. Were my employer a standard private investigator, those might have been simple instructions, but in the time I’ve been his assistant, I’ve found very little about Jackaby to be standard. Following his lead tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality. (p. 10)
After successfully solving the case in the previous book, Jackaby and Miss Rook are called upon to investigate the theft of a dinosaur head at a nearby dig in Gad’s Valley. Abigail, who once dreamed of being a paleontologist, is thrilled to be near an exciting new discovery. However, it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary dinosaur. Something supernatural is disturbing the site and once again Jackaby and Abigail are on the case, aided by shape shifting police officer, Charlie Barker.
What I like about this series is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously; at least when it comes to the paranormal stuff. Shape shifting fish just are. As are dragons and Charles Darwin’s “real” discoveries. Throw in two great characters in Jackaby and Abigail and you have a recipe for success. Jackaby’s complete obtuseness when it comes to perceiving the thoughts/feelings of other people is funny and endearing. But what really shines in Beastly Bones is the character of Abigail Rook.
Abigail is a kind of Watson character, narrating the adventures of Jackaby such as the way that Watson records Sherlock’s adventures. In Beastly Bones she’s mostly settled into her new life as Jackaby’s assistant, and although she has had some missteps, she wants to prove herself as a valuable member of Jackaby’s team.
Interestingly, Abigail feels a bit conflicted when it comes to her budding relationship with the young police officer, Charlie. On the one hand, she has won her hard-earned independence and has no inclination to give that up. On the other hand, well, Charlie makes her heart race. Can she have both a career and romance? Considering the historical setting of Beastly Bones, the answer for Abigail would generally be thought to be “no”, and that’s the answer that Abigail herself believes. However, Abigail receives some advice from an unlikely source: Jackaby. For a character that remains somewhat aloof he certainly provides some support to Abigail when needed.
The dynamic between Jackaby and Abigail is another fantastic part of this series. Here we have a true partnership. Jackaby is the eccentric one and Abigail the grounded one. Together, they make a formidable investigative duo. It’s always nice (and refreshing) to see a duo that is not romantically motivated and that is the case here with Abigail and Jackaby. Let's keep this up!
The snappy dialogue and outlandish plot make Beastly Bones an absolute pleasure to read. By the end readers are left wanting more and the premise for Jackaby and Abigail’s next adventure is set. I, for one cannot wait to read more, especially now that Abigail has come into her own as a real investigator.
Some girls work in shops or sell flowers. Some girls find husbands and play house. I assist a mad detective in investigating unexplained phenomena – like fish that ought to be cats but seem to have forgotten how. My name is Abigail Rook, and this is what I do. (p. 17)
Curtsies & Conspiracies is Carriger's second book in her YA Finishing School series. Sophronia, our intrepid spy-in-training, has settled into lifCurtsies & Conspiracies is Carriger's second book in her YA Finishing School series. Sophronia, our intrepid spy-in-training, has settled into life at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality; however, that's not to say that school life has become routine. In fact, Sophronia's closest friend, Dimity, faces kidnapping and it seems that the teachers are all bent on some sort of conspiracy. Never a dull day at Mademoiselle Geraldine's.
Like the first book, Etiquette & Espionage, I also listened to this one on audiobook. Once again, I have to say that the narration was inspired. Moria Quirk really brings life to her narration immersing the listener right into Carriger's paranormal world. Quirk's narration just makes this a really fun read. The madcap nature of Curtsies & Conspiracies is what works to this series's advantage. The premise of a finishing school training it's young ladies to become spies/assassins is absolutely outrageous as are the techniques that the ladies are instructed upon. This deliberate foray into the absurd is what I like most about the series. It's quirky and fun and pure escapism.
Like the first book in the series, I didn't really find that there was that much depth to the characters. Sophronia continues to be the best girl in the school, although I think there are hints of her character maturing. I like the fact that Sophronia is starting to question the implications of her future as a spy and who exactly will be buying her services. I'd be interested in exploring this more fully throughout the series as I suspect being a spy will not be as fun as Sophronia thinks it will be.
What has also changed in book two is the hint of romance. Sophronia is torn between two young men, one suitable, and one most definitely not. This love triangle doesn't play a huge role in the novel, rather is Sophronia's adventures in discovering what's really motivating the school's excursion to London. But it is very clear that Sophronia is aware of her charms and not always above using them to her advantage.
I don't think the Finishing School series is for everyone; I think it's too tongue-in-cheek for some readers. But if you like the madcap, this remains a fun read. For myself, I find that I need a bit of a break from the series, so I wont be moving on to the third book just yet.
Tomorrow's Kingdom concludes Fergus' Gypsy King trilogy, and it once again picks up from where book two left off, so fair warning, there are spoilersTomorrow's Kingdom concludes Fergus' Gypsy King trilogy, and it once again picks up from where book two left off, so fair warning, there are spoilers for the previous books ahead. If you want to avoid them, see my reviews for book one and book two.
In Tomorrow's Kingdom Persephone has been separated from her husband, Azriel, after she goes to confront Mordecai on her own. Persephone now has to escape the evil and lecherous Mordecai's clutches, and it's going to take some daring and ingenuity. And when she finally does gain her freedom, Persephone has an even more difficult task ahead of her: taking back her thrown. There's no simple married life ahead for Persephone and Azriel, they've got an army to raise and kingdom to save, not to mention wading through the political machinations of the old council. An added complication for this young queen is the fact that she's pregnant. Now, I don't think I've ever encountered a YA novel where the heroine is pregnant and the novel's not an "issue book". Personally, I'm not sure how I feel about it, and I have to admit that I found it surprising. What I do appreciate is Persephone's reaction to having a child, she's not exactly comfortable about it:
The night Cairn had first shown Persephone the sketch of the girl who was supposedly going to help set the prophesied Gypsy King upon his throne - the girl who so resembled her and Rachel - Persephone has seen her dream of freedom without entanglements put at considerable risk. But that risk was nothing compared to the risk posed by a baby. For what was a baby but a lifelong entanglement - a crying, hungry set of fetters? (p. 21)
I really like the fact that Persephone is conflicted, it added a much-needed element of realism. Persephone is a teenager, one that's had to grow up fast, to be sure, but a teenager none-the-less. And a teenager is likely to be less excited about the prospect of motherhood, especially when their in the circumstances that Persephone is in. I also liked that Persephone's anxiety of motherhood is also related to her experiences as a slave. She's always aspired to freedom, and having a child is not going to allow for that. But, Persephone has changed a lot since book one and she learns to put others before herself, after all, becoming queen is not going to provide her with the type of freedom that she's always craved. Persephone has to make some sacrifices in order to fulfill the prophecy of bringing forth the gypsy queen. While I can't help but wish Persephone got the true freedom she's always wanted, I loved this type of character development.
So why haven't a rated this one higher? Alas, I really struggled to get through Tomorrow's Kingdom. I was really disappointed with the continued use of the villain's point of view. Readers are treated to Mordecai and the devious Lord Bartok's thought process and I really felt that they slowed the plot considerably. It was really easy for me to set my book down when I got to these chapters, and unfortunately, it wasn't as easy to pick the book back up.
Further, I also felt that the villains were caricatures rather than fully fleshed out villains. They're plans were diabolical and over the top and I thought they stretched the imagination too far. For example, Mordecai gets it into his head that he's going to lead the army, but I'm not sure I buy the fact that he wields so much power. The council is always lamenting the fact that he's low born, I'm just not sure that I believe he would ever gain the type of power he has, at least without it be unchecked. Why would the council allow for this? Why didn't they remove him from power? Why do the New Men follow him? For me, the lack of explanation for Mordecai's rise to power was a plot hole and one that became more obvious in book three.
I was also off-put by the continued mentioning of women being abused. The villains continually mentioned how they wanted to use Persephone for their own bids to the throne, and would use force as necessary. I thought this discussion of women being sexually assaulted was heavy handed. While I don't doubt that this could happen, it was over emphasized and troubling. There was something a little disturbing about these themes being juxtaposed with Persephone's relationship with her husband.
When the villains weren't talking about how they would use Persephone, Persephone and Azriel were constantly jumping into bed. Now, I've been a fan of the romance in this series from the start, but it did not live up to expectations in book three. Azriel seemed like window dressing in Tomorrow's Kingdom. He was around and Persephone was enjoying her time with him, but that's it. Azriel did heroic stuff, but where were the great conversation between these two that made book one so awesome? There was no real development in their relationship, and it was so disappointing from a romance perspective.
Ultimately, I felt a little disappointed with Tomorrow's Kingdom. The first book in this series started off so strong. It was funny and action packed; I couldn't put it down. I really wanted to do same for the last book in the trilogy, but I felt that this book lost it's steam. While I recognize the fact that the third book can't be the same as the first, there has to be momentum, I really would have liked to have seen more of what I loved about book one. Namely, the humour that contrasted so sharply with the despair and harsh realities of this world. I'm happy to have finished the trilogy and know that the conflict has been resolved, I just wasn't as excited with the book as I expected to be.
Last week I reviewed The Gypsy King, and LOVED it! It was a great YA fantasy adventure, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on book two, A Fool'sErraLast week I reviewed The Gypsy King, and LOVED it! It was a great YA fantasy adventure, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on book two, A Fool'sErrand. It was fantastic to be able to dive right in to book two, especially considering the big reveal at the end of book one, so readers be warned, there are spoilers ahead for book one.
A Fool's Errand picks up right after the events of The Gypsy King. Persephone and Azriel are fleeing from the villainous Regent, Mordecai, when everyone learns that Persephone is the lost twin sister of the king, and she's also the true heir to the thrown. Mordecai is none too happy that Persephone was not taken care of the night she was born (ie. murdered), and has no intention of letting her disrupt his own plans to overthrown her brother and claim the crown for himself. The mustache twirling continues...
Before Mordecai can murder Persephone, Azriel does some quick thinking and tells Mordecai that he knows how to find the Pool of Genezing, a treasure that Mordecai covets even more than the thrown. While this saves both their lives, it's complicated by the fact that no one actually knows where the healing pool is and Persephone and Azriel are only give one hundred days to find it, or the true king will be killed.
Persephone and Azriel immediately depart for parts unknown, but of course, a quest is never that straight forward, and theirs is complicated by an impromptu marriage, bloodthirsty villains, and uncooperative weather. It soon becomes clear that finding the healing pool just might be next to impossible, if it exists at all, and the hundred days are quickly disappearing. A Fool's Errand continues with the elements that I loved so much in book one. Persephone is a great heroine, she's prickly and not exactly happy about the events that happen on her quest. But, unlike in book one, Persephone starts to change. She's no longer quite as distrustful of others as she was in the first book. She's still not comfortable relying on others, but she does start to put the needs of others before her own. I loved seeing this progression with this character and I think her conflicting wants made her a well-developed and interesting character.
What I also found interesting about A Fool's Errand is the juxtaposition of a more childish tale (ie. the quest element) and the more adult themes. The central idea of the quest for a mythical healing pool didn't scream adult fantasy to me, and actually makes me think more of the middle grade fantasy books that I've read. I liked the quest element and I think it's a lot of fun in many books, and I do think it worked in A Fool's Errand. But what I was surprised at was how this less mature plot device co-existed beside some very mature themes. In particular, I'm thinking of Mordecai's lecherous ways and recurrent threat of rape of the young women in the story. I'm not convinced that these two elements meshed well together, and this somewhat awkward pairing makes this a four star and not a five star read.
I also found that the use of multiple perspectives slowed down the pacing of A Fool's Errand. With the first book, I flew through the pages. In book two, the increased emphasis on Mordecai and his general's perspective really slowed down the book. They're both so dastardly, it was hard to want to read those chapters. I am hoping that the focus will be back to primarily Persephone in the final book.
The last thing that I'll mention is the romance element in A Fool's Errand. I will admit that I liked it, and I think it will appeal to a lot of romance fans; however, that means this title will not go over well with non-romance fans. I don't think this trilogy is a good choice for a wide audience, but will please a certain type of reader, one that I am. Persephone and Azriel have a rocky road ahead of them in book two. At the end of book one, Persephone has lied and betrayed Azriel, and he's certainly not happy with Persephone. I liked the fact that Persephone struggles with a relationship and I think her struggle is realistic. She was a slave, and she doesn't have much experience in trusting others. Luckily her handsome chicken thief seems to understand that about Persephone and is patient with her. That said, I personally think this romance would be stronger with the inclusion of Azriel's point of view (we have the villain's p.o.v. bogging it down after all!) since readers have to rely on Persephone's interpretation of Azriel's intentions. It would have been nice to have been inside Azriel's head and see his thought process in dealing with Persephone.
Ultimately, I thought A Fool's Errand was a solid follow-up to The Gypsy King. I think it will please fans of the first one, and the cliffhanger ending will leave readers clamoring for the last book, Tomorrow's Kingdom (good thing I have it sitting on my bedside table).
I've been aware of this trilogy for quite awhile, and now that the final book has been out since July 2014, I decided to finally have a look. There'sI've been aware of this trilogy for quite awhile, and now that the final book has been out since July 2014, I decided to finally have a look. There's something really nice about having the entire set in your hands, and knowing that when you finish one book, there's not a year long wait until the next publication date.
I had some idea of what to expect out of The Gypsy King. It's fantasy and you tend to expect certain things in this genre. I figured we're have a quest and a prophecy; your standard fantasy fare. What I didn't expect was the humour! This was downright funny at times. The interactions between the heroine, Persephone, and the young man that "rescues" her, Azriel, is hysterical.
Persephone and Azriel did not have a great first meeting, as Persephone catches Azriel red-handed steeling the chicken of her owner (yes, owner, more on this later). Right from the start, Persephone and Azriel have some comical exchanges. Even when threatening the handsome thief at knife point, both can't help but be humorous:
"I'm not afraid to use this, you know!"
"And I'm not afraid to use this, " he replied genially as he reached over her broad shoulder to pull a much larger dagger from the scabbard that was evidently strapped to his back. "In fact," he added, in an almost nostalgic voice, "I've seven corpses to this blade."
"Really?" sniffed Persephone, feigning indifference. "I've ten to this one."
The thief grinned at the lie. "Excellent!" he said. "We'll be well matched then. Come, step out of the shadows. Let us fight to the death. If I win, I get myself a fine, fat chicken dinner and if you win - "
"You will leave Mrs. Busby alone and depart at once!" said Persephone fiercely.
There was a long moment of silence. Then, in a rather mystified voice, the thief asked, "Who is Mrs. Busby?"
Without thinking, Persephone gestured toward the chicken in his arms.
"I...see," said the thief. He looked to one side and then to the other before tilting his head toward her and solemnly inquiring, "Tell me, Mistress, do you name all creatures or just the ones that taste good with gravy and potatoes?" (p. 10-11)
The author excels as including great moments of levity between Persephone and Azriel, and I really liked this unexpected lightness. I thought the strong sense of humour throughout was a great balance to the overall darkness of the book. As a slave and as a woman, Persephone is constantly vulnerable to those around her. The lack of agency that it part of Persephone's identity as a slave, is the element that I was most uncertain about. There was the potential for the use of this characteristic to be used in a gratuitous manner, with the violence that accompanies that. While Fergus never shies away from the harsh realities of slavery, she tempers that with elements of humour and considers the age of those likely reading this book.
I also felt that Persephone's identity as a former slave governed many of her actions throughout The Gypsy King. Persephone has not trusted anyone in a long time and she is understandable mistrustful of even the idea of relying on someone else. At time this was a frustrating quality, as Persephone lies to those helping her because she's afraid of being hurt, but it still makes sense. This distrustful personality was not resolved in The Gypsy King, and I think it's something that's going to play a big part of the next two books in the trilogy, especially in the romance department.
Speaking of the romance, I have to admit I thought it was adorable. As I've mentioned, Persephone and Azriel have some comical exchanges. From the beginning it's clear that Azriel likes and cares for Persephone, but Persephone is extremely reluctant to return those feelings and would rather be independent than explore the relationship. Azriel was patient with Persephone, but I think her reluctance to commit is going to be a problem. The only thing I would have liked is to have gotten Azriel's point of view and his thoughts on Persephone. Readers have to rely on Persephone's interpretation of Azriel's "looks" and in cases like that, I'm always left feeling that there's a narrative that's missing.
On to the villain. Regent Mordecai is quite the bad guy. He's out of touch with reality and if he had a mustache, he'd be twirling it. In some ways I found that Mordecai is a bit of a caricature of a villain. Mordecai's behaviour is so outrageous and extreme; he seems very much an exaggerated classic villain, even his physical appearance is over the top:
Many miles away, at the southernmost tip of the kingdom, in a sumptuously appointed room in a splendid seaside castle, a man slouched before a blazing fire.
He didn't slouch because he was tired or lazy or old - he slouched because his cruelly twisted back made it impossible for him to sit straight and tall like other men. It also made it impossible for him to square his thin, uneven shoulders, throw out his wasted chest and hold his head high with ease. Sometimes, if he drew upon every last drop of his formidable willpower, he could temporarily keep from bending his neck and bobbing his head like a turkey vulture, but after only a short while the strain of doing so made him want to scream in agony. This was particularly true if he was trying to walk at the same time, for the legs that protruded from beneath the hem of his luxurious, fur-trimmed robe were crooked and withered. One crumbled foot turned in - the result of a near-fatal childhood illness - and one leg was considerably shorter than the other. Together, these deformities accounted for his awkward, lurching gait, which was so utterly lacking in dignity (p. 31-32).
Mordecai's villany very clearly manifests itself in his physical appearance, and his thought process demonstrates his lack of awareness with reality. I'm curious as to whether or not Mordecai will be given more dimension in the next two books in the series. As it stands, the bad guy is a simplified character and he's easy to dislike. I can't help but think there's usually more behind this kind of behaviour in real life, and I'm curious if the author is going to address this. I can't say I'll be overly disappointed if it's not addressed; at the end of the day I'm reading the trilogy for the heroes not the villains.
Lastly, the ending of this books makes me extremely glad that I have the next two books in my hands. The Gypsy King ended with some pretty significant reveals, which I will not spoil here. I cannot way to dive into book two and see how this impacts Persephone since I don't think she's going to be thrilled about the changes to come or willing to accept her true birthright.
Ultimately, The Gypsy King is a great fantasy read. The heroes are dynamic, and in a world filled with threats, the author consistently shows the ability to include lighthearted and humourous moments to temper the despair. I will be back for book two, and I recommend that everyone else pick this trilogy up post-haste.
Daughter of Dusk is the sequel to Blackburne’s Midnight Thief, featuring Kyra, who is now a reformed thief. After falling in wiMore like 3.5 stars.
Daughter of Dusk is the sequel to Blackburne’s Midnight Thief, featuring Kyra, who is now a reformed thief. After falling in with a bad crowd in book one (yeah, training with the Assassin’s Guild was probably not a good idea, especially if you’re squeamish about killing people), Kyra now finds herself in an uneasy alliance with the Palace. This alliance is tense as Kyra has learned the truth about her parents. It just so happens that Kyra’s related to the Demon Riders that the Palace is trying to take down. Secrets and intrigue, folks. Bonus points for a girl that changes into a cat-like creature.
Working with Kyra is Tristam, a disgraced palace guard who happens to know Kyra’s secret. Of course there’s a lot more going on than Kyra’s secret as a cat shifter. There’s politics at work and Kyra and Tristam have to make a decision about what side they are on. Will Kyra betray the Makvani or will she stand with the Palace as they try to destroy them? And just what exactly is Kyra going to do about Tristam? So many feelings!
Daughter of Dusk has all the right ingredients to make this a great YA fantasy book. There’s a lot of stuff going on in Daughter of Dusk and it’s the perfect read for those that like their books filled with action. However, that’s not to say that the author doesn’t craft great characters. In particular, I liked how Tristam undergoes this private struggle. On one hand, he’s been disgraced because of the events in book one and because of that he really would like to redeem himself and continue to move up through the ranks. On the other hand, Tristam really likes Kyra, and that fact is complicated not only by the fact that she’s occasionally a cat, but also due to her status as a commoner. Tristam has to deal with his residual fear of Kyra’s people as well as the potential fallout if he persues a relationship with her.
Like Tristam, Kyra also struggles with her identity in Daughter of Dusk. Kyra is now more open to exploring her heritage, but she can’t help but fear what she is.
Our blood could bring you strength, but instead it feeds your fear. That does not make you someone I would be proud to call my own (p. 228).
Kyra wants to help bring about a peaceful negotiation between the Palace and the Makvani and she’s uniquely positioned to do so, but embracing that part of herself is extremely difficult for Kyra. The uncertainty that grips both Kyra and Tristam was well done and I think it’s a theme that will resonate with readers.
So why is this not a five-star read? At the risk of sounding like a total, stereotypical girl, I have to admit that I was really hoping for a stronger romance. In book one the romance between Kyra and Tristam didn’t really get started, but in Daughter of Dusk, it seems that their relationship has progressed while readers weren’t looking. For me, there wasn’t enough development of the relationship between Kyra and Tristam and it appeared that these feelings appeared with very little motivation. It didn’t help that Kyra and Tristam didn’t interact all that much in Daughter of Dusk, the focus was firmly on larger concerns, like impending war. While I don’t dispute the necessity or gravity of the events that Kyra and Tristam were dealing with, I personally felt that something was missing when it came to the romance aspect. For me, the intrigue plot came at the expense of the romance plot. But, I am a romance reader at heart, and I suspect those that are less fond of the romance genre will actually like the fact that romance was not the main focus of this book.
Daughter of Dusk was a good sequel to The Midnight Thief and I liked the theme of identity and how the author explored the ramifications of choosing a side in war. The characters were all well developed and the world that Blackburne has created was well executed. If you enjoyed the first book, I can’t see how you could possibly not like Daughter of Dusk.
Looks like I am in the small minority of those who did not like The Walled City.
First off, I'm not a fan of realistic fiction, but since this one hadLooks like I am in the small minority of those who did not like The Walled City.
First off, I'm not a fan of realistic fiction, but since this one had more of a dystopian vibe, I thought I would give something new a try. While I would certainly recommend this to readers, I personally didn't like it. It was dark and depressing, and not what I was looking for. I didn't finish reading the book.
The other aspect that bothered me was the multiple perspectives. Generally, this is something that I really like, but here, I found that each character seemed so...basic. Again, I didn't finish the book, so I don't know if this remained the case after 100 pages in, but I felt each of the main characters seemed simplistic and more of a "type" than a person.
Ultimately, I'm glad that I know about the book, and I have no reservations about recommending it to readers looking for something realistic or even those looking for something fresh after reading every dystopian book out there. My reservations come from the fact that I typically don't read books like this because they're not something I enjoy reading.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley. ...more
Arcana is a historical fantasy set in Edwardian London. Katherine Sinclair has always been an unconventional young lady, but when she presses her luckArcana is a historical fantasy set in Edwardian London. Katherine Sinclair has always been an unconventional young lady, but when she presses her luck one time too many, her father decides it’s time for her to make her societal debut. At eighteen, Katherine chafes at the restrictions placed on her by virtue of her sex and station. And if these restrictions weren’t enough, Katherine also struggles with the necessity to keep her magical abilities secret. Only her family knows her true abilities, and keeping them hidden during the season, just might be more than she can manage. Being branded as a witch is no way to win a husband.
Smoothing Katherine’s way into society is the notorious Earl of Thornewood, a reputed rake, with a lot of social pull. The Earl both infuriates and enthralls Katherine. But the question is whether or not she can trust him with her secret ability (he's hot, and she just might want to marry him). Katherine has been warned by her late mother to beware potential suitors. She will meet two, and only one of them will be what they appear. Soon enough Katherine is thrust into society and is pulled between two very different men. With the Earl, Katherine is leery of his reputation, but the man that her grandmother is pushing her towards just might be the greater danger. Add in a jealous debutant and Katherine’s season is not quite as dull as she might have expected.
Arcana was an interesting book and not really what I was expecting. On the one hand, it had a strong fantasy element to it. Katherine’s mother is from an alternative world where these abilities that harness the power of the light are commonplace. In England, Katherine has to make sure that she always keeps her powers under wraps, but at the same time she cannot help but use them, especially if it means helping someone in danger.
The other strong element in Arcana is the historical component. The setting is opulent and there’s no question that Katherine is a daughter of privilege and restricted by this status as well. I liked the historical setting and I was often reminded of the historical romance genre. In fact, I would say that I liked the historical element more than I liked the fantasy. Personally, I found the fantasy element to be a little heavy handed. The alternate world and Katherine’s powers were not fully fleshed out, in my opinion. I don’t feel that I have a good grasp on the reason behind the magical powers, they just seemed to exist for the sake of the plot. Ultimately, I thought the fantasy element could have been better integrated into the plot, but perhaps it’s the author’s way of opening up to a series. I have no idea if this will be a series, so don’t take my word for it, I certainly see the potential for a series.
I also thought that the villains and the conflict was a little predictable and simplistic. The warnings from Katherine’s mother via a magical journal were unnecessary when it was very clear from the beginning just who the villain was. It was Katherine that didn’t seem to have any clue who to trust, not readers.
Lastly, I’ll also mention the romance. If you’re worried about the love-triangle possibility, don’t be. It’s very clear early on just who Katherine is going to end up with (or who she would prefer to end up with), and don’t worry it’s not the villain. There’s nothing remarkable about Katherine’s relationship with the Earl, he’s mysterious and brooding and Katherine is conflict and convinced that no man will want her after learning of her powers. What I did like about the romance was the banter between Katherine and Thornewood as it was rather amusing. Katherine was never afraid to give the Earl some attitude, and predictably, her lack of simpering intrigues the jaded lord. It may not be original, but it works, and it works well in Arcana.
Arcana was an interesting teen read, and for the most part I enjoyed it. I loved the historical setting and the opulence of Katherine’s class. There is no question that I’m a historical romance fan, so that part of this novel really appealed to me. Even the predictable nature of the plot was okay; sometimes it’s comforting not to have surprises in your reading. The weakest part of this book was the fantastical element. I would have liked to have seen this better explained and used a something other than a means for Katherine to stand out among the bland debutantes.
Would I read another by this author? Yes. I did like the writing, and I liked Katherine’s family. It would be interesting if the author focuses on Katherine’s other siblings in another books, and if the fantasy elements were further explored, I think there is a potential for future novels to be stronger and more complex than Arcana.
Having read the first book in the Lovegrove Legacy series, I was really looking forward to book 2, Whisper the Dead. I loved the historical atmosphereHaving read the first book in the Lovegrove Legacy series, I was really looking forward to book 2, Whisper the Dead. I loved the historical atmosphere, combine that with magic, I was hooked. The multiple perspectives with the cousins also kept me intrigued and I liked that the author seems to be focusing on a specific cousin for each book. Unfortunately, I felt let down with Whisper the Dead. It was fast-paced like book 1, but in this case I felt that the book was rushed, especially in the romance department.
Gretchen Thorn is the tomboy cousin. She’d rather wear trousers and actually learn how to defend herself rather than learn embroidery and rely on men to just happen to be around to protect her. She’s not shy about her views, and this doesn’t exactly make her popular. Luckily she has great friends in her cousins Emma and Penelope, as well as a twin brother, Gideon, whom Gretchen can usually convince to go along with her antics.
Following the events of A Breath of Frost all of the cousins are being watched by the Order. The Order is not convinced by the cousin’s account of events of book 1, and have placed each of them under guard. Gretchen, unfortunately, lands herself with a guard who is more than a little stuffy and put off by Gretchen’s independent ways. Tobias Lawless lives for order and control and is surprised by Gretchen’s determination to march to the beat of her own drum. When an evil witch starts targeting the debutantes of London, these two are going to have to make some sort of compromise to put a stop to it.
I thought Whisper the Dead started out strong. Readers are plunged back into the action and Gretchen was a fun character to read about. Gretchen is impulsive and determined and I loved seeing her ruffle people’s feathers. You can’t help but feel for Gretchen and her inability to move forward in life, she’s trapped by the fact that she’s a woman. And, I also loved the concept of Gretchen's magic:
"Whispering used to be just another word for spellcasting," she continued. "To the untrained eye, a witch reciting a spell looked like she was muttering to herself. After a few years of being hanged or burned at the stake for it, we learned subtlety," she said wryly. "But Whisperers such as yourself can still hear those spells being cast. That's what the terrible sound you hear is. Hundreds of witches over hundreds of years all casting their spells at the same time." (p. 58-59).
As a whisperer, Gretchen has access to an untold number of spells, but only in controlling her ability can she access those spells and keep her sanity. For someone as impulsive as Gretchen, this kind of control and patience is a challenge. But, Gretchen's ability to learn about the spells of the past certainly come in handy on the fly, and that motivates Gretchen to gain control over her gifts.
My complaint is that I didn’t feel like anything was resolved by the end of Whisper the Dead; there were so many things left unanswered, I felt that I was missing a section of the book. In fact, Whisper the Dead was significantly shorter than A Breath of Frost.
In particular, what I felt was quite unfinished was the romance. I was expecting it and I thought it was adorable; Tobias and Gretchen made a miss-matched couple. But cuteness aside, it never really got past the infatuation stage and I was disappointed by that as I’m assuming that the author is going to focus on Penelope next in the series and Gretchen and Tobias will be left to the background. There really was only one great section where I felt that Gretchen and Tobias were moving past their initial distrust of one another, and that is when Gretchen learns of Tobias’ secret and meets his surprisingly unconventional family. I wanted more of these scenes and I think it would have made the romance stronger. As it stands, I think the author is going to have to spend some time with these two in subsequent books since their relationship status is not finished.
What I did like is the fact that the author left A LOT of great tidbits for the next book. There were some pretty dramatic events towards the end of the novel and I think those are really going to impact that next book. So, while I didn’t like this one as much as A Breath of Frost, you can guarantee that I’ll be tuning in for book 3.
The Young Elites was an unusual story set in a world that I was not expecting. I had heard of the author’s Legend trilogy and assumed that The Young EThe Young Elites was an unusual story set in a world that I was not expecting. I had heard of the author’s Legend trilogy and assumed that The Young Elites would also fit into that futuristic, dystopian genre. I am very glad that I was wrong. I enjoy teen dystopias, but at the moment, I think the market is flooded with them, so The Young Elites is a refreshing change. While The Young Elites is definitely a departure from the futuristic dystopia, it still retains many elements that I think will appeal to fans of that genre. There’s government control, racism and political machinations, what more could a dystopian fan ask for? Perhaps a unique new historical setting?
The Young Elites does have a wonderful historical setting that is unexpected and works completely with the themes that the author explores here. In this world a plague has come and gone, leaving many of the children afflicted with extraordinary abilities. As expected, those who have developed these abilities are looked upon with both disgust and opportunity.
When the blood fever first passed through, killing a third of the population and leaving scarred, deformed children everywhere, we were pitied. Poor things. Then, a few parents of malfetto children died in freak accidents. The temples called the deaths acts of demons, and condemned us. Stay away from the abominations. They’re bad fortune. So the pity toward us quickly turned to fear. The fear, mixed with our frightening appearance, became hate (p. 42).
On the one hand, the crown wants to rid the world of these “abominations”, and on the other, there are many, including the heroine's father, that want to harness those with abilities and put them to use. However, it is those with the abilities that change the tide, called The Young Elites those with special abilities are starting to come together and plan to show the crown that they will not be destroyed or used. The question is whether or not this quest will change those fighting for their rights into heroes or villains.
Sixteen-year-old Adelina Amouteru is one of those who survived the blood plague; however, she has never demonstrated any ability, much to the dismay of her father who would like to put those powers to use. Instead, her father decides that selling Adelina to the highest bidder is the only option that will result in finally ridding himself of his less favoured daughter. When Adelina catches wind of this plan, she takes her chance to escape, only to have her powers finally activate with devastating consequences for her father who attempts to bring her home.
Branded a criminal, Adelina is sentenced to death only to be rescued by those that she has held in awe for so long: The Young Elites. Adelina is liberated by a subset of the Elites, ruled by the rightful Crown Prince, Enzo Valenciano:
“I am the leader of the Dagger Society, a group of Young Elites who seek out others like ourselves before the Inquisition can. But we are not the only Elites – there are many others, I’m sure, scattered all across the world. My goal is to unite us. Burnings like yours happen every time the Inquisition thinks they’ve found a Young Elite. Some people abandon their own marked family members because they’re afraid of ‘bad luck’. The king uses malfettos as an excuse for his poor rule. As if we are to blame for the state of his impoverished nation. If we don’t fight back, the kind and his Inquisition Axis will kill us all, every child marked by fever” (p. 54).
Now that Adelina is part of the Dagger Society, she is ready to fight back. She’s been used and abused far too long by her father and she’s ready to channel that anger into something meaningful. But alongside that anger, Adelina also has an vulnerability about her. For years she’s put up with her father’s hatred of her, and aside from her sister, she’s starved for affection and a sense of belonging. Ultimately, Adelina is vulnerable to Enzo’s Society and the sense of kinship that she finds there. However, it becomes clear that appearances can be deceiving and Adelina is forced to choose between her new friends and her young sister who has been taken captive by the Inquisitors.
What I found most interesting about The Young Elites was the fact that the Elites and their subsets are essentially rebel factions fighting against a corrupt king who has ruthlessly cornered them. The Elites have had enough of this subjection, and have decided to rebel. And what I admire here is that the author doesn’t shy away from showing these rebels in a less than honourable light. Enzo and his band of companions are not black and white heroes. They are willing to kill for the cause and have killed their own to protect themselves. In a sense, this characterization was uncomfortable to read about, but it was ultimately realistic and I appreciate the careful construction of this rebel society.
The heroine, Adelina, is the best example of the lack of black-and-white characterization in the novel. Adelina is an angry young woman and her anger leaves her vulnerable to manipulation. And make no mistake, Adelina is manipulated throughout this book. First by the Inquisitor, Teren, and then by those that she believes to be her friends; people that should protect her. The initial acceptance Adelina finds is a balm to the years of abuse, and it makes her blind to the faults of the Society and their motivation for rescuing her. Adelina was a complex character and it’s heartbreaking to see how she is led astray and then betrayed over and over again by those that should be on her side. This complexity of character is what kept me interested in the novel. By the end of The Young Elites, it seems that Adelina has reached a breaking point, and I think it will be very easy for her to become a villain. I’m so curious about how the author will continue to work with this complexity. What are the lengths Adelina will go to in her rage?
Ultimately, The Young Elites is a complex teen fantasy book. Unlike many teen novels, Lu’s heroes are not conventional; they aren’t necessarily even heroic. The sense of realism that these characters demonstrate is the strongest part of this novel, and it will certainly get me back for book two. There's a lot to like here and I am impressed with the world created and the characters that inhabit it. I have no reservations about recommending this one to fantasy fans.
He had always been weak, but he never felt truly powerless until they made him a king. (p. 32)
After reading The Blade Itself I've pretty much jumpedHe had always been weak, but he never felt truly powerless until they made him a king. (p. 32)
After reading The Blade Itself I've pretty much jumped on the Joe Abercrombie bandwagon. I was quite curious to give his young adult foray a try. Would it be just as grim? Just as violent? I can't say I was necessarily disappointed, but I will admit that I didn't like it as much as The Blade Itself.
Prince Yarvi is training to become a minister, as the younger, and crippled son, he really has no other option, until his father and elder brother are killed by an enemy. Yarvi suddenly finds himself, completely unprepared, sitting on the Black Chair as king:
It took a fearsome effort to turn his head back toward the Black Chair.
Could he truly sit in it, between gods and men? He, who could hardly bring himself to touch it with his crippled joke of a hand? He made himself reach out, his breath coming shallow. Made himself lay his one trembling fingertip upon the metal.
Very cold and very hard. Just as a king must be. (p. 29)
And as king, Yarvi finds that he must vow to get revenge on the enemy that killed his father and brother, only it seems the enemy might be closer to him that he ever would have suspected.When he's betrayed, Yarvi is forced into slavery to save his skin and it changes him from the relatively pampered boy he was was to someone harder, and more willing to make the difficult choices:
Strange, how quickly a king could become an animal. Or half a king half an animal. Perhaps even those we raise highest never get that far about the mud. (p. 66)
Banding together with his fellow slaves Yarvi is able to escape and vows to get his revenge on those that betrayed him and reclaim his rightful place on the Black Chair. Adventure ensues, secrets are revealed...
The premise to this sounds so amazing, so why was I disappointed? To be honest, I found Half a King a bit of a challenge to get into and the beginning to be a bit slow. Of course the characters are compelling and interesting, but it took a while for me to be fully engaged in the story. I also have to admit that I really missed the multiple perspectives that characterized The Blade Itself. There were so many interesting people in Half a King, but readers only ever "hear" from Yarvi. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just something that I missed.
Finally, I also think the labeling of Half a King as young adult also coloured my expectations of the type of tale to expect. While you do get dark themes in YA, generally the fantasy genre subscribes to some pretty standard scripts, and usually the characters are honourable and essentially "good." That's certainly not the case with Half a King, and while I would expect that in an adult novel, it wasn't something I was really expecting in a YA. In theory I love the fact that Half a King is operating outside of expectations, but ultimately I was expecting a different type of tale with a different type of "hero." Yarvi is not your standard hero, he's not even your standard underdog hero that rises to the occasion. Yarvi is a well-developed character who's motives are not black and white, and by the end of Half a King the changes to Yarvi are evident. I'm not sure that I like the direction Yarvi is moving in, but I certainly want to find out how these changes play out in book two.
Half a King was a good start to a new trilogy and while I have some reservations about the book, I'm going to reserve judgement until I read the remaining books. For all I know, Abercrombie could turn everything around by book three, or not, but at any rate I know I will get a good story.
Raven Flight is the second in Juliet Marillier's Shadowfell trilogy. In book one, Neryn discovered she was a Caller, one who possesses the gifts to caRaven Flight is the second in Juliet Marillier's Shadowfell trilogy. In book one, Neryn discovered she was a Caller, one who possesses the gifts to call the Good Folk forward to fight on the side of the humans. It was a rough go for Neryn. She didn't know who to trust or even if she wanted to be the Caller.
In Raven Flight Neryn has come to terms with her role as the Caller and it's now time for her to hone her gifts. She's used her ability in the past, but her lack of training makes her a danger to those around her. To learn more about her abilities Neryn will need to go on a journey and learn from the four Guardians. The journey is long and time is running short. Raven Flight is your typical middle trilogy book. Quite frankly there's not a lot going on here. Once again there is a lot of traveling as Neryn goes to search for the Guardians that can teach her how to harness her abilities. A lot of time is spent on Neryn learning about her capabilities as well as her role in the larger conflict. Neryn has to come to terms with the fact that she is going to hurt and ultimately kill people with her gift, and this is a struggle for her, but a necessary lesson.
What I liked about Raven Flight is that readers get to learn more about other characters in the rebellion. In particular, Neryn is escorted on her journey by the belligerent Tali. Tali is not happy about accompanying Neryn. She is the right-hand to the leader of the rebellion and she does not want to leave him unprotected. But orders are orders, so Tali protects Neryn throughout their journey. I liked seeing more of Tali as I think she represents another element of the rebellion. She is completely focused on the ultimate goal of getting rid of the tyrant, King Keldec. Tali doesn't believe in making connections with others and she is not shy about sharing her disapproval of Neryn's relationship with Flint. In Tali's mind, there's no point in having relationships with other people; many are likely to die. However, Tali learns a hard lesson about this when someone close to her dies without knowing how she feels about them. What's the point of fighting for a future if you have no hope for it? I really liked Tali as a character. She's strong, as are her opinions, but I find her a really interesting character and I hope that she continues to have a major presence in book three.
What I was less enthused about in Raven Flight was the romance. Ugh. Not a fan of it at all. In Shadowfell Neryn found herself reluctantly forming a friendship with Flint, a double agent for the rebellion. There was a lot of back and forth between them, but suddenly in Raven Flight they're all in love and what not. Quite simply, I just don't buy it. These two barely spend any time together and now they have all these deep emotions. Personally, I thought that they came out of no where considering there is very little interaction between them in Raven Flight. The romance came off as insta-love, which is not my favourite element in young adult novels. A little more development with this plot would have went a long way in making this relationship a stronger one.
I also struggled with the pacing in Raven Flight. I had a hard time getting through this one. There was just so much traveling and pauses for Neryn to learn. The pacing was so start-and-stop it was hard to motivate myself to read through to the end. Paradoxically, it was the end that changed my opinion on Raven Flight. The novel ends full of action and heartbreak, I was left desperately wanting to read the final installment. I am hoping that the pacing of the final book will be a little more even since the slow build up to conflict is clearly not my preferred style of plot.
Ultimately, Raven Flight did an adequate job of continuing the story of Shadowfell. The issues I had with book one, continued into the second book, but much of that has to do with personal reading taste. As much as I'm not found of the meandering pacing, I do want to know how the conflict with the king will be resolved and whether or not Flint and Neryn get their happily ever after.
I got my hands on a copy of this book when I was at a library conference back in January. I was lucky enough to meet the author and get my copy signedI got my hands on a copy of this book when I was at a library conference back in January. I was lucky enough to meet the author and get my copy signed (yes, this is why I love library conferences). Of course, as soon as I get the book at home it languishes on my book shelf. I decided to give it a try this weekend and I was sucked into life at an English boarding school.
What WeHide was completely unexpected. From the cover, I was expecting something more girly and less serious, and frankly more romantic. But, in this case, I'm glad my expectations were not met. This was a great novel, and one that I think will have a wide appeal. What We Hide is told in multiple viewpoints from the students attending Illington Hall, a boarding school in England. Each of these students is very different, but they all have one thing in common, they are all hiding something. These secrets range from the serious to the superficial, but it's what binds them together in this narrative. Only the reader is treated to the undisclosed truth.
Aside from the less frivolous subject matter that I was expecting, I was also surprised by the historical setting. I assumed that this would be a contemporary book; however, What We Hide is actually set during the Vietnam War. One of the narrators, Jenny, is an American who has come to England to study with her brother, who's dodging the draft by attending university overseas. When I read the description, it didn't click that there would be anything historical about this one, but it totally worked. This era lends another layer to a complex plot and really added something to several of the character's stories and impacted the secrets that they kept. It not a period where I've read a lot of fiction, so I felt that I learned something about the era and the social norms and custom expected. In a lot of ways, it's not all that different from today, especially considering the prejudices and preconceived notions that these teens had about others and for themselves.
There were moments when I was questioning each character's actions and moments when I wanted to give of them a hug and stop them from making a bad decision. But at the end of the day, I think What We Hide offers a very realistic picture of growing up and the things that kids (everyone, really) will do to fit it. Sometimes it's funny and sometimes it's plain heartbreaking. But there's always a reason to hide something.
Ultimately, I thought this was a fantastic read. My expectations went up in smoke, but that was not a bad thing. This This book turned out to be a smart, thought provoking read. This author knows how to write, and it was a pleasure to read. While I don't think any of these characters will stop having secrets, I do think each learned something or changed in some way during the novel. Most significantly was Jenny (the American). Her final thoughts for the book are one of my favourite quotes from the book:
"What you arrive with somewhere is never what you take home anyway." (p. 275)
If that doesn't sum up the experience of growing up, I don't know what does.
The Princess of Thorns is a fairy tale retelling, but it plays around with the certain elements creating a fully developed novel. Princess Aurora is tThe Princess of Thorns is a fairy tale retelling, but it plays around with the certain elements creating a fully developed novel. Princess Aurora is the daughter of Sleeping Beauty, and when her mother sacrificed her life to give her fairy gifts to her daughter, Aurora became more:
Knowing that the end was near, Sleeping Beauty embraced her eldest daughter, Princess Aurora, and wished for the girl to be granted fairy blessings. But it was not for grace, or beauty, or the gift of song that the beauty wished…
No, what Sleeping Beauty wished for is for her daughter to be strong and a fighter; she knows that Aurora will be in for the fight of her life if she hopes to survive the ogre queen bent on her destruction. But, like most fairy blessings, this one also goes awry. Sleeping Beauty also wished that Aurora will bow to no man, and instead Aurora is fated to steal the free will of any man that dares love her. With one kiss, they will only serve Aurora, becoming a shell of the person they once were.
When the ogre queen takes her younger brother, Jor, captive, Aurora decides that it’s time to raise an army and free her brother, and maybe take back her throne. When she’s rescued by Prince Niklaas, Aurora thinks maybe she can find her army with his help, and leads the prince to believe that she is her brother, nicknamed "Ror". If only Niklaas wasn’t quite so insistent that he’s going to marry Ror’s sister…
Prince Niklaas is cursed. On his eighteenth birthday he is fated to turn into a swan. But, he just might be able to save himself if he marries a princess. If he removes himself from the succession by marrying another heir outside his father's kingdom, his curse will be broken and he will remain a man. Princess Aurora is his last choice, only her “brother” is insistent that she will not have him. Only by helping Ror raise an army will he be granted an audience.
I haven’t read another novel by Stacey Jay, but I knew that her previous works have been fairy tale retellings as well. The retelling aspect of the author’s works got my attention immediately. I’m a fan of fairy tale retellings and a good one is not to be missed. While I liked Princess of Thorns I don't feel that it is the best fairy tale retelling that I've read, the world was a touch confusing and I felt that the main characters were a bit flat.
While I liked the fact that the tale of Sleeping Beauty was played with, the world this tale existed in was confusing. The otherworldliness of this world was compelling, but hard to understand. There were ogres and fairies living alongside humans, and inevitable strife broke out between these races. I have to admit that I found the explanation for this conflict to be a little glossed over. Princess of Thorns was not high-fantasy and I think there was a rather large gap in the world building. The prophecy that motivated the ogres to subjugate the humans was explained but it wasn’t done in any depth. As a result, I was left floundering to understand the seriousness of why everyone was battling each other.
As for the characters, I couldn’t help but feel that they were a bit flat and one-dimensional. Both Aurora and Niklaas are motivated by singular goals. She wants to free her brother and he wants to avoid his curse. These seem to be their defining characteristics and as a result, there wasn’t much depth to either of them. For example, Aurora’s blessing is more of a curse when it comes to the romance department. She had kissed her childhood friend and took his free will. She’s always felt guilty about it, but then she considers doing the same thing to Niklaas in order to save him. I think Aurora’s guilt over destroying her friend’s free will had a lot of potential to make her a stronger character, but I felt that as a reader I was expected to assume these deeper feelings on her part rather than have them imparted to me. In the case of Aurora, I don’t feel that this technique worked, and she never seemed to be “more” and I felt the same towards Niklaas.
What I did like about Princess of Thorns was the style of writing. The author hits the mark in making this novel sound like a fairy tale. The writing style had that mystical and worldly tone that I identify with an old fairy tale, and she combines that with some fun humour that gives this one a more modern feel. With Aurora and Niklaas it was not love at first sight; he thinks she’s a boy for much of the novel. This lack of awareness of one character’s gender allowed for there to be a lot of great humourous interactions between them. I loved the bantering adventure they were on.
And lastly, since I have mentioned the fact that Aurora is disguised as a boy for the bulk of this story, I have to spend a moment on the romance aspect. For the most part, the romance played second fiddle to the overarching ogre conflict. What I liked about the romance was the fact that Niklaas realized that Aurora, and women in general, were more than individuals that needed to be protected and kept unaware of the dangers of the real world:
I force a smile, pretending not to be bothered by the realization that it isn’t only Aurora’s time spent pretending to be a boy that makes it hard to know how to behave with her. It’s the fact that she doesn’t fit into the usual baskets. She’s not a family member, and she’s not a girl I’d have an easy tumble with. She’s a little of both, as well as a friend of the kind I thought I could only find in another man. I never dreamt I could have fun sparring with a girl, or making rude jokes, or traveling across country with nothing but two horses and a single bedroll. I’ve never known a girl who could travel with less than two saddlebags and a pack mule.
I liked the fact that Niklaas realized that women in this world didn’t have a lot of options other than to marry and become mothers. Through his romance with Aurora, I felt that he grew to have more respect of women as a whole. That said, his simple-minded thinking frustrated me, as did his cavalier attitude towards women through the first half of the book; thank goodness this changed by the end.
Ultimately, Princess of Thorns was a nice story that checked the boxes of a fairy tale retelling. And while I liked the book, I don't feel that it broke new ground and in some respects the tale was more simplistic than I expected.