Captivate is an ambitious novel, and although I saw a lot of potential in the blurb, I have to confess I'm mostly disappointed by it.
Here is the premi...moreCaptivate is an ambitious novel, and although I saw a lot of potential in the blurb, I have to confess I'm mostly disappointed by it.
Here is the premise of Captivate: Marko is the king of an under-water settlement of humans, and he's usurped his psychotic elder brother Damir's throne. His people can no longer reproduce, a side effect of living underground with no sunlight and other things that humans generally need to survive. His elder sister, and Damir's twin, suggests kidnapping a girl from the surface to be Marko's queen, bringing in fresh blood and allowing him to produce an heir, which will secure his claim to the throne.
All my problems with this novel stem from that basic premise. The Marin to have surprisingly archaic laws given that the first settlers of this underground city were some of the brightest and most progressive minds of their time. It doesn't make sense to me that they would reproduce the kinds of laws that made living underwater so attractive to in the first place. The postulation that Marko needs to produce an heir to keep his throne is ridiculous - although he has deposed his elder brother, it's been well established that basically no one wants the psycho who likes to experiment on his citizens to turn them into merpeople as the King. It also implies that if Drake could find a human and reproduce with her, his claim to the throne would become stronger. It seems like the lawmakers of the Marin really stuffed up on this one.
The second thing that baffles me about this book is the apparent need to kidnap a non-Marin girl and force her to become Queen so that she can produce an heir. Just having Miranda there, and maybe having a baby, doesn't solve the issue: all the other Marin couples will still not be able to reproduce. But even before this inconsistency, there's the very idea that kidnapping a human girl is the best way to go about solving the issue of Marko's heirs. It's mentioned that Marko goes to the surface every month to trade pearls for supplies that his people need (very ill-considered, given that his brother apparently poses a threat) and I can't see why he couldn't also go to the surface to seduce a girl Edward-Cullen-style into living with him as his Queen. I also can't see why they couldn't just steal genetic material from a fertility clinic or similar. Yes it's barbaric and morally wrong, but a community who sees nothing wrong with regularly tossing people to sharks and kidnapping a 16 year old girl can hardly cling to that reasoning. The only explanation given in the book is the requirement of marriage before producing a baby, which is ludicrous anyway considering the baby will be created in a test tube.
So the world-building could be significantly improved on. What about the rest of the book? The characters are predictable and bland, the romances are flat, and there is barely anything that kept my interest.
Miranda is this naive, blundering, self-pitying character that I couldn't like at all, but I did grudgingly admire her determination to escape her imprisonment. She examines her room for weaknesses and hidden exits, puts all her strength into breaking the one vent she sees in her room, and makes many attempts at escaping, which I applauded. However, her motivations for escape seem to hinge on her need to reveal some dark secret to her sister concerning the night of their parents' death. When she does make it back and tell her sister the secret (which wasn't even a secret, it was absolutely anti-climactic), Miranda immediately starts thinking "well that's done, now I want to return to the weird underwater people who kidnapped me and kept me against my will for six weeks and tried to force me to become their Queen so they could harvest my reproductive material". Yeah. She doesn't even think of trying to reconnect and bond with her sister, doesn't resolve to spend more time with her family to appreciate them, in the light of her absence and how close she was to never see them again. Nope. Miranda's raring to go back and spend time with the two boys she's met while she'd been kidnapped.
The romance in the novel is uncomfortably reminiscent of Stockholm Syndrome and I had a hard time believing any of it. Robbie is my favourite character from the book, and when his feelings for Miranda blurred between friendship and something more I was a little excited, but predictably Miranda finds herself falling for Marko as well. Marko is quick to anger and violence, and really quite scary, but yes, let's all fall for him because he's incredibly handsome, and forget the part where he puts his best friend in a shark tank.
So, I didn't much like Captivate: it could have been a lot better. In particular, the world needs a lot more thought behind it, the characters could have been more developed, and the plot more refined. But a lot of other people have liked it, and if you pick it up, I hope you do too :)
I have loved every moment of my time with Allison, and although I am sad to let her go, I think The Forever Song concludes the Blood of Eden series ve...moreI have loved every moment of my time with Allison, and although I am sad to let her go, I think The Forever Song concludes the Blood of Eden series very well. I think Kagawa, who set out to tell a completely different kind of story by combining the best of vampire fiction and dystopian settings, has achieved it masterfully.
This is one of the few series where I liked the second book as much as the first, and so I approached The Forever Song with some trepidation: it was either going to blow my mind or I was doing to be disappointed.
It. Blew. My. Mind.
My favourite thing about this book, actually the series, is that it hasn’t shied away from the horrible aspects of being a vampire. This isn’t a story about romanticised vampires who can control themselves around humans easily. This is a story about humans who know they’re monsters, that they have to feed and sometimes kill the very things they once were, and they struggle with it every single day. With her only link to humanity, Zeke, gone, Allison gives in to the monster inside her, and first part of the book is very dark and haunting.
(view spoiler)[Readers know that Zeke is alive, however, and so when they inevitably meet up the author explores another side of their vampirism. Whereas it had always been Zeke trying to convince Allie that she wasn’t a monster, now their roles are reversed and it’s interesting to see. Some readers will think Zeke is too whiny once he’s been rescued, but I think Kanin raises an excellent point when he reminds Allison that at least she got to choose to become a vampire. Zeke was forcibly turned into a creature he despised, and Human Zeke wanted to die rather than be Turned. (hide spoiler)]
Kanin has basically been my favourite character throughout the series, and he again steals the show in The Forever Song. He’s funny without meaning to be (which is awesome) and he balances the snark and angst of the rest of the party very well.
Our favourite characters are on a quest in this book: to find Sarren and stop him from releasing a mutated form of the Red Lung virus and destroying the cure that the people of New Eden have developed. There’s quite a bit of walking, some driving, and A LOT of Jackal and Allison bitching and moaning at one another. The dynamic in the group becomes comical because of this: it’s like Kanin is taking his two kids and their friend on a trip, except the siblings keep fighting and he has to step in as the stern father.
Disappointingly, I can’t say anything in the book really surprised me this time around: I seemed to always guess what was coming before the characters did. It didn’t really detract from my reading experience, but I do so love to be surprised by what’s happening in stories and it just didn’t happen throughout The Forever Song.
I love the Blood of Eden series. It’s reinvented and revitalised two genres: vampire and dystopian fiction, and I have come to love the characters and their journey. I think The Forever Song provides a fitting end the story and will leave readers hopeful that the characters will have a brighter future ahead of them. I recommend this series to everyone who thinks it sounds interesting, and encourage those who didn’t enjoy The Iron Fey books to give it a try, because they are very different.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review. You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I strongly believe the first scene of a novel, the first paragraph, hey, even the first words, absolutely set the tone for the rest of the book. So yo...moreI strongly believe the first scene of a novel, the first paragraph, hey, even the first words, absolutely set the tone for the rest of the book. So you can imagine what I was thinking when the first words of King Hall were "Sex Education" and the first scene was an awkward, terribly clichéd sex ed class where the teacher proudly proclaimed that Mystics (who are supernaturally gifted) are better endowed than their human (Common, or Com) counterparts, and brandished two differently sized bananas around to make her point.
Yup, I basically thought this book was going to be about the main character doing the dirty with everyone in sight. Especially since in the first chapter, she couldn't go two minutes without reminding us how awesome that aspect of her private life was. Imagine my surprise, then, to not find a single explicit sexual encounter, and further-more, no make-out scenes between the 4 protagonists.
The book is set in a world like ours, but where supernaturals are out in the open. There four different types of Mystic: Vampire, Shifter, Elemental and Mage, and each has a King (or Queen) who rules them for 20 years before choosing a successor. King Hall follows the four newest Prodigies as undergo leadership training. It's like college - there's drinking and dancing and sex - but everything is more complicated where magic is involved. Lily, our main protagonist and the future Shifter ruler, doesn't want to be the future Queen, not only because she's a hybrid and will be condemned to death if anyone finds out.
King Hall suffers mostly from being too vague: I don't understand why the Mystics all school together but romantic entanglement isn't allowed, and thus don't really quite get what the big deal is with Lily's secret, especially since everyone who finds out doesn't care. I don't understand the King system and what, exactly, is expected of a ruler of a class of Mystic. I don't understand the mating magic, and like Lily, struggled with how little choice there seemed to be in the matter. There are a lot of world building elements that the author sneaks past readers by being hand-wavy, or by making it so complex you begin to think that it must make sense, and you're missing something.
I feel the novel is let down because it doesn't feel plausible: why would the announcement of the successors of the current Kings occur in a school gymnasium? Why do the four of them still have to pretend to attend school (they all graduate with college diplomas, but after they were announced as successors, I don't remember them attending class, except when they learnt self-defence). I'd have also thought, that as heir apparents, they would have had a lot more security than they seemed to have around them, and that, in Lily's case especially, there would be rules in place to prevent intimate relationships between the guard and the person they're meant to protect.
But the book perked up when the four future leaders of the Mystics, two women and two men, are forced to train together. Their friendship is amazing, and I think it's one of the strongest messages in the novel: the importance of friendship and loyalty in the face of everything else. But because Mystics traditionally don't get along, their bonds are treated with mistrust by their future subjects, and things get a little awkward. I thought, with the four of them spending so much time together, that there would be awkward romantic tension and what-not, but the author handles it well with the mysterious mating magic rendering cheating impossible, and the only two unattached members of the group hiding too many secrets to be romantic.
That's not to say there isn't romance in the novel, because there is! But it takes a back seat to the friendships between our characters, and their journey to learn how to govern their peoples well, combine their magics to achieve goals, and generally learn the ways of the world they are going to eventually watch over. There are bawdy jokes aplenty though, and although some made me laugh, many were cringe-worthy. I also think that the author tried to make the blood exchanges between the characters sexy, but I mostly found them awkward. For example, Lily's unusually small stature amongst the Mystics was an interesting quirk, until it led to her having to assume increasingly intimate positions with her partners to exchange blood - then it felt a bit contrived. And there's an exchange scene right at the end that honestly confused me more than anything else, because ... well you'll have to read it to see what I mean.
I also liked the introduction to the politics of the world the author has created. The tensions between the Coms and the Mystics. It feels a bit archaic (especially when a political marriage was briefly on the cards) and I'd really like to find out more. I would have also liked a bit more insight into the Com state of mind. I don't understand why the races don't get along, although the Coms being threatened by the Mystics and their powers is certainly plausible.
Overall, I found King Hall to be enjoyable. It could have been better, but there is a lot to like about Dawn's début, and I will keep an eye out for future books in the series. King Hall leaves the story open to a sequel, and I'd love one so I could learn more about the world, but mostly it's been exciting to read an NA novel that's not centred on sex.
I don't know if I enjoyed The Sparrow as much as The First - I think it deals with weightier issues, and in such a short book, it feels disjointed and...moreI don't know if I enjoyed The Sparrow as much as The First - I think it deals with weightier issues, and in such a short book, it feels disjointed and stilted. Whereas The First is about the very first person who comes back from the dead, The Sparrow deals with the darker side of the phenomenon.
When Heather and Matt find a little girl who's been Returned, Matt is more interested in studying her - hoping to be the first person to crack their mysteries, than taking care of her. Heather just wants to reunite the girl with her parents, and the couple clash repeatedly. There are large gaps in time throughout the novella - a technique the author has obviously had to apply in order to tell the whole story in such a short space. However, this means that we don't get to see the relationship between Tatiana and Heather grow, we just have to accept the author's word that it happened.
Matt is such a jerk, and he infuriated me a lot! Which I think is great, because it can be difficult for authors to ensure their characters in their short stories make an impact. I think it's safe to say that Jason Mott is a talented author! I'm really looking forward to reading the full length novel set in this world.
This novella, alongside The First, forms a gentle introduction into the world of The Returned, and is just enough to whet one's appetite for the highly anticipated release. I know I can't wait!
This novella is so sweet! It follows Edmund Blithe, who blithely turns up to work, alive and well, exactly a year after his death. Chaos ensues, and s...moreThis novella is so sweet! It follows Edmund Blithe, who blithely turns up to work, alive and well, exactly a year after his death. Chaos ensues, and soon he's being questioned by government officials and hounded by the media. But he has no answers - he can't even remember being dead. According to his memory, he proposed to his girlfriend, Emily, a few days ago, and all he wants to do is see her again.
Emily has spent the last year trying to forget the man who died the day after he proposed to her. She's stopped wearing the ring, and is finally moving on, when he miraculously comes back from the dead. I felt like I got to know Emily really well in the brief time I was able to spend with her - she's a strong character who literally flies off the page. I feel that Edmund isn't as strong, but I think that the author captured his bewilderment and craving for normalcy well.
This prequel novella forms a great introduction into the mysterious phenomenon at the heart of Jason Mott's The Returned, and the couple have the cutest, cutest story. I hope we get to see how they're coping in The Returned.