May 2016 Reads, Uncategorized

Magus of Stonewylde, Kit Berry

  • Magus of Stonewylde, Kit Berry

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 08.24.31.pngRating: * * * * *

Series: #1 Stonewylde (There are five books)

Publisher: Gollancz

Publication Date: 2012 (Originally 2005)

Goodreads Synopsis: Sylvie is dying. A victim of crippling allergies, poisoned by the pollution and chemicals of modern life, Sylvie is trapped in a hospital bed. There’s an alternative community hidden away in a corner of Dorset. If their leader would let Sylvie visit, then perhaps the clean air and green lifestyle may restore her vitality.

 

I first read ‘Magus of Stonewylde’ last September. I saw Lucy Powrie’s glowing review of it on Queen of Contemporary, which made me really want to read it, and the next day, while on a road trip to look around universities, I found it by chance in a charity shop. Recognising the novel, I purchased it and took it with me to read on a biology field trip.

 

As soon as I started reading the novel, I was hooked and enchanted by it. A couple of chapters in I had the most amazing feeling, my favourite feeling in the whole world, that this book was going to be amazing and among the very best I had ever read. I wasn’t wrong there! I knew that I was in the hands of a phenomenal storyteller and that I could sit back, relax, and enjoy and savour all the wonderful scenes and chapters that lay stretched out before me. I kept the novel in my rucksack for the whole of the trip, seizing it and reading more whenever we had free time or a bus ride. I could not get enough.

 

‘Magus of Stonewylde’ tells the story of Sylvie, who is very ill and wasting away in the busy  city she lives in. She is offered the opportunity to escape into a private community named Stonewylde, where technology is unknown. At first, Stonewylde seems to be a kind of paradise with healing properties, but soon Sylvie discovers that it is not as bright and wonderful as it at first seems. Neither is its leader, Magus.

 

Stonewylde is full of fascinating and vivid characters, my favourite of which is Yul, the determined and angry yet compassionate boy who is ordered to work in Sylvie’s garden. He is the kind of character that you root for from the very beginning. The other characters are also very strong and distinctive. Magus is fantastically described and he has a great presence. He is charismatic, darkly alluring and at times very unsettling, able to wrap Sylvie’s mother Miranda around his little finger. He is one of the most well-crafted and impactful characters I have seen in YA literature, and through him the novel becomes an exploration into the nature of power.

 

As always with books that become my favourites, not only are the main characters striking and three dimensional, but the minor characters are, too. In this way ‘Magus of Stonewylde’ reminded me of Harry Potter, for my favourite aspect of HP is the fact that there are so many memorable characters aside from the main ones. Like J. K. Rowling does, Kit Berry builds up a whole community and it is a joy to become immersed in it.

 

Overall, ‘Magus of Stonewylde’ is a unique, magical and unforgettable novel. The other books in the series are equally captivating. I have already read and reread them countless times and I am confident that I will read them many more times! The Stonewylde series is one of my top three all time favourites, along with the ‘Throne of Glass’ series and ‘The Infernal Devices’, and I am so grateful to Lucy Powrie for introducing me to ‘Magus of Stonewylde’ through her reviews.

 

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May 2016 Reads, Uncategorized

A Darker Shade of Magic, V. E. Schwab

  • A Darker Shade of Magic, V. E. Schwab

Rating: * * * * *

Series: Shades of Magic #1

Publisher: Titan Books

Publication Date: February 2015

Goodreads Synopsis:Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 22.18.32.png

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

 

I read ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’ a few weeks ago and I did so, appropriately, on the train to London. In the time since I have not been able to stop thinking about it. What struck me most about ADSOM was its originality: its world, characters and take on magic were hugely imaginative and refreshing. From the start of the first chapter to the end of the last chapter I was utterly engaged and involved in the story, and as soon as I finished reading it I began rereading it. In short, I loved it!

The characters in ADSOM are striking and distinctive. The lead character is Kell, a Traveller and smuggler who has one blue eye and one eye that is completely black, as well as a coat that can be turned inside out multiple ways. He is both admired and isolated by his magical ability. Kell can be grumpy and cold, but he is fiercely loyal to those he loves, especially his brother Rhy. Rhy himself is in many ways the opposite of Kell – charming, charismatic and vibrant, but the two of them complement each other very well. Both Kell and Rhy are vivid and multidimensional and I particularly love the scenes where they are together, as well as this section where Kell mentions Rhy:

‘Just because he adopted a more modest palette when he was abroad (wishing neither to offend the local royalty nor to draw attention) didn’t mean he had to sacrifice style.

Oh, kings, thought Kell as he fastened the buttons on the coat. He was starting to think like Rhy.’

 

Kell and Rhy are both awesome, but I think that my favourite character from the novel is Lila Bard, the pickpocket who has dreams of becoming a pirate and having her own ship. She is a wonderful combination of opposites: she’s practical, pragmatic, strong and crafty in her method of stealing things, but she is also an optimist, a dreamer who possesses a kind of reckless vulnerability and makes comments like this:

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”

“Seen what?”

Her smile widened. “Everything.”

Lila’s enthusiasm and vitality makes her a loveable character and as soon as she entered the novel a few chapters in, she joined the ranks of my all time favourite female characters.

The novel’s plot is fantastic – thrilling and well thought out – and the world-building is, too. Each London is brilliantly described and is very atmospheric. I could picture everything, from the Kros Mejkt, the Stone Forest in White London which is made up not of trees but of people, to the curved spires of the Royal Palace of Red London. I also found the idea of there being a tavern in the same spot in every different London, a fixed point, fascinating and inventive.

Overall, ADSOM is an exhilarating and inspired novel, the perfect read if you’re looking for a refreshing fantasy novel, particularly because, unusually, there is very little (next to no) romance and the main female character would rather wear a suit than a dress. I purchased it for 99p on Kindle and I honestly think it is the best 99p I have ever spent, and based on this novel, I would read anything that V. E. Schwab writes. I cannot wait to see her at YALC in July!

 

May 2016 Reads, Uncategorized

Falling Kingdoms, Morgan Rhodes

  • Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Series: #1 Falling Kingdoms

 Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 14.59.10.png
Rating: * * * *
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2012

Goodreads synopsis:

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

It’s the eve of war…. Choose your side.

Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long thought extinct.

Rebel: Jonas, enraged at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into the royal family, discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword….

‘Falling Kingdoms’ was recommended to me and I would definitely recommend it to others. It is a thrilling YA fantasy about three lands on the brink of war and the focus shifts between each of these lands and the different characters there.
My favourite part of ‘Falling Kingdoms’ was the fact that it was full of surprises, right from the very beginning. The ending of the prologue shocked me, and I knew at that point that the book would be a great one. The twists continued throughout the novel and they kept me right on the edge of my seat. I was never sure what was going to happen next, and I loved that. It made the novel tense, gripping and memorable, as did the fact that several characters had secrets which they in turn revealed.
I also really enjoyed having a large cast of characters who were all interlinked, and that the chapters switched focus between several of these – Jonas, Cleiona, Lucia and Magnus. Each of these characters had a distinct voice and personality, as did some of the minor characters, including the arrogant and impulsive Aron, and the calculating and unpredictable King Gaius.
The reasons I didn’t give this book five stars are that I did not feel that it was as original as some of the other fantasies I have read recently, especially with regard to Elementia, and because I thought that Cleo’s romance occurred much too quickly and was not actually necessary.
However, I loved all the twists and turns in this novel and I do want to read the sequels to see what happens next.
May 2016 Reads, Uncategorized

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

  • A Court of Mist and Fury, Sarah J Maas
    Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 22.04.21.png

Rating: * * * * *

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #2

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: May 2016

Goodreads synopsis:

 

After rescuing her lover Tamlin from a wicked Faerie Queen, she returns to the Spring Court possessing the powers of the High Fae. But Feyre cannot forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people – nor the bargain she made with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court.

As Feyre is drawn ever deeper into Rhysand’s dark web of politics and passion, war is looming and an evil far greater than any queen threatens to destroy everything Feyre has fought for. She must confront her past, embrace her gifts and decide her fate.

She must surrender her heart to heal a world torn in two.

There’s a part in the third novel of Sarah J Maas’ other series, the Throne of Glass series, in which the main character Celaena is asked, ‘Why are you crying, Fireheart?’, and she replies, ‘Because I am lost, and I do not know the way.’ I think that this quote sums up how Feyre is feeling at the start of ACOMAF. After the terrible trials that Amarantha forced her to go through and her transformation into one of the Fae, Feyre has lost sight of who she is. She has stopped doing the things she loves, like painting, and is suffocating inside the Spring Court and wasting away. This book is her journey to find herself again. Feyre’s journey is a difficult one, but by the end of the novel she has rediscovered herself and her strength and determination has returned. She has found the place where she belongs and the people among whom she belongs. What I loved about Feyre’s characterisation in this book was the fact that the changes she undergoes during the novel feel very natural and gradual – they are not at all forced. I also felt very close to Feyre when reading ACOMAF and moved by the journey she undergoes.

Another part of ACOMAF which I really enjoyed was the addition of new characters. There’s the cheerful Mor, Rhys’ cousin, who develops a wonderful friendship with Feyre over the course of the novel and has the exact attitude needed to uplift Feyre; there’s Azriel, a shadowsinger who is rather serious but loyal and kind; there’s Cassian, who is Rhys’ cocky and charming best friend; and there’s Amren, who is hugely powerful and has mysterious eyes to match her mysterious diet. Each of these characters is original and bursts to life immediately. Together they form a wonderful cast who I could read about all day. They are each exceptionally well developed and have full backstories. I always think that the best novels and the ones that are instant favourites are those where I grow just as attached to the secondary characters as I do to the main ones. ACOMAF certainly has this quality, as Sarah J. Maas’ novels always do.

ACOMAF, as well as being filled with wonderful characters, is full of wonderful scenes. I was trying to think of my favourites and it was very hard because I have so many, but I think the scenes that stood out for me are the scene with the Tithe where Feyre gives away her jewellery, because this demonstrates both Feyre’s defiance and her kindness, the scene with the Weaver because it is so atmospheric and tense, particularly when the Weaver’s singing ceases and she knows that Feyre is present, the scene where Feyre first meets Rhys’ inner circle, and finally the Starfall scene as it is so vividly described and is breathtakingly magical.

Overall, I found ACOMAF impossible to put down. It is ceaselessly exciting and full of action, is hugely imaginative, and is full of captivating scenes, characters and settings. It’s 600+ pages of first class fantasy writing and is a joy to read. In my opinion, it’s Sarah J. Maas’ best book to date.

  • I did skip a couple of sections because they were clearly aimed at an older audience.