Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library was a fun novel that provided an excellent start to an exciting new series and TheCheck Out The Review Here
Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library was a fun novel that provided an excellent start to an exciting new series and The Masked City continued that strong form, doing what sequels do best, working just as well on its own as a continuation as the same story thread, plunging us back into a world that once again reminds me of a combination between Doctor Who and TNT’s wonderfully fun The Librarians series, a comparison that I made in my review of the first book and seems more present here.
The book sees Irene working undercover in an alternate reality London however she soon learns that her assistant Kai has been plunged into trouble of his own, kidnapped by the fae. To make matters worse Kai’s life isn’t the only one at stake, and the repercussions could have a knock on effect for entire worlds thanks to his heritage. It means a trip to Venice for Irene, but not the Venice that you and I are familiar with. It’s a dark one where the Carnival is always happening, and here she will be forced to barter and fight her way to rescue Kai. It’s a basic premise that plunges the reader into the wonderful concept of Cogman’s world, and it’s great to see it executed so well.
The characters are as fun as ever and Kai and Irene are handled pretty well once again. They work well and are fun and easy to enjoy, with the main focus on Irene being a strong one as Kai is pushed to the side for obvious reasons. Silver and Vale are also interesting alternatives to Kai’s character, and they keep the book fresh and exciting. It’s nice to see that Cogman almost tackles her own version of Sherlock Holmes with Vale, and gives him a famous status to boot.
The world building is one of the main draws of this series though and it really works. The magic fits strongly within the world and never feels too overpowered or Deus-Ex Machina-ery, and Irene’s ways to use it are constantly entertaining. The magic fits into the world and fits itself at home within the rich development of the fae, as well as the fascinating backdrop of the alternate Venice provides a superb setting for the book and certainly makes me wish that I had the chance to read more fantasy novels were set on continental Europe, as there is plenty of potential to explore. (If you think of any good Venice-set fantasy books or just European-fantasy inspired based books in general, let me know! I’d love to read them).
The Masked City is a book that turns the “lead male rescuing the female” trope on its head by having the woman doing the rescuing, and as a result, thanks to the fun and overall enjoyment factor that this book provides, it is a worthy follow up that doesn’t lose steam. I will be keeping an eye out for the next novel in The Invisible Library series – The Burning Page, for sure, and you should be, as well. Like V.E. Schwab’s most recent offering, this is an alternate-world exploring sequel that delivers. ...more
“A flawed but fun high concept steampunk novel that is pretty entertaining to read.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Following in the fine tradition of Felix Gilman’s spectacularly reviewed Half Made World comes a sweeping tale of Victorian science fiction, space exploration, and planetary romance.
In 1893 a storm sweeps through London, while Arthur Shaw—a young astronomer with a side career writing fiction—is at work in British Museum Reading Room. The storm wreaks unprecedented damage throughout London. Its aftermath of the storm Arthur’s prime literary market closes, owing him money, and all his debts come due at once. His fiance Jo takes a job as a stenographer for some of the fashionable spiritualist and occult societies of fin de siècle London society. Meanwhile, Arthur deciphers an encoded newspaper ad seeking able young men. It seems to be a clerking job doing accounting work, but the mysterious head man Mr. Gacewell offers Arthur a starting position at a salary many times what any clerk could expect. The work is long and peculiar, and the men spend all day performing unnerving calculations that make them hallucinate or even go mad…but the salary is compelling.
Things are beginning to look up when the wages of dabbling in the esoteric suddenly come due: a war breaks out between competing magical societies, and Arthur interrupts Jo in the middle of an elaborate occult exploration. This rash move turns out to be dire, as Jo’s consciousness is stranded at the outer limits of the occultists’ psychic day trip. Which, Arthur is chagrinned…"
Steampunk is one of my favourite genres, and as a result despite not being familiar with any of Felix Gilman’s novels I was looking forward to reading this one when it came through my front door mainly because of the concept, which sounded like it could be excellent. Steampunk with space exploration? That sounded like a must read to me, and whilst The Revolutions did impress in some areas, there were other parts where it didn’t quite meet the mark.
Revolutions-TheThe Revolutions is a fun, inventive and imaginative read that’s a bit different from your average novel. It’s not quite your typical Steampunk fiction either, with a big element of science fiction, specifically space exploration, being included to make for a read that’s got a wealth of ideas on offer. You won’t quite have seen anything like it before, and that can be both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that you won’t feel like you’re reading something that you’ve already read, but the negativity that comes with this is in times, it can often feel too confusing especially when there are several questions that don’t get answered over the course of the novel.
It does help though, that the novel itself is well written, with a confident narrative voice and strong prose. The characters are interesting, with Arthur Shaw, a young astronomer and writer leading the way and whilst they never quite leave a lasting impact on the reader they’re more than satisfying people to spend a novel with. You won’t be put off by them, for example, and rarely do they make stupid decisions that will throw you off. However, the side characters don’t get the same amount of attention, with the likes of Lord Podmore, Atwood and others perhaps not receiving as much pagetime to flesh them out properly.
The Revolutions has some excellent world building going for it. You really get a good feeling behind what Gilman has created, and there’s a lot of depth here. It also helps that the book moves along fairly swiftly as well, not quite a page-turner but there are certainly slower novels out there. Despite having a steampunk feel, and something that could be classified as part of the genre (like I’ve done in this review) the novel doesn’t spend a lot of attention on the steam element, focusing more on different elements that will become more clear if you read the novel.
There are some issues with the plot, however. For example, Arthur’s writing is ignored once we’ve been introduced to it and only receives a passing mention at the end, and a focus on an important character’s death which does originally seem of huge import, is ignored and when brought back, is solved in an underwhelming way. I would have liked to see these two issues been expanded upon in more depth, thus allowing for a more concrete novel.
That said, there’s plenty to enjoy about The Revolutions despite its problems. The aforementioned quality of prose is part of what still manages to make this book entertaining, and the ideas presented mostly pay off. It never feels dull, and there wasn’t any point where I wanted to abandon it completely. There was always that hook that kept me turning the pages and it’s something that should apply to your reading experience as well, because despite its flaws, The Revolutions still comes with a recommendation, albeit a cautious one.
“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 wonderful, weird tale that stands in contention with The Age Atomic by Adam Christopher for being one of the most fun reads of 2013. A delight to read.” ~The Founding Fields
It was a bit of a surprise when this book turned up for me in the mail to review, because I’d never heard of the author nor the book itself before. But, the cover looked pretty awesome and the concept had me sold – I mean, I’ve never read a bad steampunk book yet (even if I haven’t read a lot of them) and when you combine steampunk with space opera you have the perfect setting for an entertaining book, my only fear being that it wouldn’t deliver on the premise. But deliver it did, and I really enjoyed what Suddain managed to produce, with the spectacular Theatre of the Gods keeping the author under my radar for any future novels that are released from him.
"Steampunk space opera? Damn right. The fight begins! The Armadas of the universe set sail for the next dimension!
Who will succeed?
M. Francisco Fabrigas — scientist, explorer, ‘dreamer’ (fool), and perhaps the greatest human of all ages (fool) — with his shipful of slave children and mysterious stowaways?
The Pope of the Universe and the dastardly Fleet of the Nine Churches?
Her Majesty Queen Habitas X? (Glory Be To Her, Our Queen, For She Will Live Forever!)
Or a sinister well-dressed mesmerist, who is telling you what to think even now?
All we can promise is this — 170,000 ships depart for the Interior, and not one of them, not a single one of them, will return."
The concept is the most intriguing thing about the novel as well, but the characters themselves are also quite interesting. However, one alarming element that scores a point for Theatre of the Gods - is that it’s unlike any novel that I’ve ever read before. Seriously. Original, fresh and fun - Theatre of the Gods blends the two genres that you’d think could never be connected, steampunk and space-opera, along the same lines of Joss Whedon blending Western and Space Opera together to create Firefly. You’d think you’d never see a day when these two genres were combined – but that day has come. And it couldn’t ask for a better writer at the helm than Matt Suddain, who writes as though this is his 5th book as opposed to his first.
The book itself is incredibly complex. The prose is strong and the writing captivating, allowing for a very fun read. The book itself is – if the message already isn’t told by now – unique, full of wild concepts, great characters, a different way of storytelling and above all – fun. Seriously. If I hadn’t have already read The Age Atomic by Adam Christopher I’d be labelling Theatre of the Gods as my most fun reads of the year, but I think at the moment they’re both tied. I just love the way Suddain has crafted this book, with illustrations included – if you’re looking for something different from your average fantasy novel, then Matt Suddain is your go-to-guy. The writer is confidently impressing and manages to create a strong read with an excellent narrative style that some writers struggle to manage in their second or third go, let alone their first.
Universe exploration stories are always fun, and Theatre of the Gods is no different. Matt Suddain’s writing is compelling, the characters – particularly it’s lead, the explorer Francisco Fabrigas, are strong and the journey that the reader, as well as the character goes on – is an exploration indeed. There aren’t moments where the storytelling feels clumsy or awkward, and the pacing structure manages to keep you going, and this bold début manages to deliver with great confidence. Certainly, if I make a list for most surprising novel of 2013, Theatre of the Gods will be up there for sure. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be this good.
The Characterization is strong, vivid – Francisco Fabrigas certainly feels like the most developed, and the dialogue is fun and it never feels unrealistic, allowing for the book to be strong in several aspects. The cover art is also spectacular as well – it was one of the things that sold me on this book. I mean, how often do you see a ship that is decidedly not your typical spaceship, floating through space? It certainly beats the traditional man-with-a-hood covers that seem to be a common staple in fantasy these days, and was also one of the things that had me sold on the book.
And therefore, in conclusion – there’s only one thing left to say. Upon the release of Theatre of the Gods, buy it, read it and enjoy it. Matt Suddain is an incredibly gifted author and I’m really looking forward to what he can throw at the reader next.
“The Emperor of All Things is one of the most fun reads I’ve had so far in 2013. Very brilliant.” ~The Founding Fields
It’s not often I get to read a Steampunk novel but when I do I usually find them very enjoyable. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman remains my favourite YA work of fiction to date, and both Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith and The Great Game by Lavie Tidhar have been strong reads. I was very intrigued by the following blurb of The Emperor of All Things, even if it is quite possibly one of the longest that I’ve come across in a while:
Tempus Rerum Imperator: Time, Emperor of All Things.
The year is 1758. England is at war, embroiled in a globe-spanning conflict that stretches from her North American colonies to Europe and beyond. And now, after more than two years of military and diplomatic setbacks, the country itself is at risk. Across the Channel, the French prepare for an invasion – an invasion rumored to be led by none other than Bonnie Prince Charlie. It seems the map of Europe is about to be redrawn …again. Yet beneath the surface, behind the scenes, another war is raging. A war that will determine not just the fate of nations but of humanity itself.
Daniel Quare is a journeyman in the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, an ancient guild whose royal charter confers absolute authority over the manufacture of timepieces. But Quare is more than he seems. He is a Regulator, a member of an elite spy network within the guild – a network devoted to searching out and claiming for England’s exclusive use any horological innovation that could conceivably result in an advantage for Britain over her adversaries, whether in business or in war. It is just such a mission that brings him one moonlit night to the London townhouse of the eccentric collector Lord Wichcote. But there he finds more than he bargained for. A pocket watch possessed of seemingly impossible properties – deadly properties that seem to have more to do with magic than with any science familiar to Quare or to his superiors in the guild, Sir Thaddeus Wolfe, Grandmaster of the Order, and Theophilus Magnus, head of the Most Secret and Exalted Order of Regulators. But the strange watch has drawn the attention of others as well. The mysterious masked thief known only as Grimalkin, and a French spy – and cold-blooded killer – who seeks to bring the prize back to his masters.
Soon Quare finds himself following a trail of intrigue and murder that leads far from the world he knows into an otherwhere of dragons and demigods, in which nothing is as it seems …time least of all.
The Emperor of All Things takes place in 1785, a very different period to what you’ll have come across if you’ve studied that area of history, for it is a time filled with all sorts of fantasy elements, magic, dragons, stuff that is unexplained and makers of clocks that are more then they appear. The book itself is divided into three, with the opening act taking place in London focusing on Quare and a lot of fighting with swords, whilst the second part of the tale takes us through an older story dealing with a colossal clock tower, a town stranded from the rest of the world and an obsession, whilst the third and final act will take the readers back to London to end a book that I’ve already stated as one of the most fun reads of 2013 so far.
The first part of the novel, for me – is the more interesting one, as the description above suggests – this tale drags the reader on an exciting journey through London in 1785, and deals with spies, secret societies and as mentioned above, lots of sword fighting. The pace as a result moves along at a lightning-fast pace which doesn’t relent throughout the entire book, allowing for a page-turning read. However, in some parts – The Emperor of All Things gets ahead of itself and in order to understand what’s going on, you have to flick back a few pages and re-read them.
The second act of the novel for me is probably the weakest, in that it just didn’t work for me as well as the first and the last acts did. The fast paced actions that were common throughout them were cast aside in favour of a more entertaining element of the novel, and whilst this book may be bursting with imaginative content, it sometimes comes across as a bit too bizarre for my tastes at least in this part of the book. I get the fact that this is meant to be Steampunk, and bizarre ideas are commonplace (see The Great Game), but… there is a line.
Thankfully though, I was allowed to return to Quare’s adventures before the end of the book and was swept a long at an awesome ride. So it’s safe to say that for the most part, the book is a strong read, filled with action, swashbuckling fun in an alternate London. Witcover has managed to create an entertaining tale that you should find as enjoyable to read as I did. I would even go so far as to call this the most fun read that I’ve had in 2013, but I’m currently reading The Age Atomic by Adam Christopher which I’m enjoying a bit more. However, make no mistake – if you want a fun, steampunk world with some bizarre elements to it as well as for the most part, a strong book, then The Emperor of All Things is unmissable for you.
Batman and Steampunk? How awesome is that? A great combination of the two genres (is Batman really a genre?) and a great look at a Victorian-era GothaBatman and Steampunk? How awesome is that? A great combination of the two genres (is Batman really a genre?) and a great look at a Victorian-era Gotham with two strong, separate stories featuring Jack the Ripper and a Victorian-era Joker. A universe I would love to see more of, and it's highly recommended for all Batman fans. Full Founding Fields review soon....more