“An awesome book that provides great entertainment and a lot of fun, with Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson proves that he can write in a variety of genres extremely well, and create captivating and enthralling stories each time around, as he provides a treat for fans of not only fantasy and science fiction, but also fans of comics. And for fans of both - Steelheart surely is a winning combination.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"There are no heroes.
Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil.
Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.
It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.
My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.
I’ve seen Steelheart bleed."
As long term followers of The Founding Fields will know, Brandon Sanderson is probably one of my favourite authors. I’ve loved his Mistborn Trilogy and really enjoyed both The Rithmatist and The Alloy of Law. Whilst Elantris wasn’t as powerful as the previously mentioned books it was still a fairly strong read, and I really need to get around to reading Warbreaker and The Way of Kings judging from what I’ve seen from these respective novels. Sanderson manages to bring something fresh and original to the table each time he brings out a new book, and I’m quite happy to say that my most anticipated book for the second half of the year really did not disappoint, as Steelheart delivered on its high expectations, which was a relief – as I’ve been disappointed by various books in the past before by good authors because the books did not live up to the value of anticipation that had been built up around them (I’m looking at you, Dan Abnett’s Pariah). Of course, given Sanderson’s track record, I shouldn’t really have had any worry that this book was going to be any less than superb, and after finishing reading it – I can safely say that it stands as strong contention for among the best five novels that we’ve had this year so far.
SteelheartLike The Rithamtist, Steelheart is another Young Adult book by Sanderson and it’s just as engrossing and as awesome as his previous attempt. It’s essentially a post-apocalyptic book set on Earth in the near future populated with superheroes. However, unlike Superman, Batman etc - Steelheart has a darker twist on the superhero genre, and is in some ways, more realistic than the portrayal of them in comcis, after all – the temptation to abuse your power is always there and with Sanderson’s so-called “Epics”, he continues to expand on these characters and makes a point that with powers, not everybody would use them for the right means.
If you’re a fan of Sanderson like myself then you’ll know what to expect from this book. As usual, the world-building is pulled off with creativity and imagination, establishing how the Epics work and what makes them tick. Without a magic system, a rare change from Sanderson’s other works, we’re instead presented with a variety of gadgets and technology that mostly lean towards one goal – taking down the Epics. As there are no superheroes fighting for the force of good in this nightmare (and don’t expect the main character to gain powers either), the weapons and high-tech gadgets are ways of defeating the enemy that Sanderson manages to execute pretty well, to the extent that nothing feels like a get-out-of-jail free card, and they all feel like they fit the tone of this reality very well indeed.
One problem that I have with Steelheart is that the characters aren’t as fleshed out or as well developed as I would like them to be, with the only major memorable character apart from Steelheart himself is David, the main character who narrates the story through his perspective and his perspective alone. First person perspective is common in Young Adult books and this is the first time I believe I’ve seen Sanderson handle this method of narrative, which he manages to pull of pretty well for the most part. Sanderson fleshes out David well, making him a more than just a one-dimensional character. He’s also a great lead character as well, and never feels like the male equivalent of a Mary-Sue. For the most part the Epics are interesting and varied as well, with their names being pretty cool as well – and whilst some feel awkward, that’s only because they were designed to be.
Whilst the plot may seem similar to The Final Empire, Sanderson’s first Mistborn book, only in a different setting, you’ll be pleased to know that he handles it pretty well, making it seem fresh and not just a re-hash. It’s also a pretty unpredictable read, unlike a vast portion of young adult books that I’ve read before. You don’t know what’s going to happen next and this is a world where nobody is safe. Each chapter had me on the edge of my seat and I really couldn’t put this book down as I was reading it, with Sanderson handling the pacing of the book very well, without any moments that feel out of place or odd.
Sanderson’s Steelheart then, is a success. I can safely label it as one my favourite books of the year, and it’s one that everyone, even people who have never read a Sanderson book before, will have a fun time reading. It’s page-turning, awesome and captivating – and I really can’t wait to see what Sanderson brings to the table for the next volume in the series. You can certainly count me in for that.
“An excellent, fast paced and fun second act that continues the strong form that this series has been in, proving that there is life after Gone for Michael Grant. Certainly worth checking out if you enjoyed the first instalment, because BZRK: Reloaded is an action packed rollercoaster of a ride that you won’t want to miss.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"The second book in the mind-blowing new series from the author of GONE.
The first battle is over, but the war rages on.
Sanity or madness? Truth or happiness? Love or survival?
In the nano, you don’t get to decide.
Noah and Sadie are now trained twitchers. They know how to wire a person’s brain from the inside, and how to get out alive. But they’re still reeling from their first encounter with the Armstrong Twins, and there’s no time for grief. As long as Bug Man has control of the US President’s mind, the future is on a knife-edge.
Escapism doesn’t get more thrilling than this."
If you’ve been following The Founding Fields for a while now then you’ll know how much of a massive fan I am of Michael Grant’s thrilling Gone series. The storyline is just awesome throughout, and when it ended – well, I was always hoping that Grant could continue with a series that’s just as entertaining as Gone and he certainly does manage to deliver with Reloaded, the second novel in the BZRK series. I loved the first volume and the second volume manages to impress equally well, delivering something that fans of the young adult genre really should get on board if they haven’t already. Michael Grant is an author that easily deserves as much attention as the likes of Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games) and Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) – if not even more, because his work is among the best YA series out there on the market today and BZRK: Reloaded is no exception, continuing the high quality work that he puts out.
BZRK ReloadedIf you thought that BZRK couldn’t be topped, then think again. BZRK: Reloaded really impresses as it manages to be intense, action packed and even more unpredictable than the first volume, with a large element of tension and suspense thrown in there for good measure. It doesn’t slow down in pace as sometimes sequels tend do to – instead it will keep having readers on the edge of their seats right the way through with it’s interesting concept of nanotechnology really enhancing the overall awesomeness of the book, allowing for some very cool scenes indeed as the second act plays out before our eyes.
Character development plays a massive role here, with our central protagonists Noah (Keats) and Sadie (Plath) benefiting from not having as much side characters that the Gone series had – which by its final book had so many characters that it was impossible to give them all an even amount of pagetime. And don’t get me wrong, BZRK: Reloaded still has a large amount of characters, but with Noah and Sadie getting a lot more time in the spotlight than the likes of Sam Temple, this allows our characters to really develop and be fleshed out over the course of the book, so that by the end – they’ve changed considerably from not just the beginning of this book, but also the beginning of the first entry in the series. Their relationship is fun to read about and whilst yes, there is romance, it doesn’t overshadow the main plot of the novel and drag down its frantic pace that will keep readers on the edge of their seats from the get go. This does mean however that other characters aren’t as well rounded or fleshed out as much as Noah and Sadie though, and the secondary cast don’t really come across as all that memorable unfortunately, but that’s pretty much the only major problem that I had with the book.
The rest is well, pretty awesome. Grant’s always been considered one of my favourite YA authors in my eyes so there is of course some bias in this review, but what review doesn’t have at least some element of it? Fans of the first book should need no convincing in order to pick up the second but if you’re hesitant than I hope I have swayed you to pick this book up by my review. BZRK: Reloaded is a fun, explosive ride that will have you on the edge of your seats from start to finish and is really worth a look into, with an ending that will leave you eagerly anticipating more of what Michael Grant will have to offer. I certainly can’t wait to see what he puts out next, because I’ll certainly be reading it.
“An excellent start to a promising new series, whilst the team of Connolly and Ridyard may not bring the most original story to the table, they certainly know how to deliver a fun, compelling read that should keep sci-fi fans entertained. This book is certainly worth checking out.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"The Earth has been invaded by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilized, yet ruthless alien race. Humanity has been conquered, but still it fights the invaders. The Resistance grows stronger, for it is the young people of Earth who are best equipped to battle the Illyri.
Syl Hellais, conceived among the stars, is the oldest alien child on Earth, the first to reach sixteen years of age. Her father rules the planet. Her future is assured. And Syl has hidden gifts, powers that even she does yet fully understand.
But all is not as it seems. The Illyri are at war among themselves, and the sinister Nairene Sisterhood has arrived on Earth, hungry for new blood. When Syl helps a pair of young Resistance fighters to escape execution, she finds herself sentenced to death, pursued by her own kind, and risks breaking the greatest taboo of her race by falling in love with a human.
Now the hunter has become the hunted, the predator become prey.
And as Syl is about to learn, the real invasion has not yet even begun…"
I don’t really get to read that much young adult science fiction, particularly ones focusing on alien invasions nowadays, and it’s always something refreshing to read even though they may not be the most original. Conquest - is the latest tale to join these ranks, penned by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard, one of whom is an author I’ve been meaning to check out for a while now and the other I haven’t heard about before cracking this book open, and as I was reading it I expected something similar to the likes of The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey, or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. As it turns out, Conquest was a bit different to those two books, but was just as gripping – I was engrossed from the get go as the double pair of writers weaved a fantastic book that has me eagerly awaiting the sequel.
Described by Connolly as an “adventure novel”, Conquest clocks in at around 400 pages and spins an epic journey of gripping and enthralling science fiction goodness. If you’re a sci-fi fan, like I’m guessing that most Founding Fields readers will be - Conquest will be right up your street. I saw another reviewer describe this book as Star Trek meets Aliens but set on Earth and if that sounds like your type of thing then you should certainly give this one a go, because Conquest tells an enthralling if unoriginal story with all the confidence that a veteran author can bring, and it’s very hard to notice the narrative change if there is any between the two authors collaborating on this book as the pace moves along in a very steady way – not as fast as a thriller in the style of James Patterson and company, but it doesn’t allow itself to fall into the trap of info-dumping aside from the short prologue at the beginning which is merely designed to tell the background of the Illyri invasion, and rather than being dull and feeling boring, Connolly and Ridyard use this to increase the tension, raise the stakes right from the get go, clearly establishing just how powerful the Illyri are, and it pales in comparison to the humans. This was an interesting element and reminded me oddly of the recent Sci-Fi Western drama Defiance - in the way that it’s set after the alien invasion. However, the mainstray of the novel is actually very different to Defiance - and for once, outside of Doctor Who or Torchwood we get to see an alien invasion set in the UK as opposed to the USA.
Both lead characters, the male and female protagonists, are strong, likeable and rootable and they really carry the book. Syl Hellais is a rounded female lead, and there wasn’t an insta-love story instead romance is pushed to the sides in favour of a more progressive plot with very action packed and wonderfully described battle scenes that allow for an interesting narrative. All too often YA fiction is let down by a vast unnecessary amount of angst, and I’m pleased to say that Conquest is very much not angst-ridden, and is capable of telling a compelling and enthralling story that makes it really worth your time.
And did I mention how awesome the cover is? It doesn’t look like much, sure – but I’m a massive fan of it. It suggests an epic science fiction story focused on two main characters and that’s what you’re going to find yourself with. The book allows for a fun and unpredictable read that delivers on a lot of things. Whilst it lacks the strength to stand up with the likes of superb YA books such as the previously mentioned The Fifth Wave and The Hunger Games, Conquest is nonetheless an enthralling read that fans of Sci-Fi who don’t mind reading smart, clever YA books should give this a try. John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard have provided a nice opening to what I believe is their first novel written together, so it’ll be interesting to see how future Chronicles of the Invaders books develop. You can count me in for Book 2.
“An excellent read. Unpredictable and enthralling with a death count that most YA Authors never reach in entire series, let alone one novel, Rosie Best makes a fantastic arrival to the Urban Fantasy scene delivering a stunning read that you shouldn’t pass up on.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"To some, Meg Banks’ life might look perfect – she lives in a huge house in West London, goes to a prestigious school, and has famous parents. Only Meg knows the truth: her tyrannical mother rules the house and her shallow friends can talk about nothing but boys and drinking. Meg’s only escape is her secret life as a graffiti artist.
While out tagging one night, Meg witnesses the dying moments of a fox… a fox that shapeshifts into a man. As he dies, he gives Meg a beautiful and mysterious gemstone. It isn’t long before Meg realises that she’s also inherited his power to shift and finds an incredible new freedom in fox form.
She is plunged into the shadowy underworld of London, the territory of the five warring groups of shapeshifters – the Skulk, the Rabble, the Conspiracy, the Horde, and the Cluster. Someone is after her gemstone, however, someone who can twist nature to his will. Meg must discover the secret of the stone and unite the shapeshifters before her dream of freedom turns into a nightmare."
I’ll admit I wasn’t feeling that I would enjoy this book going into it. I requested the review copy on a bit of a whim, when I was in need of books to read during my Holiday/Vacation to France a few weeks ago, when I managed to get access to Wifi on my Kindle Fire. And well, I went into it not expecting much – the book had ‘paranormal romance’ written all over it, and as you’re probably aware, paranormal romance is something I don’t do. However, to my surprise – I found that my expectations that I went into Skulk with were not just wrong, in fact – they couldn’t be more wrong. Whilst there is a relationship – it’s something that doesn’t feel like a cliche, coming across as fresh and doesn’t fall into the trap of being insta-love. This helps Meg Banks, the lead character – match up with the likes of other strong female characters that we’ve seen from previous Strange Chemistry books, and even outclasses them in some cases. However, it’s safe to say that Meg reaches the ranks of Julie (Poltergeeks), Gene (Pantomime) and Kyra (The Woken Gods) - all of whom are awesome female leads. She’s therefore among my favourite Strange Chemistry characters that I’ve read to date – allowing for a unique read that sees the book move along at a very fast pace.
Meg’s character is interesting. Like Tom Pollock’s Beth from The City’s Son, she has a secret life as a graffiti artist. This plays a big role in the book, as Best actively uses the graffiti-angle of the book successfully and manages to weave it into the overall narrative without interfering or the weakening of the overall concept. Meg’s first person narrative is consistently strong all the way through the book, and this works both to the advantage and disadvantage of Skulk. It allows Best to get us used to a confident, strong, likeable and interesting lead character – but one thing that this book suffers from is the massive supporting cast. It seems almost inevitable with a massive cast that not everybody is going to come across as well rounded or engaging as Meg, but you can tell that Best certainly tries to flesh out as many characters as she can. There’s Mo, one of the key male characters in the book, and James, the camp jewel thief. Both of them belong to different Shapeshifter groups. Mo to the Rabble (butterflies) and James is an exile from the Skulk, the main group which Meg joins, because of the stubborn leader Don, who unfortunately falls into the one-dimensional typical jerk leader category. Aside from a couple of other characters, the majority of the cast, such as Meg’s friends who aren’t clued in on the shapeshifter society that she has stumbled into suffer from not really having the page time to develop enough to make us care about them.
The book, as one would expect with a high-death count, is pretty unpredictable. Best manages to make it weave along at a very fast pace, easily planting this novel in the page-turning category. It’s a quick and captivating read, that you should blitz through. Skulk is compelling as well, and while there is a clear line between evil and good – it never really falls into the ‘grey’ category when it comes to morality – but that doesn’t mean you won’t be surprised as not all allegiances are set in stone. Whilst the overall concept may also need a bit of suspension of disbelief in order for you to enjoy, all you really have to do is accept that shape shifters are real here. Best writes a strong, distinctive portrayal of the characters when they’re in animal form, and the scenes where Meg was in her animal form was interesting to read about. The book allows for a variety of shapeshifters, Foxes, Ravens, Rats, Butterflies and Spiders. As with multiple groups, you can expect that they don’t all get on very well – differences and rivalries are explored as the book goes, serving as an interesting dynamic as well as a way to introduce more tension when you find that the enemy is pretty much presented as a unified front, with spies pretty much everywhere.
As a result, Skulk is one of the most unpredictable reads from a Young Adult book that I’ve read in a while. It’s a lot of fun, and whilst I feel that there was a wasted opportunity with the cover, as it really lacks the incentive to draw you in,and I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up in a bookshelf without a lot of praise. In fact, one of the few reasons why I gave this book a chance was because it is a London-set urban fantasy, which I am a complete sucker for, and the fact that it’s a Strange Chemistry book. Like Angry Robot, Strange Chemistry have failed to produce a title that I haven’t already liked so far, and with Jonathan L. Howard’s Katya’s World sitting on my TBR pile, I can safely say that this is one publisher that you should keep an eye on. Much like Angry Robot, Strange Chemistry are producing a set of books that are normally exceptionally high quality, doing wonders in the YA subgenre. Skulk is another addition to the ranks of the mighty Strange Chemistry titles – and one that I can recommend to all fans of Young Adult books. Certainly worth your time.
“A blend of Harry Potter and Steampunk, written by the fantasy master who gave us The Mistborn Trilogy. Compelling, creative and enthralling – The Rithmatist may well be one of the best Young Adult reads of 2013.” ~The Founding Fields
I’m a massive fan of Brandon Sanderson. I’ve loved his Mistborn Trilogy, with Vin making the list of one of my all time favourite characters. His Elantris is pretty good as well – awesome for a debut book, and Legion proved that he can write novellas well. So, how would Sanderson handle Young Adult fiction? As it turns out, as excellent as his normal fantasy. I finished this book in a couple of sittings, and couldn’t put it down. There’s only one minor flaw hampering The Rithmatist, but that wasn’t enough to detract from the overall awesomeness of the book apart from slow down its pace a bit more. The flaw in question is his magic systems – I know Sanderson’s magic systems are some of the most well developed in epic fantasy, but for those of you who felt like he went overboard in their description with his past novels, then think again. There’s a lot more description here, and that therefore slows down the pace a bit. But rest not - The Rithmatist is otherwise a wonderful book, and if you’ve loved Sanderson’s books in the past, then you’ll love what he’s done here.
"More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings — merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.
As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.
Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in world-building, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world."
There are several comparisons to Harry Potter in this book. You get the evil teacher, the young male hero, Harry (Joel) and the young female best friend, but not a love interest (or at least in Book One, anyway) Hermione (Melody), but whilst in any others hands it would be led to be viewed as a weak copy, Sanderson manages to make The Rithmatist filled with his own method of storytelling, compelling narrative and interesting characters that make the story stand out. Sure, Harry Potter fans will find something to love here – but it also manages to appeal to those who have read Sanderson’s work before, and epic fantasy readers looking to give the author a try for the first time – as well as more importantly, it succeeds in appealing to the young adult audience that this book is aimed at.
Whilst the magic may be overly described, it’s still very creative. There isn’t a magic system quite like it – whilst he simply could have used the magic system from Mistborn with a different paintjob, Sanderson has managed to invent a whole new style here, that adds to the uniqueness of the book and it was very interesting to learn about. I just wish Sanderson hadn’t quite as used it as much as he has done in the book – but otherwise, The Rithmatist hits all the right levels for me. The characters are interesting despite their connections with Harry Potter – Joel is sympathetic and rootable, and Melody is a strong female character in her own right – having plenty to do in this novel. Both are flawed and far from perfect – and Sanderson manages to make them compelling and believable. The other characters are also interesting to look at – and surprisingly, given that its set in a school – are all adults. The likeable Professors Fitch, and the Snape-esque character of Nalizar. Sure, whilst Joel does interact with the students and we learn a few of their names – the limited use of Fitch, Nalizar – and the other third main character, Inspector Harding allow for a limited use of cast allowing us to not lose track with too many characters, which has been the downfall of several novels in the past.
I also love that Sanderson hasn’t fallen into the trap of many young adult writers to try and include romance in the book, but at least in The Rithmatist, Joel and Melody remain friends throughout the whole novel. Whilst romance can be good if handled well – it’s refreshing to read a book without it, especially as it allows Sanderson to create interesting characters that don’t depend on the love of the other in order to fulfil a task.
In conclusion, I think if you like Young Adult novels or a fan of Sanderson, then you’ll enjoy The Rithmatist. It reads like a blend of steampunk and Harry Potter, and is compelling enough to keep you reading. A great book – and I eagerly await to see where the sequel takes us.
“A great, fast paced and fun novel that puts a new spin on the “Gods Are Real” storyline that fans of the Percy Jackson series and other similar titles will love.”" ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Okay, let’s get this straight right off the bat. Every so often, a cover sells me on a book. I picked up Douglas Hulick’s Among Thieves because of its cover, and many others were purchased on that basis. And the main reason why I requested The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond to review was because of that Cover – it’s just awesome, isn’t it? Plain and simple in a thriller-kind of way, whilst allowing for the hint of the otherworldy. Whilst it sadly isn’t perfect, the novel itself allows for some great development, and action, all moving along at a lightning fast pace. If you enjoyed Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, or Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant, or other similar titles, then you’ll find something to enjoy here. The Woken Gods is a great read, and one of the finest Strange Chemistry novels that I’ve read so far.
"The more things change…
Five years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke all around the world.
The more things stay the same…
This morning, Kyra Locke is late for school because of an argument with her father.
Seventeen-year-old Kyra lives in a transformed Washington, D.C., dominated by the embassies of divine pantheons and watched over by the mysterious Society of the Sun that governs mankind’s relations with the gods. But when rebellious Kyra encounters two trickster gods on her way home, one offering a threat and the other a warning, it turns out her life isn’t what it seems. She escapes with the aid of Osborne “Oz” Spencer, a young Society field operative, only to discover that her scholar father has disappeared with a dangerous Egyptian relic. The Society needs the item back, and they aren’t interested in her protests that she knows nothing about it or her father’s secrets.
Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the suspect help of scary Sumerian gods, her estranged oracle mother, and, of course, Oz–whose first allegiance is to the Society. She has no choice if she’s going to recover the missing relic and save her father. And if she doesn’t? Well, that may just mean the end of the world as she knows it. From the author of Blackwood comes a fresh, thrilling urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Rick Riordan."
The book is told mostly through the eyes of seventeen year old Kyra Locke, who is – as to be expected, the main protagonist of this novel and takes up most of the page time. Her character develops strongly and unlike certain Young Adult novels that I’ve read in the past that I’ll not mention here, is actually likeable and rootable, coming off as a pretty strong female lead who gets plenty to say and do, as well as being fleshed out. Her character is easily the most well defined of the novel, but others, such as Osbourne Spencer, nicknamed “Oz” – also mentioned in the blurb, get plenty to do and say here – even if some of them such as Kyra’s friends, Bree and Tam don’t get much depth to them. Kyra however, is of course the standout – and Gwenda Bond’s novel is great for readers who want an awesome young, female protagonist.
The Woken GodsThe setting is pretty interesting – whilst some authors who go down the whole “Gods Are Among Us” route choose to adopt to one Pantheon or draw inspiration from multiple Gods, Bond isn’t afraid to get stuck into the whole lot, meaning we get a wide element of characters, with the Egyptian Pantheon being the most notable one here. But the richness of the world that the author has created for us brings up a whole new problem – there needs to be more worldbuilding. It was one of the main problems that I had whilst reading this novel was that there wasn’t enough of it, and I felt that given the concept it needed to be fleshed out a lot more.
Of course, as is common with pretty much a vast majority of Young Adult novels these days, expect romance. Whilst it’s there, it takes a while to develop, rather than happening instantly – allowing for a large focus to spent on moving the plot forward and there is little let-up in the brisk pace that this novel moves along at. I mentioned earlier that this will appeal to readers who enjoyed Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson and/or Skulduggery Pleasant, and that’s largely because it handles pace just as well as those novels have done. It’s original and doesn’t fall into the trap of being a clone of Percy Jackson only with a female protagonist, which is what I feared at first when starting this novel.
Another slight problem, but not a major one that didn’t bother me (although it may bother some) as I’d encountered it before, namely in James Patterson’s novels, the switch from Kyra’s first person narrative to third person to other characters. Whilst this may have been done to advance the plot in ways that Kyra’s chapters could not, I would have rather Kyra be the sole POV character if it was told in first person, rather than having a split.
Overall then, The Woken Gods is a pretty solid read with some strong themes and several key elements running through it that help it stand above the average crop of Young Adult novels that we get thrown at us by so many authors nowadays – providing something that’s fresh, unique and interesting, even if the lack of more worldbuilding/discovery harms it a bit. Kyra’s character is strong and awesome, and when this book hits shelves next month, you should certainly pick it up if you can. Young Adult readers will love this one.
“This book is not just the next Hunger Games. This is the book that’s going to run circles around the Hunger Games, and come out on top in pretty much every way. Spectacular, and a high contender for not just the best YA novel of 2013, but one of the best novels of 2013 as well." ~The Founding Fields
If you’ve been following my reviews then you’ll know that I’m a NetGalley user – and frankly, I love the site. It’s allowed me to discover novels that I’d never get the chance to read otherwise, discovering new things from a variety of genres that I really need to read more of. And without NetGalley, I think it’s safe to say – I would have not discovered The 5th Wave, or Rick Yancey. Therefore, I could not be in anymore debt to NetGalley because I think I may have just discovered, as I claim in the quote, a strong contender for not just the best YA novel of 2013, but one of the best novels of 2013 as well.
"After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up."
This book is full of twists and turns and you’ll really struggle to put this down. Cassie is a really strong, rotatable and likable protagonist, she’s human, she’s got flaws, but sticking with the Hunger Games comparison I’m going to say that she’s a lot stronger than Katniss Everdeen was as a character, particularly given Catching Fire. She’s developed at the start of the novel and grows throughout the entire book, along with the rest of the characters, Evan, her little brother, Sammy, her father – they’re all three dimensional characters. In fact, there’s not one character in this book who feels like a waste of space, that’s how good Rick Yancey is as a writer. I’m sure that Cassie in particular will stick around in my head long after reading this novel – and if you enjoy it as much as I did, then it’ll do the same for you as well.
And the characters aren’t even the best bit about The 5th Wave. It’s the twists, the action, the plot. Everything that you could want in a dark, young adult thriller is here and at times it gets darker than your average YA thriller has a right to be – I’d certainly label this book as darker than the Hunger Games. If you thought that alien invasions couldn’t have the potential to have a large amount of horror, then either the only alien invasion movie you’ve ever seen is Independence Day or you just don’t read that much alien invasion novels. But if you come in here expecting a typical storyline that usually has the aliens invade, destroy the planet so that the humans can band together, survive and throw them off, with a heart-warming speech from Bill Pullman to go with it, then think again – Cassie even says as much in the novel. There are no happy endings here, and if you’re a type that doesn’t like books to end on a cliffhanger then you’ll probably find yourself slightly turned off by this novel – but like Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan, a novel that I read recently that also ended on a cliffhanger, some books are just too good to pass up. And you’ll want to get on board this ride early, for if it has the same success as the likes of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, then you’ll want to be on board this one while it’s relativity unknown. I’m predicting big things for this.
Because it’s a YA book with a female protagonist, of course there has to be some element of romance , but Yancey doesn’t spend too much time on it and with his engrossing narrative and the strength of the characters, you’ll brush it aside. It’s well written, and doesn’t feel odd or out of place in the story itself. It’s clear that Cassie has a strong grip on the need for survival, and romance comes second, and as a result – it doesn’t overshadow the plot.
There is a really, really huge twist in this book as well – I didn’t see it coming, and there’s a high chance that you won’t either. It’s literally mind blowing, and probably the best twist that I’ve read this year alongside the stunning conclusion to Peter V. Brett’s The Daylight War. Once again, I am so glad that I discovered this book. I wouldn’t have heard of it otherwise, but Rick Yancey is a writer I will be sticking around to see more of and I can’t wait to see where he takes the reader with the next book in the trilogy. I know it’s been used in other Advance Reviews and at the beginning of the book, itself but I couldn’t resist including this quote below. Given the whole context of the novel, it just adds to the scariness, the awesomeness and the greatness of this book:
“If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.” - Stephen Hawking
“Realistic and entertaining, Playing Tyler is a strong debut, reccommended for the right audience.” ~The Founding Fields
After the appalling Inferno, I needed something that would be more enjoyable. And It’s clear that Playing Tyler, despite being a completley different genre, and having a completley different target audience, is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than Dan Brown’s latest novel, which I was reading along with this book. To put it into perspective, in the time that it took me to finish Inferno, I finished Star Wars – Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void by Tim Lebbon (Review Here) & Playing Tyler in the same time that it took me to finish Inferno. It was only due to a tight deadline and a long journey that I managed to finish the latter when I could. But this isn’t a review on Inferno. It’s a review of Playing Tyler.
And you’re probably starting to wonder – did I enjoy this book? Well the answer is yes, and no. I liked it, for sure – but it was only to a certain extent.
"When is a game not a game?
Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.
Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games and, well, thats probably not going to get him into college.
Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.
That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames."
The blurb pretty much introduces you to the centeral characters that hold the storyline in place. Tyler McCandless & Ani Bagdorian are the main stars of Playing Tyler and TL Costa manages to make them sound very believable and authentic characters, who develop over the course of this book. The book itself is captivating, and the characters who this book will live and die by, are likeable and rootable.
Costa’s prose is easy to read, fast paced and relentless. Rather than just focus on Tyler’s perspective, the added viewpoint of Ani really helps flesh out the characters and create an even split between the book. Both are flawed, and are far from the perfect characters that everyone wants to be. They’re realistic, human – and neither, as so common in YA books not published by Strange Chemistry, are they at the centre of a prophecy dictating their future as a Chosen One (hint, hint – Eragon), because after all, this book is grounded and apart from a few crucial issues – such as the whole unmaned drones angle of the book, it could be a contempary YA novel.
Which is what at first, when I started reading – I thought it was. The first half of the book could easily be a Romance novel – the building of friendship between Ani and Tyler, threw me off a bit as you’ll probably know that there are two main genres that I avoid – Romance and Erotica. But thankfully, Playing Tyler steers clear of that (and I’d be slightly worried if I did stumble across Erotica in a Young Adult novel) and stuff really kicks off in the second half of the novel, after we’ve taken our time to know our characters.
The book itself is mainly focused on Tyler, who’s given a chance by Rick to beta-test a new flight simulator, allowing a pilot to control drones and provide air support for missions in the middle east. Ani was developed so well that she didn’t feel like an obligatory love interest, and the split between the POV of the two characters was handled nicely, and Costa has managed to make it so that you care about them equally. The characters are fleshed out well and the teen dialogue is believable.
I think the main reason why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I did was the whole romance angle that seeemed to dominate the first half of the book. But I think, for the right target audience - you’ll enjoy Playing Tyler even more than I did. I’m not saying it’s a bad book though – it’s one of the stronger YA debuts that I’ve read. It’s fun, and has a nice cover that fits in with most of Strange Chemistry’s books. I’ve read a couple of their releases through NetGalley and have loved pretty much every cover that they’ve put out, so I think I need to get around to picking up one of the publisher’s novels in print at some point. Probably Kim Curran’s Shift, as that’s been high on my to-read list ever since it’s been released.
“Wow. If you thought that Tom Pollock could not get any better, think again - The Glass Republic cements The Skyscraper Throne Trilogy’s place as one of the greatest urban fantasy works that I’ve had the pleasure to read, and we haven’t even had the third book yet. If you enjoyed books by Neil Gaiman or Kate Griffin then you’ll love this series.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
The City’s Son was a book that made it onto my ‘Best 25 novels of 2012′ list, which meant that I would be checking out the sequel The Glass Republic, as soon as I could. If I made a list of most anticipated 2013 novels, you can bet that The Glass Republic would be within the Top 10 if not the Top 5, because the first book by Tom Pollock was just that good. And when I got The Glass Republic through the post as a review copy, I knew I had to jump right in as soon as possible even though I was in the middle of a book already. And when I started reading, I couldn’t stop – Pollock’s second novel excells just as much as the first one, and doesn’t suffer from the ‘middle book syndrome’ that often plagues trilogies. Most of the second act is spent setting up the first, not much happens – there’s a lot of worldbuilding – you know what I mean. You’ve seen it before a million times. But I’m pleased to say that The Glass Republic doesn’t fall into that trap, and delivers a very awesome read that stands as one of the most unique novels that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, with a very awesome concept to boot.
"Pen’s life is all about secrets: the secret of the city’s spirits, deities and monsters her best friend Beth discovered, living just beyond the notice of modern Londoners; the secret of how she got the intricate scars that disfigure her so cruelly – and the most closely guarded secret of all: Parva, her mirror-sister, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror. Pen’s reflected twin is the only girl who really understands her.
Then Parva is abducted and Pen makes a terrible bargain for the means to track her down. In London-Under-Glass, looks are currency, and Pen’s scars make her a rare and valuable commodity. But some in the reflected city will do anything to keep Pen from the secret of what happened to the sister who shared her face."
Whilst much of the narrative was focused on Beth’s perspective, The Glass Republic takes up the vast majority of its page-count telling the story through the point of view of Pen Khan, Beth’s best friend – who suffered life-changing incidents at the end of The City’s Son and the aftermath is really expanded on here as the character is really fleshed out. Unlike most novels that choose to have a different character’s viewpoint for the second novel in the trilogy, The Glass Republic isn’t just the same events told by a different character’s perspective, instead – it moves the story forward, further fleshing out the unique urban-fantasy setting created by Tom Pollock and delivering one of the greatest second acts in a book that I’ve seen, the whole concept of London-Under Glass being refreshingly unique.
Whilst Beth’s character may not receive as much attention here as she did in The City’s Son, which was a shame because I was really liking her character and looking forward to seeing where she developed, Pollock manages to make it so that it doesn’t really matter, making Pen a likeable, rootable and interesting protagonist who is capable of standing on her own without having to rely on Beth all the time. The book itself really rams it home that this series is not your typical urban fantasy featuring private detectives, vampires and werewolves. No - The Glass Republic, is different, comparable in quality to the likes of Neil Gaiman and to a slightly lesser extent Kate Griffin, Tom Pollock really makes himself a ‘must read’ author with this book, and the third instalment (and unfortunately, final) in this trilogy can’t come soon enough, especially as this book ends on a cliffhanger, as is common for most second acts in trilogies, making book three a release-day read for me.
The book moves along at a pretty swift, but not-lightning fast pace (to see what I mean by lightning fast, read a book by Dan Brown or James Patterson), but that’s a good thing. There weren’t any times when I felt bogged down by the narrative, and the prose was smooth and captivating. I love the direction that Pollock is taking The Skyscraper Throne Trilogy and I really can’t wait to see what he can do with the third act. This book is certainly a strong contender for book of the year for me, and if you haven’t read The City’s Son yet I strongly recommend that you go back and read it. In my view at least, both books here are pretty much essential reading for fans of urban fantasy. Seriously, these books are that good.
THE SKYSCRAPER THRONE TRILOGY: The City’s Son, The Glass Republic, (less)
“One of my favourite novels of 2012 so far, The City’s Son is an absolute delight to read.” ~The Founding Fields
I was going to start off this review b...more“One of my favourite novels of 2012 so far, The City’s Son is an absolute delight to read.” ~The Founding Fields
I was going to start off this review by writing that this was the best 2012-released young adult novel that I’ve read so far. Then, I recalled that Pantomime was a 2013 release, and the only other 2012 YA novel that I’ve read was the very disappointing conclusion to James Patterson’s eight-book Maximum Ride series, Nevermore. I hope to try and read some more YA novels in this month, particularly some of Strange Chemistry’s new releases, so we’ll see how it goes. But for me, The City’s Son was absolutely fantastic. It’s even better than some of the other, non-YA 2012 novels that I’ve read this year as well, which is saying something, considering that I’ve read over 200 books this year alone.
"Expelled from school, betrayed by her best friend and virtually ignored by her dad, who’s never recovered from the death of her mum, Beth Bradley retreats to the sanctuary of the streets, looking for a new home. What she finds is Filius Viae, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London, who opens her eyes to the place she’s never truly seen.
But the hidden London is on the brink of destruction. Reach, the King of the Cranes, is a malign god of demolition, and he wants Filius dead. In the absence of the Lady of the Streets, Filius’ goddess mother, Beth rouses Filius to raise an alleyway army, to reclaim London’s skyscraper throne for the mother he’s never known. Beth has almost forgotten her old life – until her best friend and her father come searching for her, and she must choose between the streets and the life she left behind."
This is a book that took me completely by surprise. Given the fact that this sounds all-too familiar to a Paranormal Romance novel, I wasn’t expecting anything like what I got. The prose is perhaps the most beautifully written that I’ve ever seen in a YA book since Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. It’s got everything that you could want, and more, from a novel that’s brilliantly written, but also has brilliant cover art. Or the UK version at least. The US version… isn’t so awesome.
Wow. Easily the best YA novel that I've read so far in 2012. I'll be reading more of this series for sure, utterly unputdownable and enjoyable in ever...moreWow. Easily the best YA novel that I've read so far in 2012. I'll be reading more of this series for sure, utterly unputdownable and enjoyable in every way possible. (less)
“A wonderfully written tale that is unfortunatley flawed by its slow pacing.” ~The Founding Fields
I really wanted to love Advent. At a first glance, i...more“A wonderfully written tale that is unfortunatley flawed by its slow pacing.” ~The Founding Fields
I really wanted to love Advent. At a first glance, it sounded right up my street, which I was partly so glad when a copy arrived on my door from Hodder to review. Sadly though, this was not the case. Whilst I did enjoy some parts of Advent, there were some major issues that I had with James Treadwell’s debut novel that I hope will be rectified with further installments in this particular trilogy, each of which I will highlight below.
"“A drowning, a magician’s curse, and a centuries-old secret. “1537. A man hurries through city streets in a gathering snowstorm, clutching a box in one hand. He is Johann Faust, the greatest magician of his age. The box he carries contains a mirror safeguarding a portion of his soul and a small ring containing all the magic in the world. Together, they comprise something unimaginably dangerous.
London, the present day. Fifteen-year-old Gavin Stokes is boarding a train to the countryside to live with his aunt. His school and his parents can’t cope with him and the things he sees, things they tell him don’t really exist. At Pendurra, Gavin finds people who are like him, who see things too. They all make the same strange claim: magic exists, it’s leaking back into our world, and it’s bringing something terrible with it."
So, first off, what did I like about Advent? What kept me reading? Well, in short – it’s Treadwell’s wonderful prose. Drawing from a wide range of myth and folklore from Arthurian Legends to even more ancient tales, Advent is something that really nailed the description, the world-building and the setting. It’s richly developed and you can tell that Treadwell put a lot of time into researching his world. The characters are strong, likeable and memorable.