Patrick Ness is one of the most acclaimed authors in young adult fiction and one of my favourites, as well as the creator behind the upcoming BBC Three Doctor Who spinoff Class which looks really promising. It was a no brainer that I wasn’t going to check out More Than This when I spotted it in the library and devoured it fairly quickly, with a lightning fast pace that kept me hooked right the way through with a fairly interesting twist that separates it from the normal young adult genre.
More Than This benefits from a really strong narrative that could fit into multiple genres. There are echoes of I am Legend and The Matrix here but ultimately it’s original enough so finding comparisons is hard, and it benefits from a stylish approach and a strong narrative, as well as a powerful lead character to weave a captivating story. Seth, the main character – is an interesting protagonist who has found himself naked, bruised, thirsty and surprisingly alive after drowning alone in his final moments. We follow Seth as he tries to find out where he is, but we also explore what happened to him and the events that caused him to get here, told in flashback narrative that really works, creating a powerful atmosphere and an interesting family structure thanks to a strong realistic narrative approach.
Patrick Ness manages to stay clear of the normal clichés and tells a captivating story that manages to be a thought provoking one. It’s hard to go into too much detail about the plot as I’ve literally just told you the name of the character plus the blurb, but it’s very promising and works very well as a standalone book but also with a possible open ending that leaves room for the author to return to the book if needed.
The characters here for the most part is a relatively small one and all are diverse and well developed, with Tomasz sure to be a fan favourite. It’s rare that you see books with protagonists as diverse as this in young adult fiction so it was refreshing to see Ness execute this as well as he did here, with realistic dialogue and you get the sense that these teenagers are actually teenagers. Despite the dark mood the book benefits from some elements of black humour and even though there isn’t a real climax you’ll never be bored, and the ending will at the same time manage to leave you satisfied.
This is one of those books that I really should have filed under something that I should have read sooner. It’s really powerful, well written and boasts a strong selection of diverse characters thrust together in unlikely circumstances. Confidently written, More Than This is very hard to put down and further proves that Patrick Ness is one of the best if not the best young adult writers out there right now....more
Wow. I’ve been meaning to check out Shadowshaper for a while now and I’m really glad that I finally got the chance to be able to do so because it’s one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, boasting an imaginative concept that manages to handle its subject matter incredibly well indeed. The book itself is also a very quick read and fairly easy to get through, as we follow the awesome Sierra Santiago on a journey that blends Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series with Caribbean legend.
The cast of characters are likeable and engaging, with Sierra being a standout who you can’t help but get behind and support. The dialogue is realistic and well crafted, with good use of slang. The book makes the most out of its Brooklyn setting as well, which makes a change given how many novels, films and TV shows in the past where the setting could easily be substituted for another one and it wouldn’t make a difference. Everything just works and the antagonist fits the book’s themes nicely, even if he isn’t as developed as he could have been. But that’s fine though, the first book in the series does an effective job at fleshing out the characters well.
The chapters are short and the book is engaging and easy to read, and while it may be targeted at a younger audience but adults will enjoy Shadowshaper as well. Even though the book draws comparisons to The Mortal Instruments it is its own unique beast, and as far as I’m concerned the first book in this series was far better than The City of Bones. The way the book tackles several different themes is handled so well and benefits the most from a diverse cast, with an Afro-Latina heroine leading the way, blending a mix of cultures together that you don’t see that often.
Bold, unique and inventive I can’t praise Shadowshaper enough. It’s a gripping read that you won’t be able to put down and has you hooked from the first page to the last. This is an absolute must read for not just fans of young adult fiction but also for fans of urban fantasy in general, and sets an example as to how to create an awesome protagonist....more
Dystopian young adult fiction is a genre that seems to be suffering from an over-saturation ever since the rise in popularity of The Hunger Games, and we’ve had countless of books billed as the next big thing, with The Maze Runner and Divergent franchises following suit in quick succession as they were adapted into movies. However perhaps the best of all four is Pierce Brown’s trilogy, starting with the titular opener Red Rising, which is darker and grittier than all three, incredibly violent and action packed from start to finish, set in an imaginative world that makes the most out of a Roman/Greek inspired origin.
As I’d recently read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir I was reminded of a few similarities in the plot, with Darrow working undercover to bring down a regime much like the protagonist in that novel. But Darrow feels more realised, more memorable, and although he’s not perfect, being to hot-headed and quick to anger, he’s actually pretty well developed and grows throughout the book as he struggles to deal with the fallout of finding that not only is his wife dead, but also his entire life is a lie. His character can sometimes throw you off and can be frustrating, but there are other times when he really shines.
The book has echoes of The Hunger Games in its structure with fights to the deaths between groups of kids but handles it in a different approach. There’s a caste system which the dominate Golds rule over Mars, whilst he belongs to the lowest class of the Red, who are slaves. Darrow is a Helldiver, a miner on the Red Planet, and it’s all he’s ever known. When he’s thrown out of his familiar surroundings into new terrain he has to watch himself, lest he be caught using terms that only a Red would use. There’s this constant high stakes feeling throughout Red Rising, that constant danger as though nobody is safe. Darrow isn’t afraid to do the killing as well, with a notable memorable sequence happening to one of the characters who would have probably made it out in a book not as grimdark as this.
Whilst the setting and story may be fairly generic I couldn’t help but be entertained with this mostly well written drama that provides an excellent series starter even if the beginning is a fairly slow burner. The book really picks up about three quarters of the way through, as you learn more and more about the world which itself is richly developed.
I was reminded a lot of the Warhammer 40k Universe as well in the world-building and I could imagine something like this happening on a planet in the Universe, obviously with a few changes here and there. Obviously fans of The Hunger Games will enjoy this one as well and the groundwork is also laid here for some possible space combat in future novels, which is touched upon well. The Caste system that Brown develops is rich and well developed, exploring not just the Red and Golds but also White, Blue, Pink and more with each given a different task. It makes a bit more sense than the Divergent system for example but again it begs the question why must every other YA dystopia involve some kind of system like this?
Blending the Roman and Greek mythology together well, Red Rising is a very solid read if not really an original tale. Darrow does feel as though he can get pretty much everything right constantly and comes across as a male Mary-Sue equivalent at times. But whilst Darrow is flawed in that approach he is reasonably well developed in others, and the plot is tense enough to keep readers hooked, because this is a literal page-turner that was impossible to put down for me and as soon as I started I quickly found that I couldn’t stop reading.
Red Rising finds a way to out-do the brutality of The Hunger Games and holds nothing back to create a bold if flawed entry to the young adult genre that’s considerably darker than others of its ilk. Having already read the second in the trilogy, Golden Son, it’s already shaping up to be one of the better young adult series available right now and comes recommended as a result....more
Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes was one of the biggest young adult releases of last year and as a result it’s been in my to read list for a while. I’ve been eager to see whether this book could deliver on all the praise it’s received and to an extent, it does, however not without some problems on the way.
Set in a world inspired by Ancient Rome, An Ember in the Ashes offers two different sides of a coin as it follows two characters who are caught up in a revolution. It’s kind of like a young adult-ified version of The Departed with unfortunately two weak protagonists at its core. Whilst one character, Elias, who starts out on the side of the status quo as a trainee, does experience character growth, the same cannot be said for Laia who unfortunately remains a disappointment throughout the novel and feels like a far weaker YA protagonist than what we have seen in the past. I did actually love to hate the villain of the novel though, who was well crafted and a really powerful threat to the protagonists. So it’s clear with this book that certain characters are misses, but others sometimes work.
The book follows Elias and Laia through their perspectives and they spend a large portion of the novel apart. The characters each have problems of their own with Laia joining the Resistance and then going undercover to get her brother back and Elias becoming an increasingly disillusioned soldier. As well as echoes of The Departed I was also reminded of Claudia Grey’s Lost Stars In how things played out, with character-focus at the book’s core.
The pacing structure is flawed and the world building is also something that is fairly inconsistent. Although the book will keep you gripped everything seems to fall apart at the ending, which, like most trilogy-starters before it, particularly when it comes to new young adult novels, is set up with sequels in mind and unfortunately doesn’t finish on a strong note as the book started. The world building does have better foundations but could have used more thinking in certain departments, but on the whole thanks to how well written the book is these are mostly only small issues.
Despite its flaws, Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes is a really promising debut that is rich, engrossing and worth a read. It’s something that I’ll be returning to for sure.
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
One of my favourite urban fantasy novels of last year was the first book in V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, entitled A Darker Shade of Magic. I loved the world building but wasn’t too won over by the characters, however there was enough promise there for me to be able to get stuck into the second novel when I could and it didn’t disappoint, offering up a just as awesome and just as fun experience as the first. It kept me hooked from start to finish as we continued to explore the world of Kell and Lila, and offered up another intriguing mystery.
We pick up the action four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic and now A Gathering of Shadows starts off with things having slowly returned to normal, with a few minor differences, with Kell being wracked with guilt and Rhy now having sobered up. Red London is in full preparation for the Element Games, a sort of Olympic Games for magic in the city, meant to entertain and strengthen the ties between neighbouring countries. However, as Red London is putting on a show for the rest of the world, another, darker London is coming back to life from the shadows. Black London comes back in a big way in A Gathering of Shadows, and it’s very interesting to watch its growth from the shadows, with the stakes now higher than ever, because if Black London rises, then another London must fall in its place.
The book examines the fallout from A Darker Shade of Magic pretty well. Lila has walked away, and Kell’s guilt is something that he will have to bear on his own. But just because Lila may have walked away doesn’t mean that she has vanished for good though, because she has become the best thief of a pirate crew whose Captain happens to be an incredibly talented magician. The Captain sees the Element Games as a chance to showcase his power to the rest of the world, and as a result, it’s interesting to see the Games being used as a trigger to bring the characters back together again in a pretty effective way.
A Darker Shade of Magic may have suffered in the character department but A Gathering of Shadows does some way to improve Kell and Lila. Their characters over the course of this book have grown and become more engaging and interesting, with Kell experiencing the most dramatic of changes since the first book and it’s interesting to see how he copes with them. The many magic duels presented in this book allow for an engaging read that gives us some great imagery, and we really get a vivid idea of what such a tournament would be like. Schwab uses her skills as a writer to showcase the diversity of her world and it’s great to see the plot developing down this direction.
As usual with second acts in a trilogy, the book ends in a cliffhanger but that didn’t mind me at all because the book itself panned out so well. The interesting approach to magic really worked here and the Games provided a fantastic backdrop to the events that unfolded before us. If you were one of those people who may not have been quite won over by A Darker Shade of Magic then I urge you to give this one another look, because A Gathering of Shadows deserves it for sure. ...more
Seeing authors whose work you like reading switch genre is an interesting experiment and you never quite know how well they’re going to fare. Michael Grant’s Gone series blew me away as one of my favourite set of young adult releases, which managed to be pretty entertaining as it got darker and darker. So Michael Grant’s brand new Soldier Girl series was always going to be a must read for me and thankfully, It didn’t disappoint, already offering a strong contender for an awesome young adult novel that presents an alternate look into World War 2. It’s not quite as a drastic alternate history as Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf, where the Nazis won, but It offers a world where female soldiers were allowed to join up with the US Military following a court decision that women are eligible for service. As a result, Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are thrust headfirst into the war, volunteering for their own reasons, whether it be for the honour of Rio’s sister, the money for Frangie’s family or just simply the death of Germans for Rainy Schulterman, they’re thrust into one of the darkest conflicts in human history and that is where Front Lines picks up.
The book compares Front Lines to The Book Thief and Code Name Verity and whilst I haven’t read the latter, I would probably agree with the comparison to the former. The historical fiction combined with historical fact goes some way to creating an epic conflict that’s written and doesn’t shy away from the horrors of the Second World War. It’s very different from Grant’s Gone books, which had a death toll of its own, but Front Lines is possibly just as dark if not darker. Yes, it uses a lot of traditional war tropes like the rookie soldiers not knowing what they’re getting into, tank battles and more, but the book itself also looks at social injustice, and tackles many other themes such as sexism, racism and more, rather than just being a straightforward war story, and as a result, that extra depth helps the novel stand out just a bit more.
If you’re looking for gritty, dark fiction then Front Lines will no doubt be right up your street. The characters are pulled off just as well as in Michael Grant’s Gone series and the likes of Rainy, Frangie and Rio all being well developed and well-rounded protagonists. The action is near constant and the vivid detail that Grant creates really helps flesh out the atmosphere, allowing for a strong, powerful read that shouldn’t disappoint readers. This does mean however that it is quite long for a young adult novel, and the pacing may be slow in parts, but that doesn’t mean that you should shy away from the book, as it’s a strong, captivating read that I cannot help but recommend. Is it an early contender for one of the best young adult novels of 2016? We’ll have to wait and see.