And I Darken (The Conqueror’s Saga #1)

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Book: And I Darken (The Conqueror’s Saga #1)

Author: Kiersten White

I was really excited for this book as I’d heard such great things about it, that it had a lot of stabbing, that the female main character was very fierce and that it was generally a great read. However, I found myself struggling to read it, it took me three weeks to get through which is slow even for me, especially with a 400 page book, three+ weeks is usual for me for 600+ page books, but  not for something like this. It was just incredibly dense, both the prose and the story itself and whilst I was promised a stabfest, what I actually got was a political yawnfest. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.

The premise sounded amazing, a genderbent retelling of Vlad The Impaler? Sign me up! However the book didn’t really live up to the promise of its premise. There was a lot of dense political talk and romance and religion, but not exactly very much of Lada being stabby and vicious, at least not as much as I was expecting.

The story was VERY slow. It moved at an almost glacial pace throughout, even when they arrived at the Sultan’s court, it’s still incredibly slow. That combined with all the politics, the dense prose and the large focus on religion made it a struggle to get through. I mean I appreciated seeing the religious aspects, as religion is too often glossed over in YA, but this in combination with the politics and the dense prose really did not work. I can’t speak to how good the Islam representation was, but it is there, if there are any Muslim reviewers reading this who have read the book, I’d love to know what you thought about the rep in this.

I actually lost track of how old the characters were, because there was so much skipping about in time. First they were kids, then they were 10 and 11 then loads of time skipped and they’re suddenly like 15 and 16, but they felt a lot younger? I don’t know, it just bugged me a little, because I always felt they were a lot younger than they actually were, so some of their actions didn’t make complete sense to me.

I did like Lada, but she wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I was expecting her to be really, really vicious and she was sometimes, but nowhere near to the level that I wanted her to be. I also didn’t like how she seemed to do a complete 180 when she fell for Mehmed. Still I did like that she was fierce and knew her own mind and beliefs and stuck to them that was great. Radu was sweet and I liked him at first but once the whole Lada/Mehmed thing started, he got all jealous and brooding and I wasn’t such a fan? I also didn’t believe that Mehmed could be that dense about Radu’s feelings for him, I think he’s using him.

I really hated that it had to be constantly emphasised how ugly Lada was. Like I get you need to show that she can’t rely on her looks but I don’t think it was necessary to be reminded every other page how ugly she was.

Mehmed really bothered me. I didn’t get why he wanted Constantinople so much and it honestly seemed like he was just using both Lada and Radu. He had his harem, he didn’t need Lada and yet he keeps her around just because he wants her. Honestly it felt like he was emotionally abusive to both of them and I didn’t really like that.

There is LGBTQ+ representation which I liked, because it’s not something you see very often in historical fiction, especially not in this time period, but there is a bit towards the end that utilises the “bury your gays” trope. That really disappointed me because I had thought the rep was okay up until that point.

The plot wasn’t particularly coherent and didn’t really seem to have a point until right up at the end. I will admit I really loved the climax, especially with what happened to Lada’s character. I was just expecting far more action throughout the book and I didn’t really get it.

I have seen some reviews from native reviewers, Romanian in this case, who have said that they weren’t pleased with the representation of their history, so that’s something to take into account when choosing whether to read this book.

Some of the chapters were definitely a little overlong, which contributed to the lagging pace.

Overall, it’s not a terrible book, but it could have been so much better. Lada was great, but most of the other characters I didn’t really get along with, the plot was slow, it was very dense and generally just not particularly easy to read. This would be great for anyone who likes historical reads, packed with politics and religion but not so much for lovers of action packed, fast paced reads like me.

My Rating: 3/5

The next book I will be reviewing is Heidi Heilig’s The Girl From Everywhere, as my #RockMyTBR book for October. Also I promise guys, my September Update is coming, I will hopefully have it up for you tomorrow!

 

 

 

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Charlotte Says Review (e-ARC)

Book: Charlotte Says

Author: Alex Bell

Published By: Stripes Publishing

Expected Publication: 7th September (oops!)

Format: e-book

I received this book for free via Netgalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

As always, thank you to Netgalley and Stripes Publishing for allowing me to read this book.

I enjoyed reading Frozen Charlotte by this author over the summer, so when I saw that there was going to be a prequel to it coming out this year and that it was available on Netgalley, I immediately jumped at the chance to read it and requested it. Luckily for me, my request was granted! If possible, this book was even creepier than Frozen Charlotte and I definitely felt more unsettled when reading it, but I think I enjoyed Frozen Charlotte just a tad more? Maybe because I had no expectations. I also kind of knew where the story was going to go in this one because a lot of the events are mentioned in Frozen Charlotte, having said that, the way events unfurled really surprised me! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The much-anticipated prequel to the bestselling FROZEN CHARLOTTE, a Zoella Book Club title in Autumn 2016.
Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.
Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.

First off, you don’t necessarily need to read Frozen Charlotte to read this one, it’s a completely stand alone book and it really depends whether you want to know the backstory first or whether you want to read Frozen Charlotte and then find out the backstory.

This book was definitely a lot more intense than the first one, what with the dolls, the evil schoolmistress, Jemima’s sadistic stepfather, all of it together makes for a very intense reading experience and I was definitely more horrified at this one than I was at the first one. It’s a lot more graphic as well, there’s animal abuse, human abuse, murder, some pretty nasty injuries, so definitely not for the fainthearted and possibly more for older teens than younger ones, I think. Also warning to anyone with the same phobia of needles as me, there are some scenes involving needles in this, so you may want to flick past those!

I found it interesting that the book started with dialogue as it’s not something that you see very often but I think it worked well here.

I liked the integration of the flashbacks with the present story, it was all woven together really well and the transitions between past and present weren’t clunky like they sometimes are.

This book answers many of the important questions we were left with from the first book, why are the dolls evil, how did they get to the school, what happened for the school to be closed etc whilst still leaving the end slightly open, so you’re not entirely sure what will happen to all the characters once the story is over.

I’m not sure how I really felt about Jemima as a character, for most of the story I was really rooting for her, I wanted her to find out what was happening with the Frozen Charlotte dolls and I felt really bad for what happened to her with Redwing but there was a big twist at the end that kind of changed my opinion of her? I did find it a bit weird that she was 17 and an assistant schoolmistress, but this was the 1900’s so I think that was pretty normal back then.

The schoolmistress, Miss Grayson, was absolutely horrible, I mean it fits with what I know about schools in the 1900s, but it was still quite shocking to see how awful she was! I felt really bad for all the poor girls, especially Estella, who I just wanted to give a massive hug to.

The dolls were just as creepy, if not more so than in the first book. It’s cemented now, I definitely hate dolls. Why do we think those things are cute? They’re freakin’ terrifying!

Jemima’s stepfather Redwing, is one of the most atrocious human beings ever, he’s truly awful and the chapters detailing his forcing Jemima to communicate with his dead daughter were very difficult to read.

I didn’t really see the point of Henry. He seemed to just be there to provide the requisite YA love interest and didn’t have much of a personality aside from being a nice, too perfect, kind of blank guy.

I will admit, wasn’t a huge fan of the sexism in this book. I know it’s the time period, but this is a story where demonic dolls can control human beings, I think you can tone down the sexism! There was also the classic YA girl on girl hate that needs to die a slow painful death like now please? It’s getting old!

I loved the little cameo from Cameron, it was a nice throwback to Frozen Charlotte.

Once again, the setting was awesome, I love reading books set in Scotland and it’s such a good setting for horror novels, so atmospheric! Alex Bell is definitely very good at setting a scene.

The pacing felt a lot better than the first book, the chapters were shorter, the mystery felt tighter, and actually by the end I was wishing there was more!

The epilogue felt very similar to the one in the first book, except I actually liked it better here, because implying that the dolls are still out there doing damage, leads quite well onto Frozen Charlotte.

Overall, this was another engaging horror story from Alex Bell, it was a fast, if not necessarily an easy read as it’s quite horrifying and if you liked Frozen Charlotte, then I would definitely recommending continuing (or starting, if you want to read this first!) the dolls’ story.

My rating: 3/5

My next review will be of Kiersten White’s And I Darken, which I finished last Sunday, but have been so busy with essays, I haven’t had a chance to write it yet. Will try to get it up ASAP!

 

 

 

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) Review

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Book: Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)

Author: Victoria Aveyard

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book, the first book wasn’t my favourite thing in the world but it had potential and I was hoping that the sequel would expand on the potential seen in the first one, plus I met the author just before I started reading it and got it signed so I was really hoping that I would like it. Unfortunately I definitely felt like this book suffered hugely from second book syndrome, it was a LOT of set up with very little reward at the end and was probably about 100-200 pages longer than it really needed to be. Sure the end sets up for some pretty exciting stuff but you can’t expect readers to sit through hundreds of pages of boring to get to the good stuff, just so they’ll keep on with the next book! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

So where do I start with this? I think the pacing is probably the best place as that was incredibly irritating. We switch between extensive Mare-monologues, to action sequences that really leave absolutely no punch at all, and back again, I don’t even know how many times over the course of this book. The actual plot is relatively simple: find and save newbloods, it shouldn’t have taken nearly 500 pages to do that! It also throws you straight into the new story without giving any kind of background on what happened in the first book and I’m sorry but it’s been over a year since I read Red Queen, I’m not gonna remember everything! You cannot assume that your reader is going to be going into the book, fresh off reading the first in series. This isn’t really a particular bug bear just with Aveyard, it’s authors in general really. Series synopses need to be a thing! The chapters were also overly long, it felt like I was trudging through them to get to the end, as opposed to actively enjoying them.

I also didn’t love Aveyard’s writing? She tended to lean on the same phrases and use them over and over again throughout the book. Seriously, I could have made a drinking game out of the number of times Mare used the phrases “lightning girl” and “anyone can betray anyone” in this book! She treads the line between cheap action sequences that didn’t really add anything to the plot asides from being “flashy” and info-dumping throughout most of the book. I actually said in my first Red Queen review that I liked her writing, so I don’t know what changed in this book, but it really irritated me.

Whilst I quite liked Mare in the first book, despite her awful name, in this book she became absolutely unbearable to me. Her inner monologues were lengthy and boring, she had the tendency to contradict herself all the time, she was arrogant to the point where you kind of wanted to punch her, she was so dismissive and rude to her friends and I felt like she kind of looked down on anyone who wasn’t a newblood? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it felt that way to me! She feels so incredibly entitled and yet is so self-pitying at the same time, it’s not a fun combination to read. I complained in the first book that she didn’t seem to have much agency, and as far as I could tell, that didn’t really change much in this book, she still didn’t feel like much of a leader to me.

The plot was incredibly thin on the ground. It was basically them rushing between one part of the Kingdom and another to rescue newbloods, who just so happened to have the exact powers Mare needed them to in order to complete the big mission at the end. Almost every chapter read the same to me, and I often found myself flicking through to find out when they would be over.

Cal, I actually appreciated more in this book. He seemed to be one of the few who was willing to call Mare out and tell her when she’d gone too far (him and Cameron), he’s actually lost far more than Mare has and deals with it a lot better than she does. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he was totally fleshed out, but I felt like he was more on the way there.

The villains’ just totally dropped off the map in this book! I mean Maven and Elara are kind of there in the background, but they really don’t make their presence felt at all, I mean we’re supposed to believe that all the newbloods are in danger from them and they’re this force to be reckoned with, but they kind of just slink around for the entire book. It would have been nice for them to be more scary really!

I still enjoyed all of the abilities, but it annoyed me that everyone they recruited just happened to have a skill they needed, you’re recruiting all these people. it’s likely that one of them won’t have a useful skill! It just felt too coincidental to me, it would have been better if the characters had powers that fit their personalities, that could have been a prime chance to develop their characters, but no we don’t get that, they are barely developed.  I liked the hints that we saw of Cameron, she was great,  but all the rest basically seemed to be there as props to do Mare’s bidding.

I also didn’t like that for someone who family is supposed to mean so much to, Mare basically forgot about her family half the time throughout this book. There’s no point your YA character having a present family (a big score point) if they just forget about them all the time! I did like that this book explored her relationship with her brother Shade a bit more though, that was good.

I felt so bad for Kilorn, Mare treated him so badly when all he was doing was trying to help. I actually enjoyed his character, he and Cameron were basically the only characters that showed any real spark in this book!

The romance in this was again pretty bland. So Kilorn is basically out of the picture and she tells him as much, which I did appreciate because I hate it when the guy who is obviously not going to win the girl’s affections is led on. Maven and Cal both still appear to be in the running for Mare’s heart, despite the fact that Maven is evil now, Mare doesn’t seem able to let go. It all just felt rather bland to me, I didn’t really feel the chemistry between Cal and Mare and Maven’s not really there for most of it and on his side, Mare feels kind of like a possession, which is something I hate. I don’t feel like romance is Victoria Aveyard’s forte!

I didn’t really feel like the world building was expanded much in this book. They travel through basically the entire Kingdom, but there’s no map and no real expansion of the world, it was just, oh we’re going to this part of the kingdom, now this part, now this part and I just felt completely confused by it! It’s never really been explained why the Silvers are in power or where the whole divide came from, only the vague, “oh there was a war a long time ago and now everyone hates everyone else”. And we still have no idea why newbloods exist, they just do.

It also really bothers me that Mare has no female friends at all, now I’m not saying that girls can’t get along better with guys than girls, but there are very few YA books that show positive female friendships and I would love to see more of this, because I feel like teenage girls need that sometimes, they need to know that other teen girls aren’t the enemy! It wasn’t as bad as the first book with all the girl on girl hate between Mare and Evangeline, but the only girls who have much of a presence in this book are Mare, Farley and Cameron, Mare and Farley, I guess are friends but I’m not sure you could tell by the way they act. Cameron is hostile to Mare from the get go and that’s understandable, but I would have liked it if she had one close female friend. Just one.

The fantasy elements from the first novel seemed all but gone in this one as well, I liked that the first one was a kind of dystopian/fantasy cross, but it seemed like this book couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, dystopian, sci-fi, fantasy, who knows?

There are TOO MANY characters! Have a few characters and focus and really develop them, rather than throwing in all of these newbloods with different names and powers and no personality for readers, just give us a few well developed ones, we won’t mind! We might even actually thank you for it. I read a lot okay, I do not have time to remember every single random character you want to throw into the story and it must be even worse for people who read hundreds of books a year.

I was hoping the Scarlet Guard would have more to do in this one, but aside from at the very start and the very end, they basically do nothing.

It got a bit more exciting towards the end, but still, the action sequences were rather clumsily written, she writes them in a big, cinematic sort of way, which is fine for screenplays, but in books, you don’t necessarily want that.

I also don’t understand how Mare could have got so good with her powers so quickly, she wasn’t even in the palace for that long!

Basically, much as I wanted to like this book, it really wasn’t for me, far too much style over actual substance, Mare was irritating, character development was thin on the ground and world building was practically non existent, there were too many characters, and the plot pretty much wasn’t there at all. I think it would take something really special for me to want to continue the series at this point!

My Rating: 2/5

The next book I will be reviewing is And I Darken, the first book in The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White.

 

 

 

 

 

The Song Rising (The Bone Season #3) Review

28260402Book: The Song Rising (The Bone Season #3)

Author: Samantha Shannon

I picked this one up at YALC at the end of July, but didn’t get to it until recently, I had several books I was really excited for in August and this one just happened to end up at the bottom of the pile, I’m glad I waited though as there’s nothing better than having a brilliant book to read on a five hour train journey up to Scotland! This is definitely my favourite book of the series so far, the plot was tighter, the character development was excellent and I loved the expansion of the world that Shannon has created with two additional Scion citadels that we got to see in this book. It also ends in a really exciting place with the indicator that action within Scion Europe is going to be happening in the next book so I am seriously excited about that. Here is a short synopsis of this book:

The hotly anticipated third book in the bestselling Bone Season series – a ground-breaking, dystopian fantasy of extraordinary imagination

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…

I mean the book starts with a map, and you really can’t go wrong with a good map. It’s just a map of the UK, but Scion’s Britain isn’t separated into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it has different sectors in each of the different countries of the UK (eg Lowlands and Highlands is Scotland, Westlands is Wales & North East, North West, South East, South West and Midlands are England. Ireland is an entire entity rather than being split into North and South).

I liked that the book picked up right where the last book left off, as it was a rather big cliffhanger, so it would have felt weird if it had time jumped right away, instead there is a prologue which starts with the events directly after the end of the Mime Order.

Shannon always does a killer opening paragraph, she definitely has a way of making me get hooked instantly from the first paragraph of her book!

The book does have a short time jump, of about three weeks after the prologue, which I get was necessary, as you want to see Paige as Underqueen after things have settled a little, but it was still a little jarring.

I can definitely say I found the pacing so much better in this book. The chapters were shorter, the action was faster and the plot had one single purpose, finding and destroying Senshield and all of the characters’ actions are towards this goal, there’s no windy paths to the ultimate endgame like there was in The Mime Order, it was simple and straightforward which I liked.

Paige’s character development was another thing I loved. Paige has grown so much since The Bone Season, she still makes mistakes and a lot of them to be sure, but if she didn’t then she wouldn’t feel like a realistic nineteen year old, but she’s also a clever leader, she’s brave, she does what’s best and truly cares about the voyants in her care, she’s brave and much more confident than she was previously, it’s just brilliant to have seen her grow into this amazing young woman. It’s great to see her dreamwalking gift having improved as well. I like that even though she has this really rare gift, she doesn’t come off as being special-snowflake like, she’s still flawed and fallible even with this amazing gift.

It was nice to see more of the other characters in this as well, I loved seeing Paige’s relationship with the members of her Unnatural Assembly explored. I especially liked seeing her and Eliza together, as I always like a good female friendship. We also got a bit more background on Nick which was cool, and some background on Maria. It was cool to see the changes Paige made to the Syndicate and how this changed her relationship to the people in it.

I like that LGBTQ rep is so easily woven into this story, there’s nothing about it being illegal in Scion or people frowning on it or anything, it’s just there, which is exactly how it should be. Nick was confirmed gay in the first book (it was so sad that Jax came between him and Zeke!) and in this book Ivy was confirmed to be LGBT (it’s not clear whether she’s lesbian or bisexual, but she is confirmed to have had a female lover). I feel like Wynn might be a lesbian but that’s not on page canon so don’t quote me on that!

I’m still not really into Paige and Warden as a couple, I was actually quite pleased that they were separated for most of this book and Paige was focused on things other than Warden! I don’t know, Warden still kind of eludes me as a character, three books in and I still don’t really feel like I know him at all. He was missing for a few chapters there and when he turned up again, I found that I hadn’t really missed them! They did have a nice moment towards the end of the book when he buoys her up after she’s feeling down but that’s about it. I don’t know, I feel they might be better as friends than lovers? Maybe I’m just not really feeling the romance vibe! I did love that when they did have a somewhat steamy scene, Shannon showed consent at all stages of physical contact, this should be a more normal thing!

I loved that there was so much underground stuff in this book, I have a big thing about caves and tunnels, my current WIPs contain both, so whenever I see books that have them, I get really excited!

I love the structure of the book, the three sections with the named chapters and the small interludes between each part, was great!

The world building expansion in this book was great, I loved getting to see other Scion citadels, with Manchester and Edinburgh, and how they differed from the London citadel, I especially loved the parts in Edinburgh because I live near there whilst I’m at Uni and I’ve actually been to the Edinburgh vaults! The stakes also felt a lot higher, Scion is clearly upping their game what with Senshield and everything and it truly felt like there was a large possibility for failure for Paige which is always good. We also got to see some of the other Scion incursions which was pretty cool and the end of the book seems like there is going to be huge scope for the rest of the series, which is awesome. There was a great bit where the entire syndicate conduct a mass seance to send a message to other voyants which I thought was really cool.

I liked that everything wasn’t easy for Paige, she really has to struggle to get anywhere in this book, which yes is frustrating for her, but it’s good to see because it shows her overcoming obstacles and makes her victories seem more well earned than if she got everything she wanted easily. I also liked seeing her struggle as leader of the syndicate and make mistakes because it made me root for her more. Her decisions didn’t always make sense to me, but I know she was doing what she thought was best.

There were a lot of great action sequences that I really enjoyed and even a few twists that I wasn’t expecting.

This is totally off topic, but I really appreciated the pun in ScionIDE!

I liked that we got a little bit more about Paige’s past in Ireland, we got to see snippets of it in the first book, but it played even more of a role in this book. I’m hoping that at some point in the books, Paige will return to Ireland!

I wasn’t sure about Samantha Shannon’s writing initially in The Bone Season, but it’s clear that she’s improved a lot over the last few years and I actually really enjoyed the writing style in this book.

I really loved the ending, the entire last part was definitely my favourite bit of the book, it was definitely a very satisfying conclusion. I wish I could talk more about it without being spoilery, but I can’t! All I can really say without being spoilery is that there is a really cool dance scene and the plot of the book is resolved in a satisfying way, whilst also being open to some awesome possibilities for the rest of the series.

Overall, this is definitely my favourite book of the series so far, I enjoyed the more streamlined plot and faster pace, I was initially worried about how much shorter this book was compared to the other two, but I think it worked in it’s favour. I also loved the character development of Paige and the expansion of the world and I think that this book has set up for the next one to be really great. I was sceptical about this series to begin with, but I’m so excited to see where the rest of the series goes from here, I thought seven books would be too long, but there are so many possibilities for this series, I can’t wait to see where Paige ends up (though I’m not going to lie, much as I have enjoyed binging this series this summer, I’m not looking forward to the wait for the fourth book!).

My Rating: 5/5 (my first since ACOL in March!).

My next review will be of the second book in the Red Queen series, Glass Sword.

 

Resurrection (Skulduggery Pleasant #10) Review

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Book: Resurrection (Skulduggery Pleasant #10)

Author: Derek Landy

So I was naturally, super excited when I found out at last year’s YALC that Derek Landy was going to be writing a new book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series (he refers to it as Skulduggery Phase 2, which indicates that there might be more new books, so yay for that!), as it is one of my favourite fantasy series, and one of the staples of my teen years. But with that excitement, of course, comes no small amount of trepidation. It’s been three years since the last Skulduggery book and five years in the lives of the characters, you have to wonder if you can fall back in where you left off. Well the answer is yes…..and no. Some things remain the same, the dry, sarcastic humour is back and in full force, Skulduggery is as wonderful as ever. However the new book definitely feels more mature than the original series, understandably so as Valkyrie is older, and it took me a while longer to get into it than the original books, I’m not sure if the plot was as tight as some of the original books had been. Still it was an enjoyable reintroduction back into the world of Skulduggery Pleasant, and hopefully one of many more! Here is a short synopsis of it:

The skeleton detective is coming back to life…again! It’s the tenth, triumphant novel in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, and it will rearrange your world. Skulduggery and Valkyrie are back in the tenth instalment in the bestselling Skulduggery Pleasant series – an incredible and unexpected treat for the legions of fans around the world. We can’t say much but we can say this: Skulduggery and Valkyrie are going to team up with beloved characters from the first 9 books as well as an all-new cast, including new teen co-star Omen Darkly, for an adventure that takes the story to truly global proportions…while answering questions that go right back to the beginning. And Derek says this: “I was halfway through Last Stand of Dead Men, I think, when I realised that I had more stories to tell. I told myself that if Skulduggery and Valkyrie survived the series, I would leave the option open of returning to their world. There were still secrets I need to reveal, after all, and there were still horrors they had to face. They survived the first series. But they’re really going to wish they hadn’t.”

Firstly I would recommend going back and reading the last Skulduggery book before going into this, there are a lot of characters to remember and honestly there were some characters from the previous books that I couldn’t even remember who play a pretty major role in this book, so I would definitely recommend reading nine before this to give yourselves a bit of a refresher!

First off, the humour, as always was on point! It’s actually really hard to add humour into books, I have tried, but it’s so difficult for it not to seem forced. I am honestly in awe at the ease of which Derek Landy writes humour, it never seems forced, it’s always natural and is so much a part of the style of these books, so it was nice to see that continue in this book and helped a lot to balance some of the darker moments.

Skulduggery is still as amazing as ever and we even got another glimpse of Evil Skulduggery in this book, which I liked as we don’t really get to see his dark side particularly often. I would say though that the book focuses much more on Valkyrie and Skulduggery definitely takes more of a back seat. That was one of the things that I missed in this book, there wasn’t so much of them working together, which is obviously the main highlight of the books, so that was a shame.

I actually liked Valkyrie a lot more in these books? This new, mature, broken, reluctant hero Valkyrie was a lot easier for me to get on board with than the arrogant, I am the best hero Valkyrie of the previous books. Naturally everything that Darquesse did in Dying of The Light was going to have an effect on her and I was glad to see this explored throughout the book, especially because PTSD is not something you see very often. I didn’t love that Derek’s still trying to make her out to be the specialist special to special in the magical community, like okay she has this white lightning, that was pretty cool, but she has to be a Sensitive too?

The world has changed so much in the time that Val’s been away, and whilst I get that it’s showing Val’s sense of isolation, it does seem a little implausible that so much changed in the five years she was away as compared to the time she was part of the magical community. Still I did like all this extra world building, I liked getting to see how Roarhaven had expanded and changed, I liked the addition of the magic school, Corrival Academy, that felt like a natural thing to have, I liked getting to see some new magical disciplines. It was an awful lot to take in though, all at once!

The plot was for the most part quite slow paced and it did get a little confusing at times. I don’t know, the new villains just didn’t feel quite scary enough for me, there were chapters that didn’t seem to really contribute anything to the overall plot (like all the chapters with Sebastian and Bennet, what the hell were they about?) and I’m still not entirely sure of what exactly a Neoteric is! Still there were some decent fight scenes and once I actually got into the book, I did find myself enjoying it, I was just confused at times! There were a lot of things added that I felt like we should have heard about before, like if Abysinnia (the new Big Bad) is so evil, why haven’t we heard about her before? And the whole Neoteric thing, shouldn’t we have heard about that before? I get that this is the start of a new series, but the whole set up seemed a bit clunky.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Omen at first, after all, he’s not one of our old friends who we’ve grown to know and love, but I really enjoyed his arc. He’s not the chosen one, he’s not special, he’s the Chosen One’s brother and doesn’t really know his place in the world and it was great to see him explore this throughout Resurrection and come to see that he doesn’t need to be The Chosen One to be special, to make a contribution, he can do that as Omen Darkly.

I was so glad that the chapter numbering in this book was consistent, Derek Landy always used to do this really annoying thing in the original Skulduggery series where some of the chapters were named and some were numbered, and I was so happy that in this book it was consistent numbers! The chapter lengths were all pretty decent, although I suppose I will just have to accept that the one page, one paragraph, one line chapters are here to stay! I also loved the title, so accurate for this book, not only with it being the start of a new era of Skulduggery, but with the story itself as well.

I would have liked to have seen more of the old characters from the original series back in this book, it was great to see Val and Skulduggery again, but aside from China, everyone else seemed to be new. I missed the Dead Men, I missed Scapegrace and Thrasher, I missed Tanith, so I hope more of them will be back in future books, if Landy does in fact continue this as a series.

The representation in this book was definitely better than in the original Skulduggery Pleasant series, you have Never who is gender fluid, you have two new gay characters, and Val’s suffering from PTSD, I hope this trend continues into the next books.

There were a few digs at Donald Trump, in the form of Landy’s parody character Martin Flanery and whilst this was humourous, I didn’t quite see the point? Like this character added literally nothing to the plot.

I loved that Valkyrie has a dog, Xena seemed so cute and more books should have dogs!

It was nice to meet a good necromancer with Militsa, she was sweet and I hope to see her and Valkyrie’s friendship grow in the next books.

I wasn’t so keen about the whole remnant of Darquesse thing? I get that it’s meant to represent Valkyrie’s guilt and everything but there were a lot of hints throughout the book that Landy might be bringing her back and I hope that’s not true because her arc was pretty neatly tied up at the end of the original series.

It felt like the climax was somewhat rushed, but that could have been because of the slow pace of the start of the book. The last 10 or so chapters were definitely my favourites of the whole book, Val and Skulduggery get some great moments, some weird spoilery stuff goes down (I literally can’t say more than that, all I can say is that it’s some of the weirdest stuff Landy has ever written) and the action is thick and fast. There was a massive twist at the end which I did not see coming at all. Still everything resolved in a really satisfying way and the last chapter really felt like the start of a new era.

Overall, this was a decent start to a new era of Skulduggery, whilst the plot wasn’t the easiest to follow, I loved Valkyrie’s character arc, Skulduggery will never not be amazing and I enjoyed the new characters for the most part. I’m hoping that the plot will be more streamlined, in future books and we get to see more of our old favourites, assuming that there are more books, which it seems like there will be as the whole book feels like set up for more. I did feel like this book left me wanting more though? I seriously hope there is more to this new phase of Skulduggery because there are way too many loose ends not to be!

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of the latest book in Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season series, The Song Rising.

 

 

 

 

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) Review

23006119Book: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

This book was my #RockMyTBR read for August. It was one of the books I was most excited for on the list that Twitter chose for me at the end of last year and probably one of the most hyped books on the list. My friend absolutely loves this book as well, and we have very similar tastes in books, so usually if she loves a book, I will too. Still, it’s always a bit nerve wracking when you read a book that’s so well loved, as you always have it in the back of your mind that you might be the black sheep who doesn’t like the book as much as everyone else. Luckily this wasn’t the case with Six of Crows, I really enjoyed it! It did take a while to get into it, as a lot of the book is purely set up for the heist-which I suppose is to be expected in a heist book, but once the action started, it was very hard to put the book down. I also loved the cast of characters Leigh Bardugo put together and their development over the course of the book. Here is a short synopsis of it:

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

The opening was pretty engaging, but it did bother me that the opening chapter came from a character that you never hear from again in the rest of the book. I get that it sets up the whole thing with the Grisha, which is an important part of the rest of the book, but when the opening chapter feels completely separate from the rest of the story, that’s a bit of a problem for me. I mean, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story, but I feel like the opening would have made more sense if it had come from a member of Kaz’s crew rather than this weird outsider who we never hear from again.

This book is a spinoff from the author’s original Grisha series but I don’t think it’s necessary to have read them before you read this? I don’t know, for me personally, I found it easy enough to follow and the Grishas sufficiently explained that I could follow everything without having read the original trilogy, but I have heard that some people have found it confusing and it did seem as if the world building expected a certain level of prior knowledge about Grisha, so it’s up to you whether you want to read that first or this, it would probably give you a better understanding of the Grisha war (mentioned a few times) & why the Grisha are considered slaves, but I don’t think it’s necessary (although I did find that the difference between Heartrender and Healer wasn’t explained, is that something you know from the original Grisha books?).

I’d heard so much about Kaz before I read this and I was expecting to really like him, extremely clever anti-hero with a talent for thievery, he sounded a lot like an older version of Artemis Fowl, whom I loved. However I didn’t find myself loving Kaz quite as much as I hoped I would. I’m not really sure what it was, it’s not that he’s completely immoral or a bit of an ass, I’ve loved characters like that before, maybe it’s that he’s quite distant and that makes it hard to connect to him? I don’t know but I didn’t feel the same rush of love as everyone else. I did feel sorry for everything he went through and I really appreciated seeing his touch phobia represented as I can relate to that? I don’t have a phobia, but I do find close contact uncomfortable so it was nice to see that in a character.

I loved most of the rest of the characters though. Nina and Inej were without a doubt my favourites of the cast, Inej was so strong, both physically and emotionally and Nina was hilarious but also fierce (and she loved . I loved that they would put the boys in their places whenever they said or did something remotely assholey! I also loved their friendship, they’re so supportive of each other, there’s no jealousy there, no girl on girl fighting, just wonderful, supportive female friendship. We need more of this in books people! Inej is a former brothel worker but she’s never slut shamed for it. Nina is an unapologetic flirt but she’s also never shamed for it. I love this, women with agency people! This is how you do it!

Jesper was adorable, he’s kind of the comic relief of the group, and I do love the funny guy, so he had my heart instantly, but don’t let the comic facade fool you, he could kill you pretty quick with his sharpshooting skills. I loved his flirting/banter with Wylan and actually wished we could have seen more of the two of them, him and Wylan kind of get pushed to the side for Kaz/Inej and Nina/Matthias, which was a shame. Wylan was definitely my cinnamon roll for this book, he’s too precious for this world and must be protected.

I hated Matthias to begin with. He was all holier than thou and ooh I can’t love a Grisha and what you’re doing is totally wrong and was generally kind of an asshole but he undergoes some great character development through the book and by the end I actually quite liked him. Not as much as Inej or Nina but I didn’t want to hit him anymore, so I’m calling that progress!

All the characters are quite different which I loved (and the voices were distinct enough that you didn’t always have to look at the chapter heading to know who was talking), it made for a good group dynamic, although I will say that during the heist, the group is very much split into their respective pairs, so you don’t get to see them work together as much as I might have liked.

There’s great diversity in this book, you have two main POC characters (Inej and Jesper), a disabled character (Kaz), who also has PTSD, so there’s mental illness rep there too and a confirmed bisexual character (Jesper), Wylan who is strongly hinted to be gay but there’s no on page confirmation, so I’m not sure if that counts?  and a fat character (Nina). They were all treated well as well, no fat-phobia, racism, ableism or homophobia as far as I could tell, so that was great. I also liked that both Matthias and Inej are religious (though obviously their Gods are different to ours) as you don’t tend to see that very often.

I didn’t love that conveniently there were six main characters, who all got paired off with each other. Must we have romance in every YA book people? Can’t we have a group of six friends doing a heist without them all being paired? The romance wasn’t a huge part of the book which I felt glad of, as the only pairing I was really rooting for was Wylan and Jesper, they were so cute and their flirty banter so great. Nina/Matthias started as a captor/captive romance, which I didn’t love, although I did like how Nina made Matthias loosen up a bit more and I think this is a ship I could get on board with given more time. Kaz/Inej, I know I was supposed to love but I didn’t really see anything there? I don’t know maybe I will in the next book. It felt like I was constantly being told that Kaz and Inej felt things for each other, but I didn’t really see it. Nina and Matthias I saw it, I didn’t always love it, but I saw it (and I loved that there was a scene with them spending the night together but it was all about survival not sex! When you’re freezing to death, nah you will not be thinking about sex!). Jesper/Wylan aren’t even an official couple but I saw it. Kaz and Inej? I didn’t really see it. And it was kind of selfish of Inej to insist she must have Kaz “without armour” when she knows about his issues with physical contact? So that was a little offputting, much as I loved Inej.

There were some really great action sequences particularly in the latter half of the book, when the pace really picks up, somewhat making up for the lag at the beginning of the book where it is mostly set up. I mean I understand set up is necessary for heist stories, I just don’t necessarily want to read several hundred pages of it!

The characters all have quite complicated backstories, which I thought was good, as it fleshed them out, but I can understand that keeping track of all these characters and their backstories could be a problem for some people! I would have liked it if Wylan and Jesper had been a little more fleshed out, we tended to only get the flashbacks from Inej, Kaz, Nina or Matthias, which meant we didn’t really get to see Wylan or Jesper’s pasts, only hear snippets of it which was a shame. The lengthy flashbacks were interesting but they did also take you out of the main story and not always at the best times.

Some of the chapters were a little overlong at the start, which contributed to the pacing problems, but this got much better once we got into the heist proper.

I wasn’t expecting how much humour there was in this book, Leigh Bardugo writes great dialogue and some awesome witty banter and I found myself laughing out loud several times during the story.

There were a lot of twists throughout the book that I didn’t see coming, which made it more entertaining. Even though it’s a foregone conclusion that they will make it out of the Ice Court (there’s a sequel so you know things will go okay), there’s still a lot of obstacles on the way to achieving their goal. On occasion, I did feel like the story was trying to be a bit too clever though and I got a little confused? I don’t know, there are just some things that weren’t really explained as much as I would have liked. I also felt that there were times when everything was a little too neat? Saying exactly where would be a spoiler but there were definitely things that worked out just a little too well for the characters that it wasn’t quite believable.

The world building was pretty good, with the Grisha and the parem and all the different cultures of the world and everything, but I still felt like there could have been more? I don’t know, it’s probably just me, I love world building so I want to know everything! The setting was really cool, all dark and gritty, I hope we see more of Ketterdam in the next book.

Leigh Bardugo’s writing was really good, but I definitely preferred her dialogue to her description, I couldn’t really put a reason on it, I think it’s probably just my personal preference for dialogue.

The characters read as much older than they were, aside from Wylan and Jesper, I had trouble believing they were all teenagers, it felt like I was reading about a bunch of 20+ adults.

Van Eck was totally awful, I wanted to punch him!

The book tackles a lot of difficult issues, gambling problems, prostitution, death, drugs, PTSD etc and I thought Bardugo did this well and with sensitivity.

The end I had problems with. Not only was it anti-climactic, but the fact that it was only the girls in trouble at the end smacked of a little subtle sexism to me, which rubbed me the wrong way, the author had been doing so well for most of the book, so it made me a bit made that even a book that has really good rep and all of the sexism is countered, had some subtle sexism in it’s ending. I’m not sure if the author was meaning to, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.

I really enjoyed this book, it had it’s problems, but even with the pacing problems, it was an engaging read with a great cast of characters, good diversity, some awesome twists and turns and an interesting magical system, I look forward to seeing more of these characters in the next book!

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of the latest Skulduggery Pleasant book, Resurrection.

 

The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) Review

17901125Book: The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2)

Author: Samantha Shannon

I wasn’t intending on picking up this one so soon after I read the last one, but when I was almost done with The Bone Season, I had a doctor’s appointment that I knew I would be waiting a while for and I didn’t have another book, so like a typical bookworm, I stopped by Waterstones en route to my appointment in order to make sure I had enough material for the long wait! I then put it down for a week whilst I read my July #RockMyTBR book, but luckily it wasn’t too difficult to get re-engrossed in the story and Shannon’s dystopic/fantasy world. I liked this one much better than it’s predecessor, it was easier to become immersed in the world as I understood more of the terms that had confused me in the first book, I wasn’t flipping back to the glossary the whole time (in fact I hardly used it, but it is there for anyone who is still confused about all the different clairvoyant terms), I found the Syndicate politics a lot more gripping than I’d found the penal colony of the Rephaim in the first book, the secondary characters were more fleshed out than they were in The Bone Season and the world building was definitely much improved from the first book. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal prison camp of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the survivors are missing and she is the most wanted person in London…

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on the dreamwalker, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take centre stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner.

Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.

The Mime Order picks up right where The Bone Season left off, we’re thrown straight back into the action after a short, sort of prologue I guess from Paige, it’s a good, gripping opening, but it might be worth reading a recap of the first book or doing a reread before reading this one as you are thrown straight back into the action.

It was good to see Paige being affected by what happened to her in Sheol I, it was a traumatic experience and it would have been unrealistic for her not to have been affected by it at all. I loved her development in this, she grows so much from the person she was in The Bone Season, her gift has grown considerably, she’s reckless and doesn’t always make the smartest decisions, but she’s a fierce friend and will do whatever she has to in order to change the syndicate and make sure that word about the Rephaim gets out. I liked that she didn’t feel like the super strong, super perfect heroine, she doesn’t get things right all the time and she’s kind of a reluctant heroine and this makes her all the more relatable and easy to root for.

I liked that we got to find out exactly how the others knew she was in Sheol I in the last book because that had been bugging me for a while!

The pacing was again quite slow, but I found that actually worked for this book. It was more of a mystery than the first one, so a fast paced action packed story wouldn’t really have worked (though there are definitely some great action sequences throughout), it was better to have the slow unfurling of the plot. At first I was worried as to how all the different pieces would fit together (the Rephaim, the challenge for Underlord/queen, the Rag and Bone Man etc) but it all slotted together very wonderfully in the end. The first part is definitely the slowest, things start to pick up in the second half and the third half moves at pretty breakneck speed.

I loved that this book focused more on the Syndicate, it was so great to get to see all of the dirty criminal goings on and the politics and different gangs and everything, I found that so much more interesting than the plot with the Rephaim from the last book. We finally got to see Paige properly interact with the Seals, and find out more about them so they feel like more fleshed out people in this book which was awesome. I loved seeing her friendship with Nick as well, it’s so nice to see platonic m/f friendships, although it would be nice if authors could recognise that you can have platonic m/f friendships between straight men and women, it doesn’t have to be that the only reason for the relationship being platonic is that one of them is gay, like can we have gay rep and platonic m/f friendships please? I found Nick’s new relationship with Zeke really cute and look forward to seeing where it goes in the next book particularly as the ending had some pretty big implications for them.

It was so interesting to finally see Paige interact with Jaxon properly, they have a kind of puppet/puppet master relationship, but they’re both kind of pulling each other’s strings if that makes sense? It’s quite complicated because Paige owes a lot to Jax and yet she knows how cruel he is and doesn’t want to be under his thumb anymore, and despite his flaws, it’s clear that Jax does in some way care for Paige, so it’s a very interesting dynamic that the two of them have and I look forward to seeing more of it in the next book.

I loved the setting, Shannon’s version of London is a grimy, gritty, dark criminal underworld and it’s an awesome backdrop for this tale. I love it when authors use settings that I am familiar with, because even though Shannon’s London is a future one, it still employs settings that I know, such as Camden where a lot of the book is based.

The mystery of who murdered the Underlord (not really a spoiler, it happens early in the book), was pretty gripping, but then it morphs into a load of other mysteries about the Syndicate and Scion and it was all so twisted and corrupt, it was awesome! The stakes definitely felt much higher in this one, what with the challenge for Underlord/queen and Paige being wanted by Scion, I really felt for Paige as she was constantly worried about getting caught and wanting to keep a low profile but also wanting to get the word about the Rephaim out there.

Total aside, but there was a bibliomancer in this, a voyant who uses spirits in order to find books to publish and I would totally love to be that voyant! The voyants and their powers are all so cool, it was great to see more than just Paige’s voyant powers in this book and to learn more about the different types of voyants in the syndicate. The world in general felt a lot more developed in this and I feel like I understand much better now how Paige’s London works and how it and clairvoyancy came to be, it was great to see Shannon stepping it up in that respect. There are quite a lot of different types of voyants, but it’s easy enough to keep track, with the orders of clairvoyants at the back of the book.

The chapters were still perhaps a little overlong, but in general, aside from a few typos, I felt like Shannon’s writing flowed a lot better in this book than it did in the previous one. I loved that the chapters were named, it’s an extra detail that I really appreciate!

I’m still not totally invested with Paige’s romance with Warden, I don’t know if it’s just that I can’t get on board with the whole slave/master romance thing (I know she’s free now, but she was for all intents and purposes his slave) or if it’s the fact that Warden doesn’t really have much of a personality to speak of, but they don’t make me swoon. Warden just doesn’t really do anything for me, he feels really blank and I know that’s part of the Rephaite character but I’d love it if he had a bit more of a character than just being morally dubious.

I loved the maps at the front, I think all fantasy books should have maps, it makes it so much easier to envisage the world!

There were several great twists throughout the book, most of which I didn’t see coming, which I loved!

The scrimmage was so exciting, it was basically two whole chapters of pure action and I loved it, it was all these voyants in the same ring, using their voyant powers which was really awesome! I don’t want to spoil the ending of the fight for you guys, so all I can say is that it’s really cool. It did feel like it took a long time to get there though, we found out about it pretty early on but it only happened in the last part.

THAT ENDING! I did not see it coming and I have so many questions! It’s set up for a very exciting book three and I can’t wait to see where Paige and the others go from here, as I still have a lot of questions from this book which I need answers to!

This was a great second book, the slower pace actually worked for it this time, the focus on the Syndicate rather than the Rephaim made it much more interesting, the slightly dodgy romance from the first book took a back seat, there were some awesome twists, the writing was more smooth, the world and characters were better developed, it was miles better than the first book. I was a little iffy going into this one but I’m now really excited for book three!

My rating: 4/5

My next review will be of my August #RockMyTBR read, Six of Crows.