February 2016 reads, Uncategorized

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

  • Glass Sword, Victoria Aveyardglass sword

Rating: * * *

Series: #2 Red Queen

Publisher: Orion

Publication Date: Feb 2016

Goodreads synopsis: ‘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?’

I really enjoyed Red Queen, the first book in this series. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this sequel as much. I found the beginning slow and rather frustrating and, although I enjoyed  bits of the second half of the novel more, overall I was disappointed.

One of the main aspects of the beginning that frustrated me was the repetition in Mare’s narration. To me, it seemed like every couple of minutes she would be mentioning Mareena, the girl she used to be, or she would be emphasizing the fact that she’s ‘the lightning girl.’ That phrase was mentioned countless times throughout the opening. I know that it is the nickname Mare earns during the first book, but I felt that it need not be used quite so often, especially by the person it refers to. I found myself getting irritated by it, particularly at times like this:

‘But he’s not really asking me either. Not Mare Barrow of the Stilts, the thief, his friend. Kiln is looking to someone else now, to who I became in the halls of a palace and the sands of an arena.

He’s asking the lightning girl.’ 

I found Mare difficult to connect with in this sequel. It wasn’t that I didn’t like her, I was just totally indifferent to her and actually to most of the other main characters, like Cal, which surprised me because I did connect to these characters in the first book. I think that based on this I would have actually preferred this novel to have been from the point of view of Farley, because she is the character I like most in this series, and while she had quite a large role in Glass Sword, it wasn’t big enough for my liking.

I would rate the first half of this novel 2 or 3 stars due to the fact that I found the narration and Mare’s characterisation difficult and because I struggled to have strong feelings or to root for the majority of the characters that had most of the limelight, aside from Farley. I also was surprised, after the breathtaking finale to Red Queen, that the sequel didn’t start with a faster pace and more action.

On the other hand, I would rate the second half of this book 4 stars. The pace picked up, the action increased, and when that happens, Victoria Aveyard’s writing is awesome. She is a master of twist and turns, and always manages to surprise the reader. I enjoyed the finale but the reason I wouldn’t give it five stars is that, having read a lot of YA fantasy, I didn’t think it was as original as it could have been. It did, however, make me curious as to what will happen in the next installment, so I think possibly, despite not overly enjoying this novel, I might continue with this series.

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February 2016 reads, Uncategorized

Rebel of the Sands, Alwyn Hamilton

  • Rebel of the Sands, Alwyn Hamilton rebel

Rating: * * * * *

Series: #1 Rebel of the Sands

Publisher: Faber and Faber

Publication Date: Feb 2016 (UK)

Goodreads synopsis: ‘She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. 

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.’

Rebel of the Sands is a sandstorm of a story: it’s fast-paced and action-packed, and it pulls the reader in from the very beginning.

There are so many enjoyable elements to the novel, from its courageous, active and sharp-witted heroine, Amani, who Alwyn Hamilton has you rooting for from the first page, to the inclusions of mystical beings, such as Buraqi – horses who can turn from sand to flesh and blood – and Skinwalkers, who can take on the shapes of men to fool the unsuspecting.

One of the aspects I love most about Rebel is the inclusion of legends, stories of the relationships between immortals and mortals, of princesses, Sultans, and the Rebel Prince, of greed and of escape. These add a magical aura to the story, and I really enjoy the way that Alwyn Hamilton introduces the stories, and then some of them later link to Amani’s reality. They also give an Arabian Nights feel.

Another strength of the novel is that the setting and individual scenes are highly atmospheric and visual. This is particularly true of the opening scene with the bottle-shooting contest, the scene where Amani is in the shop being interrogated by soldiers, and the one where she is with someone in great need of help and desperate for a door to open. The reader has a vivid picture of all.

There is also a great amount of tension in the novel, with Amani and Jin on the run, and with the growing threat of full-on rebellion. This makes the novel gripping from start to finish.

Overall, Rebel is an exciting and addictive merging of fantasy, adventure and romance, and a must-read for fans of An Ember in the Ashes and Blood Red Road. 

‘The world makes things for each place. Fish for the sea, Rocs for mountain skies, and girls with sun in their skin and perfect aim for a desert that doesn’t let weakness live.’

January 2016 reads, Uncategorized

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

  • The Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman IMG_0862

Rating: * * * * *

Series: Lady Helen #1

Publisher: Walker Books

Publication Date: January 2016

Goodreads synopsis: ‘London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?’

I had been hugely excited about reading The Dark Days Club ever since I saw an advertisement for it at YALC in the summer of last year, and my enthusiasm was well placed. This is a wonderful novel, a perfect mix of history, mystery, fantasy, adventure, and romance.

Lady Helen is an original and highly likeable protagonist, right from the opening scene. I think that she is one of my all-time favourites. She is good-humoured, spirited, clever, and stronger than she knows. The reader instantly engages with her. She is one of those main characters who, although the PoV is in the third person, you can connect with just as much as if it were in the first person. Helen is capable of much more than she at first realises, and it is a joy to witness her find herself over the course of the novel.

Helen is joined by a great cast of other characters. Alison Goodman’s descriptions of them are first class and bring them to life, from the ‘caustic remarks’ of the mysterious possible-murderer Lord Carlston, to the overbearing nature of Lady Helen’s class-conscious uncle, who waves a letter in a ‘crackle of condemnation.’ The descriptions of the characters’ actions build up vivid impressions and visual images of them, and are a delight for the imagination.

Although there are quite a few young adult books with the theme of demon hunting, Alison Goodman brings some fantastic new ideas to the table, like the role of Terrenes and the uses of hair in alchemy against demons. The novel is truly refreshing.

There is also an intriguing contrast running all the way through the novel between two settings and ways of life which Lady Helen must choose between. On the one hand there are the mysterious rituals of the Dark Days Club, and the hideous acts of Deceivers; on the other there are splendid balls, poetry readings (where Lord Byron himself makes an appearance) and the deeply ingrained social protocol of high society. Alison Goodman, in her depiction of Regency London, uses exactly the right amount of historical detail for it to be wholly atmospheric and engaging, yet there is never a time when the information is excessive or overwhelming.

I thoroughly enjoyed this first installment in the Lady Helen series, and eagerly anticipate more of her and the rest of the Dark Days Club members’ adventures. I would definitely recommend it to fans of The Infernal Devices and the His Fair Assassin series.

‘I am no warrior, Sir, nor do I aspire to be. I have been taught to sew and sing and dance, and my duty is to marry, not fight demons.’