WHAT IS THE SILENCE OF THE SIX, AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
"These are the last words uttered by 17-year-old Max Stein’s best friend, Evan: Just moments after hacking into the live-streaming Presidential debate at their high school, he kills himself.
Haunted by the image of Evan’s death, Max’s entire world turns upside down as he suddenly finds himself the target of a corporate-government witch-hunt. Fearing for his life and fighting to prove his own innocence, Max goes on the run with no one to trust and too many unanswered questions.
Max must dust off his own hacking skills and maneuver the dangerous labyrinth of underground hacktivist networks, ever-shifting alliances, and virtual identities — all while hoping to find the truth behind the “Silence of Six” before it’s too late."
I’ve been interested in reading something from E.C. Myers ever since I heard about his Fair Coin novel when it was initially released. However, The Silence of the Six is actually the first time I’ve got the chance to read something by the author, and as it turned out, it didn’t disappoint, delivering a fantastic young adult novel that makes for a refreshing break from all the no-hope, dark, frequent love-triangle featuring dystopian dramas that young adult has been filled with ever since The Hunger Games was released. It’s similar to that of Kim Curran’s awesome Glaze, another young adult novel which I can highly recommend, and has several things going for it, and on top of the similarities with Glaze, I also couldn’t help be reminded of the awesome Person of Interest whilst I was reading the book, even if obviously they are too very different things. So it’s always a good sign when the novel not only can be comparable with one of my favourite young adult reads of this year, but also my favourite TV Series that’s currently on air.
The Silence of the Six explores a fascinating complex. Max Stein, a seventeen year old former hacker turned one of the most popular kids in school, complete a girlfriend named Courtney, finds his life turned upside down when his best friend Evan kills himself just moments after hacking into the live-streaming Presidential debate at their local high school. It isn’t long before he finds himself the target of the corporate-government, and with things looking increasingly desperate, he’s found himself constantly pushed into a corner with allies decreasing at every passing second.
The characters themselves are great, well developed and constantly grow over the course of the novel. Max gets the most notable development as the main character, but also there’s a good role for Courtney among other characters. It handles the situation realistically and really is a good book for making you think about what goes on behind the scenes, with the novel exploring the world of hackers which is something that works both in the novel’s favour and against it.
For example, someone who isn’t that big on advanced computer technology it can be a lot to stomach the details. Despite this though, the book should provide a very entertaining read, with plenty of stuff going on from start to finish. It might not quite be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was something that I really ended up loving. It got better and better as things progressed and by the end of the novel I was struggling to put it down.
The Silence of the Six is a pretty brilliant read and if you like good, mystery/thriller young adult novels set in a modern day setting then you’ll certainly get a kick out of E.C. Myer’s latest. Even if you’re not necessarily an avid reader of young adult, if stuff like Person of Interest (like I’ve already mentioned) and Watch Dogs is your sort of thing then The Silence of the Six should be right up your street. Recommended.
In Meritropolis everyone is assigned a numerical Score that decides their worth to society and whether they live or die. After a young boy is killed because of a low Score, his brother plots to take down the System.
Meritropolis first grabbed my attention due to the fact that it was billed as The Hunger Games with a young Jack Reacher as a protagonist. I’m unfamiliar with the other comparison, The Village, listed in the quote provided on the blurb by Donny Meader, but despite this, it was enough when combined with the interesting sounding blurb to get me reading. Meritropolis was compelling enough to keep me reading, and whilst it’s probably among the better crop of YA dystopian that you’ll read, it still doesn’t quite reach the heights of The Hunger Games.
Joel Ohman is a debut novelist and I didn’t actually realise until after reading the book that it was, as it turns out, self published. Don’t let the fact that it’s not traditionally publisher put you off though as it’s a pretty decent read, despite the few major problems that the book has. Yes, there isn’t exactly anything new here. But it creates an interesting world and a fairly strongly developed cast of characters which is enough to keep you invested even if it’s likely a book that you’re going to forget fairly quickly.
The world in Meritropolis is very much similar to that of Orwell’s 1984. You have to obey what Big Brother the system says, or else you will be punished. The community of Meritropolis is trapped inside a city surrounded by various animal hybrids and if you don’t meet a certain Score set down by the system then you will be thrown outside of the gates. Nobody has ever survived a night outside the walls of the city, but those who get high scores are rewarded.
Charley, our main character, has lost his younger brother because of his low Score. Nine years of building hatred and anger have pushed Charley to the edge and now he finds himself revealed with an extremely high Score, which just happens to save him from the punishment of a “crime” that he had just committed. Charley is then enlisted into the Hunter faction, a group that patrols outside of the walls. However, secretly, he’s biding his time, waiting in an attempt to strike back at the system.
The book itself was an incredibly short read. I sped through it really quickly and the pace pulled me and would not let go. However, there was a problem with this approach, and that came with the ending, which felt really rushed. Sure, it built to a nice climax, but there was a moment where I just sat there wondering whether this book had truly ended or not. Yes, it ended on a cliffhanger, as is fairly typical of all dystopian young adult novels nowadays, but it didn’t really feel as effective as it should have. It felt like the author was trying to wrap things up as quickly as he could in order to make the book end on a hook that would get the reader to read the next novel.
And does it work? Well, kind of. I’m intrigued and kind of want to find out more, but at the same time, this book didn’t blow me away so there’s nothing that makes book two something that will appear on my list of highly anticipated reads anytime soon. I’ll read it if I can (this is of course, assuming there ever is one, because it certainly felt like there needed to be a second), but yeah, I’m not going to go out of my way to read it.
The characters are well, not that memorable either and fairly standard. Charley is the one that is easily the most memorable and the others aren’t really fleshed out well enough to make a lasting impact on the reader and the only one I can recall without looking up is Sandy, the main female character, which isn’t good considering that I finished the book not even a week ago. They never made a strong impression on me as a reader and I couldn’t help but feeling underwhelmed, and they could have easily been given some much needed depth.
In conclusion then, Meritropolis is a bit hit and miss. The Worldbuilding is pulled off fairly well and the pace is pretty good until the end where it feels rushed. The characters aside from Charley could have used a bit more development to give them a lasting impression, but despite the problems the book remains fairly enjoyable and fun. So yes, there are a lot better titles out there, but you could do a heck of a lot worse than this one.
IMPORTANT: This is a review copy from Jo Fletcher Books and would normally go live on The Founding Fields. However, seeing as the backend of TFF is currently down, all book reviews will be posted on The Fictional Hangout for the foreseeable future. When the problem with TFF is eventually fixed, they will be reposted on The Founding Fields. Apologies for any inconveniences.
Four months ago, Mater Viae, the Goddess of London, returned from London-Under- Glass to reclaim her throne. And ever since then, London has been dying.
Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating anyone and anything touching them. Towers crash to the ground, their foundations decayed.
As the streets sicken, so does Beth, drawn ever deeper into the heart of the city, while Pen fights desperately for a way to save her. But when they discover that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond London’s borders, they must make a choice: Beth has it within her to unleash the city’s oldest and greatest powers – powers that could challenge the vengeful goddess, or destroy the city itself.
I’ve been writing a lot of positive reviews for books lately, be they Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea or The Girl with All the Gifts by MR Carey, and it looks like Our Lady of the Streets is going to be another addition to that line of awesome books that I’ve been reading. It’s the final act in what has been a fantastic young adult trilogy, with The Skyscraper Throne really being a must read for anyone who loves reading the fiction that this genre has given us in the past. It certainly stands up with my favourite YA books, and provides a wonderful closing act that fans will certainly enjoy.
Whilst the last book was focused mainly on Pen, Our Lady of the Streets puts Beth Bradley back in the spotlight and it shows just how much she’s developed as a character over the course of the book. She needs to take lead and stop a London under siege, as Master Viae has returned to the Capital. In order to emerge victorious she has to discover more about her transformation and whether she’s gained any new powers from it or not. In weaker hands, this would simply make Beth boring by putting her in what could easily have fallen into the trap of being yet another ‘Chosen One’ type story, but Pollock is confident enough to keep things original and in the right place, given Beth both strengths and weaknesses as a character, and keeps the book feeling fresh. At her core though, she’s still the Beth Bradley that readers are familiar with, and there are as ever some good lines that she delivers over the course of the book.
However, that doesn’t mean to say the book is all about Beth. We get to learn more about Pen as well, who has also gone from strength to strength as a character. Both Beth and Pen are fantastic leads, and her role in this book is fleshed out enough to prevent Beth from overshadowing her character. Pollock handles both girls well, and draw their storylines to satisfying conclusions.
Our Lady of the Streets expands on the worlds that both Pen and Beth have discovered. Pen’s London-Under-Glass and Beth’s world that she discovered are merged so well that you won’t even notice the difference, as Pollock manages to continue to flesh out what has been one of the most unique takes on Urban Fantasy set in London that I’ve seen. The only title that I’ve read that comes close to this sort of originality in this type of setting is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and as that is my favourite novel, that’s certainly saying something.
The pacing is pulled off pretty well. There aren’t any moments that feel out of place and the narrative switch between Beth and Pen is handled well. Both are given plenty of page time so their stories can come to a conclusion and as a result, this trilogy is fantastic to read indeed. The quality remains so consistent that it’s hard to pick a standout book in the entire trilogy, with each title going from strength to strength.
With Our Lady of the Streets, Tom Pollock concludes what has been a superb trilogy. All three novels have shined and this one deals with the final act very well. Fans should really enjoy this book and I’ll be eagerly looking forward to seeing what Pollock can come up with next, if this is anything to go by then he’s certainly earned the status of a must read author in my book, and he should be one in your eyes too.
So it was OK. Nothing to special but thankfully not horrible either. Doubt I'll read the sequels in the foreseeable future. However, I'm just going toSo it was OK. Nothing to special but thankfully not horrible either. Doubt I'll read the sequels in the foreseeable future. However, I'm just going to put it out there and say that a young adult space opera as opposed to a dystopia would be awesome. Maybe Guardians of the Galaxy can start a trend? ...more
“This book is proof that you shouldn’t judge things just by what they’re billed as. What could have been a cheap ripoff and cash-in attempt on the popularity of The Hunger Games and Divergent instead is something that shines, and is full of its own originality. The Dystopian Young Adult genre may be overcrowded right now – but Paradigm is something that’s worth checking out.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
What if the end of the world was just the beginning?
Alice Davenport awakens from a fever to find her mother gone and the city she lives in ravaged by storms – with few survivors.
When Alice is finally rescued, she is taken to a huge underground bunker owned by the mysterious Paradigm Industries. As the storms worsen, the hatches close.
87 years later, amidst the ruins of London, the survivors of the Storms have reinvented society. The Model maintains a perfect balance – with inhabitants routinely frozen until they are needed by the Industry.
Fifteen-year-old Carter Warren knows his time has come. Awoken from the catacombs as a contender for the role of Controller General, it is his destiny to succeed – where his parents failed.
But Carter soon discovers that the world has changed, in ways that make him begin to question everything that he believes in. As Carter is forced to fight for those he loves and even for his life, it seems that the key to the future lies in the secrets of the past…
As the quote above suggests, I was initially put off by Paradigm. It looked a bit too much like familiar territory for me and quite frankly it’s annoying to see yet another young adult dystopian fiction title when there’s so much more to the science fiction genre than just post-apocalyptic scenarios in a world screwed up. I for one, would kill to see a fully blown Space Opera young adult book – think the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie for where I’m getting my thoughts from. I’d take space opera as a trend anyday over well, this.
However, as is proven in the case of The Hunger Games, there are some titles worth reading from this subgenre, and Paradigm is a great example, with a plot that isn’t exactly your standard dystopian fare, and for a refreshing change, it’s actually set in London – or at least, in part – and that pretty much gains points from me right there because I will read pretty much any SciFi/Fantasy that has some version of London as its origin, purely because I’m an ex-Londoner myself.
The book isn’t just set in London though. It deals with an interesting scenario where the narrative actually has an 87 year split. The book tells the story of how the world went to hell, and what happened in the future. It’s smart, compelling, and Ceri A. Lowe has found a good way to bridge the gap and keep both stories relevant.
The main characters are interesting and compelling. Alice Davenport is essentially the main character from the present, where we get to see London destroyed by storms that leave little survivors. She’s lost her mother, and it’s interesting to see how Lowe handles Alice’s character in the aftermath and as she develops over the course of the book. However, what makes a refreshing change from the likes of Divergent and The Hunger Games is that there’s actually a shift in narrator – rather than sticking with Alice throughout the whole book, we also meet Carter Warren, who’s a fifteen year old 87 years into the future, who has his own problems.
What also makes this book stand out from the crowd is that we get to see the dystopian setting not only from the perspective of the rebels but we also get the reasoning behind its creation. Why was a strict Government necessary? It’s an interesting addition and the time-split in the narratives helps Lowe illustrate how much things have changed. It’s handled well and that’s not just the only thing that feels fresh about the dystopian setting in this novel.
For a start, there’s virtually no romance. Paradigm doesn’t fall into the trap of other books by overloading on love triangles and making the romance become the main focus of the plot. Like the refreshing changes and additions to the book, it really helps make it stand out. This isn’t just your average cheap cash in novel, folks.It proves there’s still good things to be found in the young adult dystopian genre, even if I’d rather that we moved on from this craze.
There are a few problems however, and for a start, I’d like to talk about the cover. It just feels so same-y and as though we’ve been there, and done that. The addition of the London skyline is good but more change should have been made to make this book standout more. It doesn’t detract from the main experience of the storyline but it probably should have been improved
Carter’s development is unfortunately inconsistent, and happens too quickly and too fast. The change should have happened at a slower pace and he shouldn’t have been influenced as easy as he did, and as a result his story comes across as weaker than Alice’s.
On the whole then, Paradigm is a mostly successful read. It’s compelling, engaging and a refreshing dystopian Young Adult novel that can come recommended despite its flaws.
IMPORTANT: This is a review copy from NetGalley and would normally go live on The Founding Fields. However, seeing as the backend of TFF is currently down, all book reviews will be posted on The Fictional Hangout for the foreseeable future. When the problem with TFF is eventually fixed, they will be reposted on The Founding Fields. Apologies for any inconveniences.
After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he's secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.
The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park...and discovers truths they could never have imagined.
The dystopian setting is something that I have come to loath in young adult fiction ever since the exploding success of The Hunger Games, which has triggered clone after clone that never could quite find the same spark that Collins’ fiction had. (I’m looking at you, Divergent) – I’ve always preferred the broader and not-always doom and gloom space opera, where you’ll find gems like Guardians of the Galaxy (Not exactly a young adult book, but you get my point). It’s a genre that doesn’t receive as much love in YA as it should, but that’s beside the point. Because actually, there is one sub-sub-genre of dystopian fiction that I can enjoy, and that’s stuff like The Young World – in part due to my love of Michael Grant’s Gone series (more on the similarities later). And whilst this novel doesn’t always find the right marks, it sure knows how to deliver an entertaining read.
And that is in large part due to Chris Weitz’s history as a movie director. Whilst he may be responsible for butchering Phillip Pullman’s Golden Compass Northern Lights and ending it just before it actually could reach the finale, Weitz actually manages to sort-of redeem himself here with a book that’s ready in line for a movie adaption. I wouldn’t be too surprised if we saw a Weitz-helmed adaption on the screen within the next few years given the recent dystopian movie trend (To my knowledge, there’s three adaptions of YA dystopian novels, the already-released Divergent and The Giver, and the upcoming Maze Runner) because this book actually reads like a film. It’s fast paced, action packed, and contains several elements such as love-triangles (that thankfully, do not take up as large part of the book as they could have done) and cliffhangers that will have you looking forward to the next volume.
The plot is fairly well paced and the book reads pretty quickly. A virus has eliminated all the adults and only the kids remain, having divided into tribes. It’s on a much larger scale to Lord of the Flies (which was just an island) and even Michael Grant’s Gone (which was just a town), displaying a vision of a post apocalyptic New York. It’s a refreshing take to see a novel with the kids ruling the world subplot use a real-life city after Gone, especially one on such a big scale. That’s one of the few things that helps make it stand out, and whilst there are definitely similarities between the two, you’ll see less supernatural/alien stuff here and more plain simple survival. There’s also the cliffhanger at the end of the novel, and the ending – which makes it seem like book two will take a very different direction indeed. So if you’re going to go in expecting a Gone clone – or even a clone from a similar book that you’ve read, expect surprises. On the surface it may sound familiar, but pull back the layers and you’ll find a different beast.
The characters are, unfortunately hit and miss with The Young World. Jefferson and Donna, are the two leads and both share first-person POVs. Both narrative styles are different and it’s clear that Weitz is trying to make the characters distinctive. However, the effort doesn’t quite work as well as it should – whilst Jefferson is largely solid, he’s also quickly forgettable, being the dull, boring white male lead that’s hampered plenty of projects in the past (Aiden Pearce’s Watch Dogs is perhaps the most recent example I can think of, even if it’s a video game) and the secondary figures are far more interesting. I enjoyed reading from Donna’s perspective (for most of the book, anyway), because her character was a lot more appealing, kick-ass and pure fun, with plenty of wisecracks. If Donna’s character had not regressed in development at the ending when she became involved as one (of two) of Jefferson’s love interests in this book, she could well end being one my favourite characters of 2014, which is a massive shame, and also means that by the end of the book there are no real characters that will have any lasting impact, because you are ultimately left with a sea of stereotypes that fill the secondary cast.
The stereotypes don’t improve over the course of the book, and they’re rarely flushed out. In fact, their adopted names pretty much define their respective personalities. The male, Brainbox is a nerd, and SeeThrough, is of Asian descent with ninja training. There are others, but they’re so bland I’ve forgotten about them. So whilst you can give Weitz credit for his fast paced approach and having a reasonable attempt at making this book standout from Gone, its characters are something that drags it down a lot, preventing it from being great. Because of this, Its merely OK. Be it the enjoyable kind of OK and a fun way to pass the time – but still, it never reaches the height of greatness.
And the problems don’t stop there. Depending on your tolerance for pop culture references, you may find this a bigger issue than others, but they just keep on coming in this book, with everything from Game of Thrones to Justin Bieber being covered. Characters describe fighting like moves from ‘Movie X’, which can be frustrating if you’ve never seen the movie in question. Again, this could be argued that teenagers make a lot of pop culture references, but it sometimes doesn’t always work as well as it should, and hopefully this is a lesson that Weitz learns in the next book.
However, if you can put the problems aside, The Young World manages to be an enjoyable read. It’s very much a brain-switched off adventure, with Michael Bay’s Transformers movies or the World War Z movie being comparable in terms of scale. They’re entertaining, but not too serious. Depending on your attitude towards these sort of things, this just may be your type of book. If not, stay clear.
“An excellent read from Kim Curran,who delivers a fascinating book with some compelling characters and a strong, thought provoking narrative that remains compelling throughout. Highly Recommended – this could well end up being one of the best young adult novels of 2014.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Petri Quinn is counting down the days till she turns 16 and can get on GLAZE – the ultimate social network that is bringing the whole world together into one global family. But when a peaceful government protest turns into a full-blown riot with Petri shouldering the blame, she’s handed a ban. Her life is over before it’s even started.
Desperate to be a part of the hooked-up society, Petri finds an underground hacker group and gets a black market chip fitted. But this chip has a problem: it has no filter and no off switch. Petri can see everything happening on GLAZE, all the time. Including things she was never meant to see.
As her life is plunged into danger, Petri is faced with a choice. Join GLAZE… or destroy it.
I loved Kim Curran’s Shift when I read it towards the end of last year and for me it remains one of Strange Chemistry’s better books, despite the fact that they’re continuing to put out a strong slew of releases. This time though, Glaze isn’t coming from the Angry Robot YA Imprint, it’s self published – and works really well. If you like intelligent YA novels then you can’t go wrong here, because this book has a lot of things going for it. It’s smart, compelling, and thought provoking, taking place in a near future world with Social Media being a key thing. And on top of that, it has good characters – making this book the perfect novel to read if you’re a fan of the genre.
GlazeThe book itself explores Social Media in the future, with the fascinating concept of Glaze, where everybody over a certain age is hooked up to the Social Network in your head. Several things are no longer valid – you don’t need watches when you can look up the time on your eyelids for example, and the end result allows for a very interesting subject mater, set firmly in the Sci-Fi genre, with a world that could easily be ours. There’s nothing here that seems too far-fetched or implausible, and the book deals with the concept in a solid way that reminded me briefly of The Matrix - only, substitute the titular element for Social Network.
Petri is a test-tube baby, daughter of Zizi Quinn, who played a key role in developing Glaze. Her character is strongly developed and far from perfect, and whilst she may be a genius at Maths, she does suffer from a few problems that makes her flawed, believable and rootable. For example, one of them – she’s not connected to the Glaze. All of her friends are using the social network on a daily basis and all she wants to do is access it. However, when the Police believe she started a riot at one of the anti-Glaze Protests, she’s given a five year ban from Glaze, a year before she can get on it. Only, not only are there rumours that she’s going to get a lifelong ban from Glaze – it might not be as safe as everyone thinks it is.
On top of that, there are other characters as well that are thrown into the mix, and quite a lot of them. Unfortunately this means that not all of them leave a big impact on the reader, but the main cast leave a strong presence. Petri’s mother, Zizi, classmates Kiara and Ryan, Glaze owner Max and the enigmatic teenager Ethan are the most fleshed out, and all enhance the book and add their own touch to the novel so that they never feel like carbon copies of other characters. There’s depth. There’s chemistry – between Petri and Ethan and the rest of the cast, and it works well, with some strong dialogue and nothing that really feels forced.
Glaze is shaping up to be one of my favourite Young Adult novels of the year so far. It’s smart, intelligent, quirky and with some great characters that make it a compelling read. The pace is strong as well, with the book really kicking into gear towards the end, and despite the fact that it took me a while to get going I was really hooked around halfway through, and read the whole second half in pretty much one bus journey. It’s something that’s very different from Curran’s Shift books and not just in the way that there’s a female character rather than a male one.
This book is one of the better things to come out of the dystopian /young adult fiction genre. It’s different to the likes of The Hunger Games and its various copycats, and stands as a breath of fresh air in a genre that was starting to feel repetitive after too many books featuring female characters involved with love triangles in a world ruled by an ‘evil’ Government, and is also something that could really work well as a film adaption if given the right hands. If you’re a fan of Kim Curran’s previous work or looking for some good young adult fiction then this book should be right up your street. Give it a try – trust me, you won’t regret it.
“An excellent novel that’s one of 2014’s best. Joe Abercrombie is one of fantasy’s strongest authors no matter the target audience, and Half a King is an incredible success that fans of both adult and young adult fiction alike will enjoy.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…
Joe Abercrombie is one of my favourite epic fantasy authors so there was no way that I was going to miss Half a King, the start of Abercrombie’s latest series, The Shattered Sea. His First Law Trilogy is amazing and the standalone novels of Red Country and Heroes have been superb as well. It’s good to see that Half a King was no different, and if for whatever reason you haven’t jumped on the Abercrombie bandwagon yet, then this is the perfect place to start.
Prince Yarvi, the main character of Half a King and its main narrator, is a crippled teenager who was put on the throne following the death of his brother and father. It’s a position that he never expected to be in, but when he was betrayed and sold into slavery, he’ll do anything to win it back. Suffering from a handicap since the start of the novel, it allows an interesting and unique lead character as rarely you will find a novel featuring a major character with a disability such as Yarvi’s. Abercrombie handles it incredibly well and gives it that strong voice that keeps the character sympathetic as well as packing enough punch to hold the story.
Despite the fact that Half a King may be young adult, it is certainly one of the darker young adult novels that I’ve read and that is no surprise when you consider Abercrombie’s adult fiction. Despite the darker tone, the novel is very much a coming of age tale, and you can tell that although it sounds like familiar ground (I mean, how often have you heard a coming of age young adult fantasy book been described to you before?) but Abercrombie adds an interesting twist that keeps this book feeling fresh and at no point over the course of the novel did it feel dull. Abercrombie has a captivating way of engrossing readers and he did not disappoint at all, and as a result I wouldn’t be surprised if Half a King were to end up in my Top 10 books of 2014 come the end of the year.
I breezed through Half a King in three separate sittings, limited only by the length of my bus journey. If I didn’t have a stop to get off, I probably would have kept reading (I almost did towards the end) because the novel reads like a thriller, and you’ll be turning the pages desperate to find out what happens next, which is rare in a fantasy where attention to detail can often bog down the pace. Not so with Half a King. There is plenty of world building and you get enough details to keep you going but don’t let that put you off. The balance is handled well and Abercrombie, a veteran author, rarely puts anything wrong.
There are so few young adult novels that manage to maintain a certain level of unpredictability all the way through and Half a King is very much one of those. Its constant twists and turns, ramping up to a higher level near the end, had me hooked from start to finish and I couldn’t see what was coming next. The fact that Abercrombie manages to juggle all of these elements as well as allow for some great character development makes Half a King a must read that can’t be ignored. It’s just that good.
Even if there was nothing new about the coming of age premise, the way Abercrombie executed the narrative made the book compelling and engaging. It focuses more on the characters than the plot, and gives plenty of room for Yarvi and the others to grow. The villains are fleshed out as well and it’s great to see what Abercrombie has done with this. It’s always a bit of a risk when an author moves out of his traditional stomping ground (yes, Abercrombie may still be in the fantasy genre, but young adult fiction is a different beast to adult fiction entirely) and the author has adapted confidently, handing the new element well. As a result then, this book comes highly recommended, and if you’re a lover of fantasy in general then you can’t go wrong with Half a King. Let’s hope the rest of The Shattered Sea continues to be this impressive.
Meh. Like most YA books it was better than the movie (which was terrible), but felt like a deviant of of Harry Potter and Buffy with both being superiMeh. Like most YA books it was better than the movie (which was terrible), but felt like a deviant of of Harry Potter and Buffy with both being superior. I still managed to read it in a couple of sittings though. ...more
“I never expected The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare to be as good as it was. It took me completely by surprise and turned out to be quite possibl“I never expected The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare to be as good as it was. It took me completely by surprise and turned out to be quite possibly one of the best novels from Strange Chemistry books to date. Forget popular books like The Hunger Games & Twilight, M.G. Buehrlen’s debut novel is something that every young adult fan should read.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.
But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.
It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.
Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.
And will stop at nothing to make this life her last."
Time travel has been a great part of science fiction and fantasy culture primarily due to the 50-year old British Science Fiction TV series Doctor Who and the Back to the Future trilogy. The subject genre has also given us novels like Stephen King’s 11.22.63, and of course the classic H.G. Wells novel The Time Machine. With such a vast subject to cover it’s amazing that beyond the aforementioned titles you’ll probably struggle to recall and really exceptional time travel material in both novels and film that has been really, truly brilliant. Despite the fact that M.G. Buehrlen’s The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare may not look like much on the blurb, sounding like another time-travel romance story, but despite the fact that romance does play an important part in this book the main focus is on the time travel, and the plot actually moves forward rather than just being about two characters falling in love. It’s compelling, page-turning and a really quick read – something that will appeal to fans of both young adult and adult fiction alike.
The57LivesofAlexWayfareThe main character is 17 year old Alex Wayfare, who’s a sort of time traveller. She lacks a TARDIS and a DeLorean, but what she does have the ability to do is move through fifty seven different lifetimes, in various bodies and actually live history rather than read about it in paper. The catch? When she time travels, she transports herself into different people’s bodies and it’s not always clear whose bodies she’s going to end up in. And then of course, there are rules – you cannot fall in love, or kill a person, because this may end up changing the future altogether. It’s clear that the writer has actually put some thought process into the idea of time travel and doesn’t make up new rules as she goes along. It’s good to see a sense of direction as well, because the plot rapidly advances and as a result allows for a really compelling read.
Alex Wayfare is a likable, rootable and engaging character. She’s the outsider at school – nicknamed “Wayspaz” by her peers, with little friends and a good ability to fix things. It’s not often that you get a well rounded character in young adult fiction nowadays – particularly female characters tend to be underdeveloped often, but Alex is one that certainly has been fleshed out and over the course of the book really grows as a character. And more importantly, Alex actually gets stuff done. You’d be amazed at how many young adult novels (and not just YA novels) there are where the female protagonist doesn’t actually do a lot of stuff other than fall in love with the man. When a book is written entirely through a first person perspective it’s important that you can connect to and root for the main character and that’s what Buehrlen does. Alex isn’t off-putting and never feels like a Mary-Sue.
The storyline is fantastic. It explores time travel in a way that most novels don’t – what if you ended up in other people’s bodies rather than time travel by yourself? Marty McFly didn’t have to deal with this situation, and neither does The Doctor. Buehrlen’s take on time travel is inventive and imaginative – and it’ll be interesting to see what direction she takes the book if there is a sequel. She does include a romance element which will normally throw people off but it actually works here, not bogging down the story and still creating a really compelling read. There isn’t a love triangle that most books seem to be so full of nowadays and it’s all the better because of that. If anything, The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare shows that you can write a good young adult novel with a female character that doesn’t have to deal with two separate love interests. It’s a refreshing break and makes Alex feel more realistic and less of an author’s wish-fulfillment.
Despite being a lot of fun, The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare does have two minor issues that could have been developed more. They don’t really detract from the overall enjoyment of the book but it would have been nice to see the secondary characters developed a bit more, especially when Alex herself was so well fleshed out. The other complaint is nothing to do with the writing of the book at all, it’s the fact that the cover is not as great as it could have been. A time travel novel has a potential for a great cover but the opportunity was really wasted here as it feels bland and generic, much like the “Man with hood” covers that epic fantasy seems to be full of nowadays.
On the whole, The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare is an excellent book that can be recommended to all lovers of young adult fiction, with something that readers of almost every genre will find something to enjoy here. It’s compelling, page-turning and something that everybody should check out upon its release. It’s one of the best Strange Chemistry novels yet and that’s no easy award to win – the publisher has given the reader some excellent books in the form of titles like Laura Lam’s Pantomime, Kim Curran’s Shift and Rosie Best’s Skulk. Hopefully, this novel will get a sequel – because Alex Wayfare’s world is something that should be very interesting to return to.