Poison Dance is Livia Blackburne’s prequel novella to Midnight Thief, a Disney-Hyperion title that’s due out in 2014. It takes place a handf...more2.5 stars
Poison Dance is Livia Blackburne’s prequel novella to Midnight Thief, a Disney-Hyperion title that’s due out in 2014. It takes place a handful of years before the events of the novel, and focuses on James, an assassin, and the eventual leader of the Assassin’s Guild. It’s essentially a glimpse into a fresh fantasy world and an introduction to a potentially key secondary character.
Unfortunately, and quite disappointingly, this novella failed to do what I really wanted it to – which was to whet my appetite for a new author’s imagination. Instead, it made for a few too many days of rather monotonous reading, and actually took me longer to get through than a normal-length book usually might. On the surface, there is little that is obviously wrong with it. Besides a few stiff attempts to make word choices fantasy-appropriate, the world-building (although not fully explored here) is noticeably thought-out, the characters are consistent, and the writing is solid. What this novella lacks (for me, at least) is emotion - a certain level of heart that might make it more than just a few short pages that are easily forgotten within the hour. I felt no connection to James, to his story, or to any of the other characters around him.
Technically, Poison Dance isn’t an outrageously bad piece of work, but this ultimate indifference does make me feel like I wasted my time a little with this one. I don’t think it’s an essential read, however, I am still looking forward to Midnight Thief – I know, I don’t make sense to even me – but with altered, more reasonable expectations. (less)
“We need the powerful ones... Because it’s coming. It’s coming and they can stop it.”
Creativity abounds in Laure Eve’s Fearsome Dreamer. It’...more3.5 stars
“We need the powerful ones... Because it’s coming. It’s coming and they can stop it.”
Creativity abounds in Laure Eve’s Fearsome Dreamer. It’s an unquestionably ambitious and imaginative debut novel, full of interesting ideas and comfortably touching on a blend of different genres. The series potential is clear from the start, and the cinematic potential clear soon after. It’s the sort of read that I imagine escapists will cherish, and the sort of book that I imagine could be perfect with just a little more work. I certainly had a lot of fun reading it, in immersing myself in such an original world, but I do think there is definite room for improvement.
The high points lie in interweaving of the diverse range of concepts. We have a little of everything – magic, politics, dreamwalking, domed cities, virtual reality realms, romance, and more! The story unravels in a world where an alternate history has led to England becoming Angle Tar, a fiercely independent and isolated island. This is where main character and apprentice hedgewitch Vela Rue lives with her dreams and daydreams of sprites and freshwater mermaids. The rest is World, an alliance of countries and the once war-enemy of Angle Tar. In World, where travel and transport is unheard of, the only place for fantasy is in Life, a virtual reality realm reached via implant. This is where we meet White, a Jumper and one of the Talented, while he is arrested for allegedly conspiring with the Technophobes. Connecting them together is a man named Frith, a recruiter of Talented, and an Angle Tarain agent for the mysterious Castle.
It’s a complicated creation that Laure Eve has churned together here, but definitely an exciting and absorbing one. Much of our time is spent in Angle Tar, in a Capital university with a department for the training and development of Talent. It’s here that Rue and White meet, both being one of the rare Talented who can Jump and transport themselves in the blink of an eye. We follow the story from both points of view – and also from Frith’s perspective, too – and get a glimpse into their tense relationship from all sides. With Rue being quite petulant at times (or ignorant and wistful as others have called it), and White being a mostly hard-bitten and careful character, their personalities are almost opposites and create one of my favourite setups for a romance. Although the characters here are not outstandingly easy to connect with at first, I do like them all, and think that Eve has put the third person narrative to use rather well.
The story does get off to a slow start. Not a great deal takes place plot-wise until the very end of the journey, but even then the progression feels disappointingly slight (particularly for such a grand idea of a book). The climactic point isn’t as pronounced as might be expected, and instead, we’re left with what essentially feels more like an introductory novel to the next book – rather than a strong first instalment. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the stakes have been laid and are on the verge of playing a more important role in the sequel. (Hopefully we’ll see a little more forward momentum with the last-minute fuel added on the final page.) Something else that I think could do with some polishing here is the handling and indication of the passage of time. There is a slight lack of fluidity and structure to the tale on occasion, which perhaps goes hand in hand with the poor plot movement. I also noticed some issues with tense – for example, during recounts, and the transitions in and out of these.
Another thing that takes some getting used to is the prose and dialogue, particularly when we’re with Rue. Eve’s play on language comes across somewhat stiff and awkward at first – with the ‘hit and miss grammar’ as White helpfully calls it – but it does fit the characters and the tone of the story quite nicely after a while. There are still brief moments when the overuse of ‘well’ and ‘so’ make little sense at all, and moments when a misplaced comma results in an awkward sentence construction, but I imagine that the more flexible of readers will be able to ignore this easily enough. The only one other area that I think could be slightly better is the world-building. The overarching concepts and ideas are fantastic, but the actual execution, and the nitty-gritty details that make it count, could be just a little more enhanced. The descriptions are lacking a precision or detail necessary for painting a vivid mental picture. I still don’t feel like I quite know what the different parts of Angle Tar look like.
Those things aside – and they are quite a few things, admittedly! – I do think Fearsome Dreamer is a perfectly solid and decent read. It might not have been perfect (and I hope that the next book will be stronger), but for a first attempt, it’s not bad at all. What was lacking here was just about made up for with Laure Eve’s exciting and fresh imagination. I’m sure that I’ll be following the rest of the series.
This review may contain spoilers for Sanctum, the first book in the series.
Unlike Sanctum, which takes place in an entirely original world, Fractured...moreThis review may contain spoilers for Sanctum, the first book in the series.
Unlike Sanctum, which takes place in an entirely original world, Fractured brings Lela Santos’ story to a modern day, human-ridden Rhode Island. Instead of the bleak and atmospheric Shadowlands, we have high school, soup kitchens, teenage angst, cars, cell phones and prom. It’s definitely a dramatic shift in tone and ideas – and, admittedly, isn’t likely to sit exceedingly well with all readers – but, despite that, Fractured remains an addictive and thoroughly entertaining read. While it may be more in line with typical paranormal romances than with Sanctum, there is something quite distinctly gripping about Sarah Fine’s fairly simple writing style, and something quite distinctly appealing about her well-built characters. Regardless of where Lela and Malachi end up, you need to keep turning the pages.
The start serves as a pretty good adjustment period, with just enough recapping present to make re-reading Sanctum non-essential. This time, with high school and her peers to think about, Lela is forced to balance her new role as Captain of the Guard with the routine and ordinary aspects of being a teenager. More amusingly, this involves teaching Malachi how to fit in in her modern world.
“I’d seen Malachi kill Mazikin with deadly accuracy and powerful grace... I’d rarely seen him do anything as mundane as setting forks on a table.”
It isn’t all fun and games, though. The plot here focuses on the Mazikin – the hellish creatures that can possess human bodies to access their memories and skills. When there are unexplainable sightings of people running around on all fours, and further chilling reports of attacks on the homeless and vulnerable, Lela is provided with two new Guards from the Shadowlands to form a unit with her Lieutenant to track down and destroy the Mazikin nest before it’s too late. The stakes don’t feel quite as heart-pounding or high this time, but there is definitely still a good bit of action and suspense. We find out a little more about the different parts of the Shadowlands – including the Blinding City, a place for the addicts, thieves and insatiably greedy – through Jim and Henry, the two new Guards, as well as a few gut-punching revelations about what may or may not happen to human souls in the afterlife. Essentially, though, this book is about preventing the Mazikin from infesting the land of the living.
“The only thing stopping them from stealing the bodies of a million living humans... is us.”
The change in setting does allow for a few irritating second-book clichés to bloom in the romance department. There is some miscommunication and angst, predictable and unnecessary instances when other characters are brought into the picture. It’s generic stuff - the sort that can be somewhat frustrating when you’ve seen it used a million times before (and always know how it’s going to end). Nevertheless, Sarah Fine does (miraculously) manage to ensure that Malachi and Lela have a core relationship that is completely affecting and easy to invest in. In fact, once all the forced professionalism and let’s-avoid-eye-contact is ignored, the romance here is one of the most stirring parts. There are plenty of heart-wrenching and emotional scenes – and plenty others that put the swoon in swoon-worthy.
The ending is kind of a little bit cruel. (And by a little bit, I mean SO VERY MUCH). It’s the sort of ending that makes me wonder if reading is actually the most painful hobby in existence (I’m thinking YES). Ignoring that part, Fractured was a brilliant read for me – engaging and enjoyable, and a strong sequel to Sanctum. I’m convinced that whatever happens next will result in either hair loss or heartbreak, but I seriously cannot wait to find out.
“They said that when an elemental mage called forth flame, she stole a little from every fire in the world. That would make Iolanthe Seabourne quite...more“They said that when an elemental mage called forth flame, she stole a little from every fire in the world. That would make Iolanthe Seabourne quite the thief.”
Sherry Thomas’s first venture into the young adult field is a delightfully accomplished one. With strong world-building, a rich magical infrastructure, consistent characters, and a touch of romance, The Burning Sky is exactly the sort of book that effortlessly pushes the rest of the world to one side. As an escapist, titles like this could not be more craved or more appreciated. Throw in some old-fashioned boarding school fun – Eton! Camaraderie! Cricket! – and we have a truly wonderfully entertaining fantasy novel, and a brilliant start to a new series.
The very beginning of the book is a little less-than-perfect, I have to say. There are a lot of familiar ideas present here, a prophecy-fulfilling plot among them, and so, admittedly, the opening chapters are not as instantly absorbing or original as they could be. The Harry Potter influence undoubtedly leaves its mark, from Marble, the Prince’s winged horse, to the use of Obliviscere, an illegal forgetfulness spell, and rapid vaulting, a means of mage transportation. Nevertheless, after a short while (a couple of chapters, at least), The Burning Sky sets sail on its own two feet and it does so magnificently. The concepts and workings of Thomas’s fantasy creation all flourish and gain dimension and depth, more than making up for the weak, second-hand foundation at the start. It all commences with a burning sky, a bolt of lightning called down to fix a ruined batch of silver light elixir. It’s this event that draws our two main characters together.
The third person dual narration works brilliantly. Iolanthe Seabourne, the star of a prophecy foretelling the birth of a mage powerful enough to take on the Realm’s tyrannous Bane, is quickly forced to team up with Prince Titus, our second protagonist, and the son of the seer who made the prediction. Together, they are one hell of a pair. There is some predictable secrecy and skirting around the truth (which generally tends to drive me insane) but, surprisingly enough, the romance is nothing but enjoyable and amusing. Between the training, scheming, and evading the agents of the Bane’s Atlantis, the two develop a strange friendship and a slow-burning mutual attraction. And they bring out the best in each other, which is something I always like to see. The Master of the Domain is a bit of a cheeky lad, under all that pressure, formality and responsibility.
“...I actually possess a superior wand – the finest of its kind, no less. The sort of fireworks my wand can produce will leave any girl breathless.”
The Eton setting is quite peculiar and unexpected at first, but it adds an almost ordinary touch to the story that can be easily appreciated. In high-end She’s the Man style, Iolanthe is forced to pretend to be a boy… and to play sports and to make friends. It’s a striking contrast from the mage world, but a brilliant move and a key part in drawing Titus and Iolanthe closer together. A lot of the rest of their time is spent in the Crucible, a storybook which they can physically transport themselves into for training purposes. It’s a superbly imagined creation and probably the most memorable thing about the The Burning Sky, second to the characters.
Despite the slightly rocky start, I totally enjoyed this book and completely fell for Iolanthe and Titus. This is definitely a trilogy with some exciting future potential and I can’t wait to see where the series will go next.
It’s clear from the start that Mortal Fire will only work for a very specific audience. The first few pages are almost excruciatingly slow-paced – tho...moreIt’s clear from the start that Mortal Fire will only work for a very specific audience. The first few pages are almost excruciatingly slow-paced – though not at all poorly written – and the journey to the end feels largely like an uphill trek. It’s demanding and full of detail, and, as a consequence, requires ample amounts of concentration and thought. Despite that, despite its almost irritating intricacy, it is wonderfully mesmerising and unquestionably original. There is something quite distinctly magical about the story and something quite utterly endearing about the main character. Although I had to use some brain power – which, you know, I don’t always like to do – I really, really liked this book.
It begins with a note from the author, stating that Mortal Fire is set in a world mostly like our own and where the year is 1959. Our protagonist arrives in the form of Canny Mochrie, an unusual and perceptive 16-year-old girl whose vision is sharp enough to pick up on the ‘Extra’. These are floating, calligraphic threads that are occasionally semi-transparent in appearance (and what I imagine the lettering effect on the book cover is supposed to reflect). Her brother’s interest in a mining accident takes them to Zarene Valley, where one of the survivors of the accident lives, and it’s here where Canny learns that magic is real and that she can manipulate it herself. Along the way, we are introduced to a whole plethora of strange concepts, from lie-detecting wind chimes and the intimate power of an ideogrammatic language, to a hidden house where time obeys a different set of rules and to a 17-year-old who has been imprisoned for 30 years.
It is Canny who truly makes this book. Although she reads far more like a middle grade protagonist than an older one, her personality is so beautifully distinct that it doesn’t at all matter. She is a problem solver, an adamant and calculative character whose occasional surliness is strangely charming. She does not think or act like you and I, but her eyes provide an interesting window from which to follow this odd story. One thing that feels a little superficial, however, is her reaction to Ghislain, the prisoner in the hidden house. The romance is difficult to grasp, or to even like, and in any other book it could be immediately labelled insta-love. When looking at Mortal Fire as a whole, however, it doesn’t quite appear to be much of a flaw, but just something to note. It helps that Ghislain himself is an incredibly interesting character. His dry humour and secretive habits make him very intriguing, indeed.
As enchanting as much of this book is, and as easy as it is to thoroughly invest in all of the characters, I do think I would have personally enjoyed this book entirely if the turn of events towards the end had been a fraction clearer. We touch on magical anchors and spell cages, time travel and wandering spirits. I even put my glasses on at one point, and had my nose right in the book, but, try as I might, I could not absorb every single little detail and unravel them in a logical sequence. That’s not to say that I lost interest, however. If anything, my attentiveness increased tenfold, and the clear imagination fuelled into the book did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. I just merely wish a couple of things had been a little better explained or, better yet, simpler.
Despite the slow start and the (at times) overly ambitious plot threads, Mortal Fire is a book that unreservedly deserves some recognition. It’s a complex and carefully-paced read, and perhaps better suited to the most patient and flexible of readers, but worth much of the concentration and time that it undoubtedly needs. It’s different, more than anything, and sometimes that is exactly what I need.
“He comes apart in my hands. So easily. Imagine a child at their first birthday. He is the cake. I hear myself laughing, screeching, cacklin...more3.5 stars
“He comes apart in my hands. So easily. Imagine a child at their first birthday. He is the cake. I hear myself laughing, screeching, cackling.”
We begin with a rather gruesome first chapter, set in a bleak and dreary asylum. Here we meet Meda Melange... who likes to eat people.
Meda is the reason that this book works. She is fierce, shamelessly self-centred, downright rude, and all kinds of dark and witty. She is the body-ripping, soul-eating main character that I never knew I wanted. The narration here is an extension of her, full of short sentences, disturbingly wicked thoughts and delicious sarcasm. As a result, Cracked is almost effortlessly engaging. It’s bold and fresh, delivers some originals ideas, and manages to be an all-round solid first novel.
“I eat souls. The packaging can be tricky, but fortunately I am blessed with special skills to pry my meals from their pesky shells. My teeth rip skin; my jaws snap bones. I am fast, lightning-fast, snuff – oh-was-that-your-life? – fast.”
The plot is action-packed, even if a little unfocused in places, with very few punches being held back. Crewe introduces as to the Templars, a secret society dedicated to hunting demons. These just so happen to be the very people who are hell-bent on eradicating Meda’s kind. With the most important person in mind (i.e. herself), she feigns innocence and enters their ranks to use their insider knowledge to her advantage. Much of it is about Meda, her past and her parents, and who she actually is. While the secondary characters never feel as distinct and exceptional as she does, they are all wonderfully built, particularly Chi, Jo and Uri, who together with Meda form the most amusingly mismatched gang.
“...my binges don’t result in weight gain, but rather indiscriminate homicide.”
Although I can’t call Cracked a personal favourite – it lacks that mysterious ingredient that results in fangirling – I do think it is a book that is worthy of some attention. If nothing else, it is ridiculously entertaining, and sometimes, that is all I am after.
Ironically (and quite disappointingly), my greatest problem with Some Quiet Place happens to be the very concept that fuels its existence.
Like several of the books that I plan to love, but then end up not loving very much at all, Some Quiet Place is full of potential. It’s original, if nothing else, with its detached main character and personified Emotions. We’re introduced to a world where Fear and Longing and Denial take physical human form (for Elizabeth Caldwell, at least), and where the Emotions’ appearances match the connotations of their roles. Elizabeth notices every time that Resentment walks into the room, or when Worry materialises suddenly beside a person. The Emotions, however, have no effect on her. As she makes clear from the start, she feels nothing and she is nothing.
This is instantly intriguing to begin with – a fresh and imaginative idea that is momentarily inspiring. It’s utilised well initially. We meet Fear, a cocky and self-assured Emotion that develops a strong interest in Elizabeth’s lack of feeling. We meet Elizabeth Caldwell herself, the shell, the girl who doesn’t flinch when hundreds of spiders are crawling over her, the girl who doesn’t scream hysterically when hot flames are licking at her skin. Her only true defining feature is a pit of nothingness - nothingness enclosed within walls of numbness. The first couple of chapters are atmospheric and intriguing as a result, the pacing well set, and the concepts well presented. After a while, however, the very feature that originally makes Elizabeth interesting is what ultimately results in a very boring story. It isn’t long before Elizabeth’s lack of human response makes her the very protagonist that I try increasingly hard to avoid – plain dull and utterly depthless.
It doesn’t help a great deal that the plot is not as stimulating as it perhaps could be. The whole concept of premonitory visions (particularly sleep-induced visions) has been used so frequently that it feels almost cliché. Simply put, the vast majority of Some Quiet Place is not half as gripping as might be expected. Eventually I was the one who felt nothing. I was the one who wasn’t responding on an emotional level. This book was just words and words and more words, an eventual blur of black and white that failed to register in the part of the brain where Book Enthusiasm is coordinated. The plot’s mystery element is handled fairly well, admittedly – the book is quite unpredictable on the whole – but I wouldn’t say it is enough to make Elizabeth’s tale suddenly memorable. (Or exciting.) There is a love triangle, too. Not an incredibly infuriating love triangle, but a love triangle, nonetheless.
For me, Some Quiet Place essentially peaks as soon as it starts – it’s a downhill journey after that, and I doubt that I’ll be back for more. It appears to be splitting opinions, however, so if you are curious enough, do still give it a try. While I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it myself, I do think there is enough promise present to intensify into something more for less particular readers.
I lost a whole night of sleep while reading this book – my eyeballs nearly fell out of their sockets – and it was worth every....more5 million stars and more
I lost a whole night of sleep while reading this book – my eyeballs nearly fell out of their sockets – and it was worth every. single. minute.
It’s a rare and momentous occasion when a sequel as anticipated and sought-after as The Dream Thieves lives up to its predecessor and surpasses expectations in every possible way. It’s rarer still for that sequel to make you fall in love with the original story all over again, to make you open your eyes to the once-hidden character quirks and clues, and to make you want to re-read all 400 or so pages again (for the fifth time!) with a new sense of urgency and insight. The Dream Thieves is, in all my personal definitions of the word, a perfect book. Maggie Stiefvater said that it had all her favourite things in it, and it quite clearly has all my favourite things in it too. Only a handful of titles have completely impressed me this year – really, truly impressed me – and Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves, the second instalment of the Raven Cycle series, comes out on top of them all.
It’s so many different things, most of them quite subtle, that make this book work. The clearest two are the writing and the characters. The Raven Boys introduced us to the unconventional and unusual quartet that was Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah, and introduced us to the peculiar and strangely lovely psychic-amplifier that was Blue Sargent. The Dream Thieves takes their already well-defined character moulds and makes them feel all the more precious and strange and familiar. It’s clear that Stiefvater understands her characters, that she actually knows them, all the way from the things that they say and do, to the small things, to the tip of their lips and the tension in their shoulders, to the flicker in their eyes and the unspoken words in their blink-fast glances. Coupled with her writing – where weight is so expertly given to all the right words, and where emphasis is so expertly provided at all the right moments – the story becomes a living thing that demands investment.
“That night Ronan dreamt of trees… He danced on the knife’s edge between awareness and sleep. When he dreamt like this, he was a king. The world was his to bend. His to burn.”
In this instalment, the focus takes a slight shift from the lure of ley lines and deadly kisses and the hunt for the Welsh king Owen Glendower, and rests instead on Ronan Lynch’s ability to bring dream to reality. We have magical night terrors, impossible languages, an unpredictable Anglo-Saxon-poetry-loving hit man, and illegal street-car races. It’s a slow-burn plot, and explosive and exciting all at once. Unlike in the The Raven Boys, where the storyline followed a mostly linear fashion, The Dream Thieves has multiple threads criss-crossing at different stages, some given more attention than others. It’s difficult predicting what the climax will be, or where it will be, until it actually happens. The star of this show, though, is Ronan. With his savage smiles and his uninviting remarks. With his humourless laughs and his heartbreakingly hidden acts of compassion. The other raven boys also leave an impression, of course, and although they are not mine, I can’t help but feel strangely possessive and protective of them all (even Adam, who I have Mixed Feelings about), much like Blue.
“…Blue was a little in love with all of them. Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness. Her raven boys.”
The threat of kissing and killing her true love lingers in the background of the story, never quite totally out of reach. In the meantime, her relationship with the boys strengthens and weakens and changes, as they fight together, argue with each other, comfort each other, and jump on their beds together. It’s wonderful. Stiefvater is the queen of pacing and never rushes any aspect of the development here. The third person multiple point of view is almost mind-blowingly flawless (why can’t all authors master it so well?!), giving us the perfect glimpses into the friendships and careful relationships from all crucial angles. Best of all is Gansey’s, or Richard Campbell Gansey the third’s, resolute explorer and observer of curious, ancient things. His comparing Blue to a platypus is one particular highlight of the book. Another is chapter 51 (my favourite).
A lot of the time, The Dream Thieves feels quite character-driven, and as the characters are the main reason that I’m so hopelessly in love with this series, it could not be more fitting. It’s generally the little things – the subtle interactions, the banter and the sarcasm, Chainsaw’s antics, Ronan throwing Noah out of the window for a laugh, Joseph Kavinsky’s trash-talk, the Gray Man’s fondness for The Kinks, things that feel ordinary and inconsequential – that really give this story its substance. The rest comes from the elusive and discreetly magical quality of something more happening in an otherwise picturesque, hot and youth-ridden Henrietta, Virginia, where the Aglionby scent of teen wealth and academia is never far off. I need the third book like I need to catch up on those six hours of sleep, and if it’s anything as stunning as this one (and The Raven Boys before it), I know that the inevitable post-book depression that's coming my way will all be worth it.
Eternally Yours, without a doubt, is Cate Tiernan’s best work yet. This third and final book of the Immortal Beloved series could not have br...more4.5 stars
Eternally Yours, without a doubt, is Cate Tiernan’s best work yet. This third and final book of the Immortal Beloved series could not have brought a more brilliant and wholly satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. With as much cleverly-crafted wit, realistic depth and meaning as the previous books, with as much entertainment and magickal fun, it shines just as brightly as its predecessors. If anything, it is better; the humour is sharper, the characters better developed, the storyline a fraction more complex.
Our final visit to River’s Edge – a farm-like rehabilitation home for wayward immortals – reunites us with Nastaysa Crowe, our 450-year-old main character (give or take a few several years). Thinking back to her initial appearance at the start of Immortal Beloved – as a somewhat irresponsible party-goer with a tendency to run from all problems rather than face them – her transformation is incredible, though not unrealistically staggering. Of course, despite what cleaning dishes and tending to evil chickens has done for her, Nastasya wouldn’t be Nastasya without the occasional bleak remark or shower of pessimism. And her humour. It is infectious! Her excellence in sarcasm is incredibly entertaining, not to mention responsible for my public displays of guffawing (it livens up the morning commute, let me tell you that). This series would not be the same without dear old Nastasya.
Much of Nastasya’s personality is balanced by ex-northern raider and Viking hot-stuff Reyn. He puts up with little of her crap, pushing her into sword practice and constantly challenging her inability to accept herself. The complicated, death-tainted past they share is slowly driven away from between them, but their relationship is still far from simple. Nevertheless, Tiernan keeps her fans happy, and Eternally Yours is not deprived of sweltering scenes in our favourite hayloft. Better still, Reyn is suddenly all the more attractive with his adoration for the puppy he named Dúfa. This speckled little thing is his new companion, and aptly brings to surface the soft side of this hardened warrior. For me, these books have always felt more character-driven than plot, and Reyn and Nastasya’s relationship plays a large part in that. It’s honestly my favourite part of Nastasya’s journey.
Like the previous novels, there is an emphasis on the past with the occasional flashback integrated into the story. Normally historical settings are not something I am overly fond of, but Tiernan’s storytelling is exquisite and not limited to the comedy of present-day Nastasya. Four centuries of stories (from mildly grim to ghastly) build the reforming personalities at River’s Edge. While much of the book focuses on Nastasya’s time there, the danger of Terava magick is now more than just a smear in the distance and her role as the heir of the Icelandic House – one of the main houses of immortals – finally catches up to her. With that we are given a somewhat gruesome finale, but one that is thrilling and gripping.
Eternally Yours is not a short book, and despite its 450 pages, I felt a longing for more. I have become quite attached to this world and its characters, and it’s with bittersweet feelings that we part. I greatly look forward to whatever else Cate Tiernan may write in the future!
Darkness Falls is living proof that Middle Book Syndrome is preventable. More than preventable. With this second instalment of the Immortal Beloved se...moreDarkness Falls is living proof that Middle Book Syndrome is preventable. More than preventable. With this second instalment of the Immortal Beloved series, Cate Tiernan interlaces humour, romance and a dark story line. With her witty protagonist, she creates a book both entertaining and full of depth. With her exploration of redemption and good and evil, she crafts together a thought-provoking plot that doesn’t fail to engross. In other words, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Nastasya – the name our immortal heroine has momentarily adopted – is back with the vigour she presented in the first book and just as entertaining as ever. While her bleak sense of humour is ever-present in this instalment, it is easy to recognise the subtle developments in her character. Traces of positivity and determination linger beneath the surface and it’s incredibly encouraging to note the small but significant changes in her attitude. Of course, her contentment is not a stable thing. At River’s Edge – a rehabilitation home of sorts for troubled immortals – Nastasya battles with the intrinsic darkness in her magickal abilities whilst also re-facing her murky past. She worries about Innocencio, her seductive and malevolent ex-best friend, possibly locating her and coming after her…
Incy is my favourite sort of villain. The subtle kind that cannot be quickly judged. His demeanour oozes power and lust, a warning of thrilling danger ahead, but, at the same time, there’s a sense of insecurity surrounding him. His dependability on Nastasya is extreme to the point of disturbing, but it also raises to surface the question of whether or not he can be helped – in the same way Nastasya is being helped at River’s Edge. The extent of his warped mind is made apparent, however, in a gruesome and shocking climax. Tiernan gave us more substance here than in Immortal Beloved (which I found to be a little lacking towards the end) and kicks the story up a gear from its usual slow pace.
Dark magick and disturbing best friends aside, the romance in this book is one of the more engaging aspects of Nastasya’s story. It’s complicated, to say the least. The horrific past that Reyn and Nastasya share, a past coated in so much death and grief that it cannot be ignored, forms a solid wall between them and their feelings for each other. This doesn’t dilute the sexual tension, however. It’s significantly more charged here than in the first book, almost as though we are watching the pair teeter on the edge, waiting with bated breath for them to fall on one side or the other. Tiernan did a fantastic job here blending the past with the present, using her well-integrated flashbacks to run more than one story simultaneously. She managed to expertly draw to attention the significance of then and now – through River’s wonderful character, of course – highlighting the extent to which people can change for the better with the right guidance.
I am incredibly satisfied with the direction of the story in this book and my curiosity for the third instalment is now well and truly piqued. The release date for Eternally Yours, the conclusion to this trilogy, is fast approaching, and if it is anything like the first two books, I’m sure I will have to make room on my favourites shelf for another series.
Sometimes I just can’t resist. Tell me that a story was a Wattpad sensation with over 16 million views, written by an author only 15 years o...more2.5 stars
Sometimes I just can’t resist. Tell me that a story was a Wattpad sensation with over 16 million views, written by an author only 15 years old at the time, and picked up by a well-established publishing house in a six-figure deal, then naturally I’d be curious. Dinner With a Vampire, unfortunately, failed to impress. Yet again, I am left wondering if the problem is me and not the book.
The cover claims this book is the ‘sexiest’ romance I’ll read this year – quite a bold statement, in fact, given the number of paranormal romances saturating the market. Sexy isn’t the most appropriate word to describe the romance here. Disturbing, complicated and inconsistent are perhaps better fitting, in my opinion. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I doubt the author intended for me to feel uncomfortable with the romance, to constantly question whether or not it should have been romanticised in such the way it was. Kaspar, the alluring vampire, the love interest, the guy so dangerous it’s thrilling, made me squirm in my seat more times than he made me swoon. He is aggressive, forceful, and quite frankly, not what I would consider a love interest – unless, of course, the author made it perfectly clear it wasn’t right (which she didn’t). I couldn’t quite ignore the fact that his threatening to rape Violet, the main character, and constantly forcing his way onto her, even hitting her at one point, was so trivially brushed aside, not just by the author, but by Violet herself. These things made it quite difficult for me to connect with the romance, which, as you might imagine, makes up most of the book.
With that we have a main character whose actions and thoughts are challenging to appreciate. Following her witness of a bloodbath led by Kaspar and his friends, she is kidnapped and held hostage at his family mansion. Stockholm Syndrome is served up as an explanation for her acceptance of the situation, but I wasn’t entirely convinced that this was the case. I’m reluctant to mention the term ‘fan-fiction’ here, but that is exactly what it felt like. Everything was idealised and crafted in such a fashion that reminded me of the endless, superficial stories that are bended to the will of the writer on fan-fiction sites. The sort of stories that pluck at flimsy explanations to barley make up for the illogicality of it all. As short pieces of fan-fiction, this isn’t something I even notice, but a full-length novel and I almost think this should have remained on Wattpad. With Violet being much like an empty shell at times, it was frustratingly difficult to truly connect with her. That being said, however, there were moments when I genuinely liked her. Her sense of humour wasn’t entirely non-existent and her buried feisty streak broke to the surface every now and again.
Now, the plot. My thoughts are a little mixed where the plot is concerned, but I am intrigued by many aspects introduced in this first instalment of The Dark Heroine series. The prophecy regarding the Heroines is a fascinating one and the world of the dark beings – split between different dimensions – is intriguing. While the explanations are quite poorly served, almost unclear at times, there is just enough to capture my interest. There isn’t a very fluid progression from the first half of the book to the second though, so that is something that needs noticeable editorial work. Another area in need of polishing is the punctuation and grammar. Incorrectly worded phrases, not to mention a poor use of commas, stood out to me like a sore thumb. I’m not always particular about these things – I get them wrong all the time, most likely even in this review – but we have a problem when it becomes perceptible in the writing, especially in a finished, proof-read copy.
Dinner With a Vampire, now that I think about it, had some very compulsively readable parts. While I wasn’t always impressed with this book, I can say that I was very rarely bored (I even started off mostly enjoying it). The author deserves some recognition for that, at least, and also for having engrossed so many online readers in the first place. It has gathered some enthusiastic fans, and I’m sure it will continue to do so, even though, personally, I failed to understand the full appeal.
“…this town will be protected, blessed and full of power again. And power has a price. The price is blood.”
If anything is clear, Sarah Rees Brennan e...more“…this town will be protected, blessed and full of power again. And power has a price. The price is blood.”
If anything is clear, Sarah Rees Brennan enjoys feeding off the pain of her readers. The hideously torturous ending that was the final pages of Unspoken is only followed by more maddening torment in the sequel, Untold. It’s the sort of journey that inspires book-flinging and wanting to give the characters a good telling off (and maybe the author too) at multiple instances. It’s the sort of journey that leads to angry under-the-breath muttering and one-sided arguments with a paperback and a blind Kami Glass and a surly grump of a Jared Lynburn.
In other words, Sarah Rees Brennan’s Untold is cruel book. A very very cruel book.
It is, also, and a little disappointingly, not as strong as the first instalment.
To some extent, Untold incorporates everything that Unspoken exuded itself so marvellously. The witty and eccentric humour is as present as ever. The characters’ lives and relationships are as easy to invest in here as they are in the first book. The quietly atmospheric, Cotswold-stone covered English town setting is as vivid and appealing as it always has been. Kami Glass, albeit frustrating and unbelievably ignorant at times (particularly for an enthusiastic budding journalist), remains utterly endearing and likeable. Jared Lynburn, despite the sulky doom-and-gloom front that he has armed himself with, is still miraculously adorable. The majority of Untold is good. Pleasant, even. Fun to read… It’s almost difficult to pinpoint where it all falls short, but chapter fifteen so helpfully shines a light on a few small things.
The romantic plot is convoluted and full of angst. Too much angst. Where the threat of Rob Lynburn and the old sorcerer lifestyle of sacrifice and power is the main focus of the book, far too much of it involves character A kissing character B, while thinking that character B is actually character C, and character C kissing character D, while character D goes off to kiss character B and character E. Not only is it not enjoyable at all, but it also removes a crucial focus from the supernatural and gothic side of the tale. I refuse to ship anything that isn’t Jared and Kami, and now painfully realise that I can concentrate very little on the bigger picture and magical threats when I am desperately hanging onto my sanity as far as the romance is concerned.
That aside, I love the characters (as annoying as they can be). I love their interactions which each other and I love their ridiculous exchanges. This time, we are also given a few sections from Holly’s point of view and Ash’s point of view, which helps slightly with the character development, even if neither are as strong as Kami’s. Rusty, with his ‘I’m too pretty to do my homework’ t-shirts and self-claimed rugged masculinity and irresistible sexual magnetism, is a true highlight of Untold and source of genuine laughter. While I can’t quite work out what these hints Brennan keeps leaving about his character are for, I do really like him and completely appreciate the purely (view spoiler)[platonic (hide spoiler)] side of his and Kami’s relationship.
One thing that I would like to see better explored in the next book is the actual sorcery. It all feels somewhat vague, in retrospect, which might be another reason why I don’t quite feel the storyline is as compelling here as it could have been. Ultimately though, I am reading on for the characters. It probably isn’t too surprising to hear that Untold ends with another unpleasant mess of a situation, but, thankfully, it isn’t quite as much of a brutal punch to the heart this time. (Though it’s still pretty awful, mind you). Although I failed to enjoy this sequel as well as the first book (and as well as I was hoping I would), I am still looking forward to the final instalment, Unbroken, when it releases next year.
A modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this is not. I am thoroughly disappointed here. A.E. Rought’s Broken had the potential to stand out, to...moreA modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this is not. I am thoroughly disappointed here. A.E. Rought’s Broken had the potential to stand out, to be more than just another name in the crowd. This is not the modern-day gothic tale I had anticipated, nor is it the intriguing, dark romance the book description promised. Rather, this is a story surprisingly reminiscent of a formulaic paranormal novel.
Had something actually occurred within the first three quarters of the book, I am confident my response would have taken a more positive stance. We have our main character and we have our mysterious love interest. We have the inexplicable attraction. For the vast majority of the novel, this is the focus – this, and nothing else. The main ‘twist’ is not addressed until too late, which is something I am still perplexed by. Was it supposed to be a secret? Was it not something the reader should have been aware of? The book description itself gives part of it away, making the plot painfully transparent. Personally, I believe this aspect should have been utilised as the basis for the story, and not the end point.
The characters themselves, while somewhat likeable by the end of the book, are not at all memorable. Emma is perhaps too infatuated with Alex to form an easy connection with. It is also challenging to initially appreciate their relationship. With too much telling rather than showing, the emotions are distant and insignificant from a reader’s perspective. The best part of the book is undoubtedly the last few chapters. This is where the story finally kicks in and where my attention was most held. Unfortunately, by then, it is too little too late.
(view spoiler)[Ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably say it’s Michael. Tell me to read Spark again, and it will defi...moreNick Merrick is my favourite Merrick.
(view spoiler)[Ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably say it’s Michael. Tell me to read Spark again, and it will definitely be Gabriel. (hide spoiler)] I just love them all, okay?
The book description here is transparent, but not in an infuriating way. In a few dozen pages, Brigid Kemmerer makes me fall in love with Nick Merrick all over again, though in an entirely different manner. His relationship with Quinn is briefly explored and the result is an interesting one. Along the way, we uncover Nick’s buried feelings – or lack of – and watch as he battles through the confusion and emerges just as wonderful and layered as when we left him. Though, I have to admit, (view spoiler)[it saddens me a little that I can no longer have him… (hide spoiler)](view spoiler)[Not that I could have in the first place with Nick being fictional and all… but you know what I mean. (hide spoiler)]
I’m eager to see where Adam fits into the future instalments of the Elemental series. The slight taste we get of him here promises further swoon and romance, and we all know how Kemmerer excels in this area.
On the whole, a very quick and satisfying novella! I’m ready for more Merrick soon. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Despite the slight character and plot clichés, the Hex Hall trilogy has always been a firm favourite of mine. Rachel Hawkins’ witty style is...more3.5 stars
Despite the slight character and plot clichés, the Hex Hall trilogy has always been a firm favourite of mine. Rachel Hawkins’ witty style is irresistibly good – so much so that turning a blind eye on some of the weaker aspects of her books in the past hasn’t been too difficult. This is where the reading experience with School Spirits differs slightly. While the writing doesn’t lack that distinct sharp and humorous quality that Hawkins is known for, there is a disappointingly diluted feel to the storyline here. Nevertheless, for a swift and entertaining read on a rainy weekend (which, let’s face it, is most weekends where I am), the first instalment of this Hex Hall spin-off series is just about good enough. I certainly had a lot of fun with it…
Although, for me, main-character Izzy is no Sophie Mercer, her light and effervescent personality is instantly infectious. She is a Brannick – stronger than most people and built for hunting and capturing out-of-hand Prodigium. This includes the usual; vampires, fae, witches, werewolves… and the odd wayward ghost. When a haunting at a local high school draws Izzy and her mother to a new town, Izzy finds herself on a solo mission, one that involves acting like a ‘real’ teenage girl. This, of course, is easier said than done (no matter how many episodes of ‘Ivy Springs’ Izzy manages to get through with mirror-bound Torin). Cue the grins from this point forward! Izzy finds herself in all manner of unfamiliar social and high school situations, each and every one of which prove to be highly amusing from the reader’s perspective. It’s only when she joins the school’s 3-member paranormal society that things really pick up, though.
Romy, Dex and Anderson adopt Izzy into their small group pretty quickly. While the three of them are not (knowingly) investigating the haunting for the same reasons as Izzy, the friendship between them feels genuine from the get-go. Witty dialogue is the weapon of all weapons here, and Rachel Hawkins is the skilful administrator. While the plot is lacking in some sophistication (it’s nothing particularly exciting when you think about it), the light banter and playful group dynamics just about make up for it. The highlight here is Dex. As someone who has been known to ‘rock the occasional manbracelet’ (his words, not mine!) and has an impressive collection of purple clothing, he is a refreshingly original love interest, and also incredibly delightful. Admittedly, it probably won’t take a great number of weeks before I struggle to recall his name (or any of the characters’, for that matter), but he is likeable enough, for what it’s worth.
The ending is very weak. The hurried pace gives it an almost nonsensical and juvenile feel. Coupled with the indication that there may not be a sequel for a while, this is the most disappointing part of the whole book. Still, despite the less-than-satisfying final chapters, Hawkins leaves enough of an impression with her new book to stir up some interest for more. If nothing else, I definitely want to revisit Dex’s character one day.
“He kissed her again, and for a moment, it felt like his kiss was electric, like the sunlight was tangible, a blanket of warmth and sensatio...more4.5 stars
“He kissed her again, and for a moment, it felt like his kiss was electric, like the sunlight was tangible, a blanket of warmth and sensation that smothered her thoughts.”
What better way to describe Spark than hot? It’s no secret that Brigid Kemmerer knows how to create a story that is sizzling with life and energy. She swept so many of us away with her debut release, making us fall hard and fast for the brotherly quartet that is the Merricks, and did the same thing again – and even better this time – with the sequel.
Gabriel Merrick is one half of the Merrick Twins. Unlike his peace-keeping and grade-achieving brother Nick, Gabriel is a hot-tempered mess, better known for his playful arrogance and bluntness. Storm introduced us to this particular Merrick and Spark gave us the reasons to love him. No matter what you may have thought of Gabriel in the last book, it’s impossible now not to recognise how genuine and likable he is. Yes, the quick mouth and short temper still exist, but beneath all of that, we have a character who is struggling with the various aspects of his life and it’s difficult not to give him a place in our hearts. And a very big place at that.
Despite my reservations with his character in Storm, Gabriel managed to momentarily knock Nick off the Favourite Merrick pedestal in this instalment. There wasn’t a single thing that I disliked about him. Every flaw made him all the more realistic and every kind act made me melt into a puddle. One thing that particularly drew a smile to my face was the relationship between Gabriel and his three brothers. There is a lot of frustration and tension between them in this book, but on top of that, a very apparent need to protect and care for each other. There is nothing better than a heart-warming family dynamic and Brigid Kemmerer, despite everything else that takes place in this book, doesn’t let it fade into the background.
Like the previous installment, Spark is told from more than one perspective. We are introduced to a new character, Layne Forrest, who shares the narration with Gabriel. Admittedly, I had trouble warming to Layne at first – she’s no Becca – but as the story progressed and she had more of an opportunity to unravel as a character, I started to appreciate her. The relationship between Layne and Gabriel was wonderfully told and very entertaining. It was hilarious at times and sweetly tender at others. The romantic story is given a fair deal of thought and attention and Kemmerer delivers it well.
While this series is very evidently character-driven, the plot is substantial enough to ensure all-round engagement. Digging deeper into Gabriel’s ability brings a wave of exciting and fiery action. And as Brodie very rightly pointed out, what’s hotter than a guy in a fireman suit?
If you haven’t yet gathered by now, I’m very much a fan of the Merricks this series and can’t wait to get hold of the next book, Spirit. I’m expecting a whole lot of entertainment and excitement, and if anyone can meet those demands, it is Brigid Kemmerer.