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The evil kingdom of Mortmesne invades the Tearling, with dire consequences for Queen Kelsea and her realm. With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, Kelsea has crossed the brutal Red Queen, who derives her power from dark magic and who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what she claims is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.
Reviewed from ARC
Narrative: Third person, subjective
Warning: for those with dealing with sexual violence, self harm and torture triggers
I actually decided to put off writing this review for a week, so that I could sit back, look at the book with a more objective eye and use words other than SQUEE
So, here is what I’m thinking right now, after time away:
I know, that plan obviously worked a treat..
Narrative: Third Person, Past Tense (mostly!)
Until Daughters of Shadow and Blood: Yasamin, I don’t think I had ever read a book that spreads across so many different Genres, and actually does them all justice! It’s a historical fiction, thriller, horror, Fantasy, murder mystery, Romance, paranormal, war, action extravaganza that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until you put the book down, and even then you’re left thinking, ‘thats a pretty ominous ending..’ and imagining where this is going to go next! It has a DiVinci Code feel, but, I actually liked this!
Essentially, the core subject of the book is the life of Yasamin, one of the three Brides of Dracula and how her past has given credence to the actions of Adam, a historian that is desperately searching for answers about his friend’s murder and the mysterious medallion of Dracula that seems to be the central cause of all the woes.
The structure of the book is actually quite interesting! It consists of interlocking different timelines and points of view, that are then framed with a central scene(s) between the two main protagonists, Yasamin and Adam. It also includes parts of the book Dracula and letters/documents/journal entries written by or about historical figures that may have been directly involved in the rise and fall of Dracula and his vampires. By skipping back and forth through time, place and different view points, the plot is revealed in a totally non-linear manner. Strangely, the plot flowed really evenly, though it looks like it shouldn’t! It presented a unique narrative, and I found myself really enjoying this approach to creating a storyline.
(The coolest thing is, I sort of felt like a kid reading one of those children’s picture books where you open up letters, read scraps of paper etc (usually lost somewhere in the library) to try and fit together the clues to solve the mystery..)
The only downside to time skipping of course, is that you do lose some tension in the action scenes knowing that the character gets out unscathed and to his final destination, right at the beginning. In the grand scheme of things, it’s only really a blip in the proceedings, because the plot is so well conceived. And I honestly have no idea how it could be structured like it is, without that intensity dropping, so I guess it’s a sacrifice that’s probably worth making…
Yasamin’s story is really the stand out here. By revealing her character before she became a vampy creature, and intertwining it with real and brutal historical events, she becomes this full bodied character that you are able to empathise with, even though she is not the ‘sparkle in the sun’ type of vampire you’d like to have around for dinner. I actually had blissful moments of amateur historian love as the Ottoman empire was explored, giving a region I’ve only seen in sterile texts, breath, life and flesh.
The scenes with Adam are thrilling and the mystery extremely engaging, but the interaction between other secondary characters was a bit hit and miss, and the stilted relationship with the Russian ‘helper’ was really undercooked. I had a ‘they are doing what now? but.. ok.. I suppose if you like.. ‘ moment. It was more of a detraction than an addition. Adam is a really strongly written character and his arc extremely engaging, so it felt more like the secondary characters were just a bit too flimsy to keep it running smoothly in the scenes where he had sidekicks.
This was an extremely entertaining read! The slow pulled back moments of historical fiction, juxtaposed with the frantic whirlwind of thrilling mystery of the present, makes Daughters of Shadow and Blood: Yasamin sing, and I enjoyed it immensely!
Harcopy Worthy? I’d like to see book 2 first, but most likely!
Narrative: First Person, Past Tense.
So, if in an alternate universe somebody decided to write me a book to make me smile, and asked what I wanted in it, A School for Unusual Girls would fit the wishlist pretty well.
An Alternate History, Regency England, Smart Girls, Paranormal Twists, Some Sweet Romance, and Pre-20th Century Science all wrapped into an Espionage novel! From start to end I had a giggly grin and eager eyes, because this book tickled a whole hoard of my favourite subjects and was pure joy from one page to the next. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let the serious go for a few hours!
I enjoyed Georgie’s character immensely. Her highs and lows, her smarts and her insecurities. I am finding myself getting blasé about all snarking, arse kicking YA characters at this stage, so to see Georgie’s brain at work, calculating, formulating, generally being extremely intelligent and then flip to worry about her looks or her tenuous situation, struck me as being incredibly true to life for many teenage girls. Hell, most woman really. In my opinion, writing in insecurities does not make a weak character or book, it just makes them more realistic, and I appreciate authors who take the time to give characters faces that don’t always show bravado.
Both Tess and Miss Stranje (who I admittedly pictured as a regency era Emily Strange throughout) also peaked my interest. Enough information was given about them to make them pretty well fleshed out characters, but enough held back to keep them mysterious and unpredictable. A precarious balance to keep, but kept very well throughout the book.
I was also quite interested Sebastian, but it may have been more for imagination candy more than his inquiring mind.. Yes, I really am that shallow occasionally!
The plot was nicely twisty and well paced. It moved forward quick enough to keep the pages turning, whilst not rushing past the more important interactions between characters. The writing is fluid and the dialogue kept close enough to the time period that it felt authentic, without getting too archaic that it might lose readers not interested in trying to process 19th century English.
The only real problem I encountered was with distinguishing between the other Stranje girls. I am not sure whether it was because they weren’t really given a large amount of attention, so I didn’t get a chance to create a connection with them that made them memorable, but there were times when I had to check back to see which one was which. There was a bit of ‘which one was Sara again?’. It started to rectify by the end when a bit more character exposition was added, but I did still have to stop and think harder than I wanted occasionally. I would say, that since the series looks like it will be taking the narrative of a different young lady in each book (I’m speculating due to the sample chapters of book #2 that were in Tess’ POV), they will start to take form in further books, but it was a slight sticking point in this instalment.
It will be interesting to see how many readers start looking up recipes for invisible ink after reading this book! (oh yes I did!) There’ll be a spate of blank missives being passed from hand to hand in the next few years! I will definitely be having some more sleep overs at Stranje House in the future!
I’d suggest this to those that are fans of Gail Carriger, especially her Finishing School series… It’s not a carbon copy, but it’s comparable.
Harcopy Worthy? Yup!
Narrative:Third Person, Limited, Subjective
My first reaction when I finished Sword of the North was: You want gritty, this is like rubbing yourself all over with an emery board!
Sword of The North is possibly the darkest Grimdark novels I have read in quite some time. The world is broken, the characters are all in horrendous situations and the outlook is about as bleak as you can make it. There is horror and death around every corner and there is not much happening to convince people that The Age of Ruin is anything, but The Age of Ruin.
It could have easily been a pretty flat and depressing trudge. The amazing thing is, Scull has been able to make it sing and give it life through craftily bleeding little aspects of hope into the story that the reader can latch onto, little elements that might be a saving grace to keep the characters moving forward. There is also a streak of dark humour running through it, that comes from the strangest of places. Sarcastic wit, humorous violent rages and psychopathic thought processes all serve to create anything from sniggers to belly laughs.
Occasionally it is a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride, which I think is one of the most important elements to keep grimdark interesting. At one stage, within 1% of the novel (according to the reader!), I had a tear of emotion, a belly laugh and the feeling of extreme betrayal. There is humour sidled beside death, and love beside hate. It creates such a heady atmosphere, and it kept me enthralled the whole way through.
The development of the characters between The Grim Company and Sword of the North is immense. The most outstanding aspect of this instalment, is that no matter how much action is whizzing about, the human aspect is never lost. Each of the points of view are dealing with demons that readers can relate to: drug addiction, ageing, bullying, disability and anxiety to name but a few.
There are two characters that go through the most obvious developments, but the progression I found most engaging is in Yllandris. The conceited, beautiful and powerful concubine of the King, has been broken down into an emotional and physical wreck. With it she becomes the champion of children lined up for sacrifice, and is willing to sacrifice herself to stop the reign of the Mad King. Her thought processes are fragile and beautiful, and where I disdained her in Grim Company, I fell in love with her in this. The great thing is, Yllandris is not the only character that is treated with consideration, almost all are changed and moulded anew by the events that have befallen them.
Brodar Kayne, the actual Sword of The North, is given some extra groundwork with flashback scenes to his past as a warrior, and his relationship with his wife and child; the driving force of his journey back to the Highlands. I'm usually not a big fan of flashbacks, but these actually served to broaden Kaynes character and reveal his motivations, not just pad out the book with superfluous meanderings.
The plot line is huge. There is so much going on in and around the two central themes that it had the potential to cause brain bleeds; but by keeping each spoke contained within each point of view, it doesn't become unwieldy in the slightest. At no point did I feel like I had missed a crucial element, or that I had been thrown so far wide of the 'real' plot that my attention started to wander off with it. It just flows so nicely, and by keeping the point of views in a regular pattern, it maintains a good structure, rather than jerking you out of one element and into the next, eliminating the potential for confusion.
The battle scenes are fast and furious, yet well enough written that there's no confusion as to where that arrows aimed or who is swinging what sword at who. Generally, the pacing was hard hitting all the way through, but well kept in check so there wasn't any time line clashing or underdeveloped ideas.
However (I always have at least one!), right near the end, things started to get so clamorous I started to lose track of where people were, what they were doing or why they were doing it. It just felt a little too hysterical for the real impact of the battle royale to sink in. I understand the need to make those events as chaotic as possible to create atmosphere, but pulling back and spreading it out, possibly would've left a mightier impression.
This was fantastic! If you liked The Grim Company, you'll love Sword of The North! It's really a step above the first instalment, in both composition and development, but still with the characters you love (and possibly hate!). Abercrombie, Erikson and Lawrence (and so many others!) have some real competition on their hands with Scull advancing like this!
Harcopy Worthy? Nods head vigorously!
Major point taken: Always be careful when selecting a pet.
Narrative: First Person, Past Tense.
Out of the Abbey and onto the road, Janna meets up with a group of pilgrims heading toward the next clue in the quest to find her father!
Which sounds really exciting, except Pilgrim Of Death is actually a bit of a weak link in The Janna Chronicles. Which makes me pout slightly!
I have been such a great fan of previous books in the series, but this instalment just fell on the flat side. I think there are two main reasons it wasn't as engaging as the previous three novels; the first was casting Janna adrift from all of the established characters. Although her journey has always moved Janna into new situations, and has her meeting new people, there has always been a connection back to the original cast. It's kept her thoughts and feelings in context, whilst the new characters have always been really nicely considered and helped add depth to Janna's development. Pilgrim of Death has her wander about with a whole tribe of new, but really under developed surface characters. It lost the the emotional connection it's taken three books to establish, with every step she takes.
The second is that the mystery was really badly played. It's given away right at the beginning, and the only thing I could think the whole way through was that Janna was being a dolt. The fiery and proud Janna became blind and silly in her most obvious mystery yet, because of a pretty face. It was a fairly disappointing way to achieve a plot point. I had a fairly grim look on my face throughout most of the book, which is the complete opposite to my usual facial expression whilst reading Janna's tales.
On a positive note, Pulman's writing is still superb! Fluid and in control the whole way through!
I wonder if this instalment was really needed in the grand context of things, because apart from a few clues garnered in fleetingly quick scenes, it didn't add much to Janna or her journey.
I was disappointed, but I really hope the next book (which I will still definitely read!), picks back up and gives Janna back her dignity!
Harcopy Worthy? Well, the series has been up to this point at any rate!
Narrative: Third Person, Omniscient, Subjective
I must admit, I am a total sucker for historical mysteries, especially ones that are set in the poorer classes of Britain before the 20th century. There is always an added sense of character to those who have to struggle to survive, an extra sense of curiosity and cunning. Especially when the protagonist, Bianca, is an independent female, making her own way with her cleverness and determination. I am also a total sucker for historical stories of healers, herbalists and chemists, so The Alchemist's Daughter scores pretty high on my 'pleasure reading' list!
This is a really fun murder mystery with a dash of added romance (with the funniest sex scene I think I've ever read!) and a teeny sprinkling of the supernatural. I wouldn't say it's the most factually in-depth Historical Fiction set during the Tudor era, but then it didn't really need to be as it is essentially character driven. It does use it's time in place well to illuminate the social status of the characters, the struggles they'd need to endure to keep from starving, and how those struggles essentially mold them into who they are.
I did like that the author admitted that some of the lingo and expressions were her imaginings of the time period, used to try and bolster the fictional aspect. I think it shows her respect for the history, and her own integrity. I give kudos for that!
The majority characters are quite humorously portrayed, some almost caricatures, but essentially it's the kind hearted rogues vs. the very disagreeable nobles and their lackies, with a healthy dose of scorn for the overly zealous, yet incompetent authorities.
Sometimes the side characters stole the show right out from Bianca, with their larger than life personalities. It was great to be able to laugh out loud, when the surrounds and circumstance are actually pretty dire. Plus the contrasts between Bianca's very serious demeanour and say, Meddybumps' rather comical one show that Lawrence can contrive a cast of very diverse characters, even in a fairly small volume.
The mystery aspect held really well. Although parts were obvious quite early, the details of why and how were all held tight, and metered out nicely right up to the very end. A couple of twists and turns kept it tight and interesting.
So, why only 3.5? I am a bit of a hard case when it comes to keeping control of characters in omni when there are multiple subjective POV's in the one scene.
It's just really uncomfortable to be whiplashed from one character to the next in quick succession, which does happen in certain sections of the book. It doesn't afflict the whole book, there just needs to be some thought police during the sections when the action picks up. Nearing the end there is some pretty rapid head jumping, which I find a bit of a cardinal sin.
Other than that, this is a fast paced and enjoyable read, ranging from serious issues to comic relief all in one great little mystery! Perfect for rainy Autumn afternoons and copious amounts of hot cinnamon tea!
I will be picking up more Bianca Goddard books in the future!
Harcopy Worthy? I'd like to read the next in the series just to check, but I think so!
Check out the full review on Book Frivolity!
Narrative: Third Person, Subjective, Limited.
This is one of the most wonderful, beautiful, yet emotionally brutal fantasy books I've read in a long time. It is, in my eyes, pretty bloody gorgeous on multiple levels.
But, here's my honest opinion: this book is probably going to polarise readers opinions. I loved it, I think any anybody that loves to explore the nitty gritty workings within a fantasy world will love it and anybody looking for the fantasy genre to be flipped on it's back karate style will love it.
Anybody who is looking for it to follow the paths expected of a classic fantasy, like the essence of The Unremembered did, might possibly have slight conniptions.
This is less a sequential progression of The Unremembered, and more a tangential study of how this world works, why it works, and the discoveries that will shape it's future. The ending of book #1 will not have prepared you for the change of pace and tone that Trial of Intentions takes*. I love epic fantasy that takes the time to build functional worlds, so this sits extremely well with me, but it's in no way the generic, run of the mill sequel. As I wrote when I was reading this, Trial of Intentions is the book of exposition, that wasn't given much attention in The Unremembered.
Boiled down, it's book of politics and academics set within Vault of Heaven's fantasy world. There is no frantic adventuring, baseless wars or continuous fight scenes! The hero Tahn, is looking to astronomy, physics and mathematics to prevent the war. The Leagueman, Roth, is using political manoeuvring to commit the most horrendous civil atrocities and denying there will be a war. Wendra is taking lessons in music and sound to forge herself as a weapon and The Sheason are so busy internally combusting, they are blind to the reality that's going to tear them asunder.
All the factions are gearing up for battle (literally, there's even love for engineering here), but the sticky situations come from angles you probably aren't expecting after The Unremembered.
Parts of it are incredibly painful. Trial of Intentions uses suicide, and the dark emotional aftermath to create purpose and drive within some of the characters. There are scenes of self sacrifice that will have the hardest heart breaking. If the publisher leaves the authors notes in, you will see why Orullian has given so much time to it. It's not gritty, it would be a shame to name it so; it's dark, emotional and tear inducing. For anyone that's been affected by suicide, you'll immediately understand where parts of this novel come from. For those that haven't, you're about to learn why this is such a hard act to process and move forward from.**
As with The Unremembered, Trial of Intentions has great character progression. Some of the best is actually with the two characters sent off on what seems like a fairly inconsequential side quest at the beginning of the novel. The funny, rootdigging, side kick Sutter, probably develops more in this book than any of the other characters, and Mira, who starts out as the pixie lust chick in The Unremembered, is now mourning the loss of her heritage and the uncertainty of her future.
As an added bonus, we get to see some of the inner workings of the Quiet, through the eyes of a character that is simply struggling for his own race's survival. Some of the most poignant moments are during his scenes. I loved that nearly all the characters in the book are given the time of day to become three dimensional beings, rather than the usual slap dash side characters sometimes used to fill a chapter.
As much as I adored it, there are some parts of the book that I think may make some readers feel excluded from the narrative. I for instance, had a brain of holes when trying to imagine the physics/mathematics etc. sections in this book. I couldn't conceptualise it, so I frowned a lot during those sections, even though I loved the exposition and how it was being utilised. I think those not musically minded and can't conceptualise things like half tones and sound resonance etc. will find those sections frown worthy. Much of the book is explanatory on these subjects, and though they are fantasy based, they are still rooted in real world concepts that may be a bit too academic if the reader isn't in some way previously versed in them. On occassion, the book verges closer to an off world science fiction, than fantasy; the improbable rather than the impossible, being probable.
As I said, I
Apart from my mathematical cognition not being up to par to keep up in some parts, I have no complaints. This is WoT and Stormlight Archives territory. So.. Sanderson-ish, but with less shard plate and prolonged battle scenes.. If you are of the less-is-more mind set, you might find this isn't really your cup of tea.
Harcopy Worthy? 4.5 times yes!
*The progression I am talking about is from The Author's Definitive Edition of The Unremembered. If that differs in some way from the original, I can't comment.
**If you or a loved one have been affected by suicide and would like to talk about it confidentially, please call Lifeline (Australia) on 13 11 14, or one of the hotlines on this list for local help: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html****
Narrative: Third person, subjective.
The Janna Chronicles truly get better with each installment! As Janna's outlook matures, her stories become more detailed and refined. Unholy Murder proves that character progression and development can be the difference between a good series and a great series!
It takes the same form as the previous two novels, in which Janna finds herself in a predicament that requires her sleuthing and healing skills to save the day. This time however, her antics are less frenetic as she is more careful in her considerations. She is still a bull in a China shop occasionally, but she wouldn't be Janna if she wasn't!
The book is set in an abbey, which usually makes me wary. For some reason, I get really tense when a book is set in a medieval religious setting, some weird affectation I've developed I suppose! However, this was less about priests banging on about evil and more about the daily lives and relationships of the nuns, rather than the religion that surrounds it. I ending up enjoying that aspect after I got over my strange little phobia!
There is a sweet little side romance that explores the anxieties that come with being considered unsightly by the outside world, but lovely in the eyes of an individual. Heartbreaking to see the struggle of a character trying to accept that her physical disfigurement does not define how other see her as a person!
It's actually a bit of a theme in Unholy Murder, that the individual fears about oneself, do not have to overshadow the whole of the person; that each has redeeming qualities that can transcend those doubts, if they can only see it! Janna is instrumental in making sure the characters see it, and that made me warm to her more than any other feat she has accomplished thus far.
Of course, Janna is still struggling with her own romantic life! I have a suspicion this arc is going to reach right up to the last novel in the series! I am starting to hope for her, whereas before, I simply wasn't invested in this part of the story. Fingers crossed she finds her way!
I have Pilgrim of Death (book #4) now, thanks to Momentum, so let's see where Janna ends up next!
Harcopy Worthy? Indeed!