Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Book Review: The Last City of America

I received a copy of this book from OnlineBookClub.org in return for my review.

 I’m going to be entirely honest; I did not enjoy this book. It seemed like such an interesting idea, and some of the events/plots could have been fantastic. I tried so hard to enjoy it but I really struggled with getting through this book. Right from the start, I could tell I wasn’t going to particularly enjoy it.
This book is set in a post-apocalyptic America after a breakout of hephaestus, a horrific disease thought to have been developed by scientists. We learn more about this throughout the book but are given a general idea of the situation at the start. Cities still remain across America, but most are in a drastic state of poverty. There is some sort of ruling system involving skylords and hosts but honestly, I got completely lost.
I’m having trouble writing this review. I have so much to say but no idea how to structure it. The book just had so many strange and confusing aspects and I really don’t know what to make of it.
I’ll start discussing the characters now. Every chapter is allocated to a different character – well, sort of. You would expect a homodiegetic narration from each character, but the narrative voice is heterodiegetic throughout the entire book. It would also be expected that the characters chosen to follow in each chapter are the key characters, but this wasn’t really the case. There were so many different characters portrayed as ‘key’ characters. I got extremely confused and failed to connect with any of them. It didn’t help that there was little to no emotion portrayed for a majority of the book. I was unable to sympathise with any character. When an emotional moment did occur, I still wasn’t able to actually care. It may just be my own preferences causing this, but I personally found the writing to just be lacking something. Emotion? Personality? I can’t tell, but there was definitely something wrong.
Another issue with the fragmented narrative is how hard the story became to follow. I had no idea which scenes were going to be important for the overarching plot, and as there were so many characters, I just kept losing track. The separate plot lines did begin to connect towards the end, but it still made little to no sense to me.
There were moments that I really enjoyed, especially when the atmosphere became more creepy. But these moments weren’t particularly relevant in the long run, and the array of different genres and atmospheres just made the book even harder to follow.
Overall, I found this to be a very fragmented and boring book. I wanted to like it but just couldn’t connect to any characters. The plot made very little sense most of the time and the 658 pages felt like a lifetime. 1 star.

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Book Review: Uprooted

I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time now and finally managed to do so. I’m so peased I did! It was such a great book, and I really did enjoy reading it.

Agnieszka is a seemingly ordinary young girl. Her best friend is about to be taken by the Dragon, a powerful wizard who routinely takes girls into his tower for ten years before they leave the village for good. Everyone’s prepared for Kasia to go – she’s the pretty one, the talented one, the one who everyone is drawn to. Of course the Dragon is going to choose her.

Right?

Of course, nothing goes to plan. Agnieszka assumed she was safe from being chosen, due to her clumsiness and lack of appeal or talents. But of course, she is chosen. Little does she know that she was destined for this role all along.

The Dragon is feared by most, including Nieshka. But she soon learns that he is not as terrible as she thought. She also learns some valuable skills involving magic that she never knew she was capable of.

Nieshka discovers the importance of magic in protecting her village from the Wood. The Wood is full of corruption, often taking unknowing passers-by and either never releasing them or returning them to their families changed beyond repair. The Wood has been a huge threat for centuries. The Dragon holds it at bay, but nobody ever dreamed of defeating it.

Until Agnieszka came along.

It’s quite a complex plot, and there are a lot of moments where Nieshka makes mistakes. She is driven by emotion, especially when her best friend’s life is at risk. She is a passionate girl and doesn’t always think rationally. I liked her for this – don’t we all let our emotions get the better of us sometimes?

There was a small amount of romance in this book that I felt was rather unnecessary, but it didn’t overtake the plot or anything. I loved how the plot and subplots twisted together, and how many turns they took. It was exciting and intriguing and very clever.

The ending seemed a little too simple to me, though. Had they never thought to look into the Wood Queen’s origin before?

Overall it was a fantastic book. Timeless. I can see why it’s so popular, and I’m sure it will be for some time. 4 stars.

Book Review: Carry On

Rainbow Rowell is a fantastic author, and when I heard she would be writing Carry On I was really pleased. Fangirl was a great book, and actually writing the novel frequently mentioned in that book sounded like such a unique idea to me. It is a romance, so it’s not my favourite book ever, but I still loved it.

Carry On is pretty much the Harry Potter of Rowell’s Fangirl universe. This did make this novel a bit of a rip off, honestly, but that was bound to happen. It actually kind of embraced it.

The plot was really interesting, and I really did find myself excited to see what happened next. I wanted to understand the Humdrum and discover how he would be defeated. It was also rather interesting to see how the Mage played a part in everything. And the use of magic was fantastic; I really liked how Rowell explained the basis of spells and how they got their power.

The writing – as always – was fantastic. So easy to read, but very hard to put down! Even though it was cheesy (I mean, the hero falls in love with his best enemy. Who’s a vampire. Seriously.) I just enjoyed reading it so much. I even kind of shipped Baz and Simon.

The ending was… not disappointing, but I wasn’t overly pleased with it. I thought it was a bit too simple of a solution – surely they would’ve considered something along those lines? It’s not like it was particularly hard to see the connection. (I’d go into more detail, but I don’t want to include any spoilers.) I did like the bittersweetness of it, though. I liked how realistic it was, despite being a fantasy novel.

It was definitely a bit of a cheesy novel, but I kind of loved it. Rowell writes so well. It was a long novel, but I could’ve just sat down and read it from cover to cover without even realising. A strong 4 stars.

 

Book Review: A Song for Ella Grey

Sorry I waited so long before writing this. My life is a bit hectic at the moment.

I found this book really quite strange – but then everything I’ve read by David Almond has been a bit different. It really teeters on the line between the real world and fantasy, and I honestly couldn’t be sure whether some of the story was metaphorical or actually literal. It was a really interesting read.

Claire is the narrator of this book, telling us the events of the past. The story isn’t told entirely chronologically but more like a person would speak, with tangents and relevant contextual events thrown in.

Ella Grey is Claire’s best friend and possibly the protagonist of this book. Claire tells the story of how she met a strange boy called Orpheus on a beach one day, and how he turned up outside their school for Ella. The couple had a marriage ceremony soon after, but the day ends in tragedy.

Claire’s affections for Ella seem to blur the line between friendship and romance, which was definitely an interesting aspect. Her opinions of Orpheus seem a little mixed, and she is clearly looking out for her friend’s welfare.

Orpheus’s ‘journey’ at the end of the novel was especially strange; as was the way it was told through Claire. The entire book – especially when describing Orpheus and Ella – was extremely lyrical. The language was all very romantic and poetic, which I guess was to emphasise the musical quality that surrounds Orpheus’s character. It also really added to the sense of fantasy and mystery, giving the whole tale a strong ethereal quality.

This book was fantastically written, and definitely unique. I must say it was a little too romantic and poetic for my personal tastes, so I’m giving it 3 stars out of 5. I can definitely appreciate the beauty of Almond’s writing, though.

Book Review: Raven’s Peak

I recently signed up to OnlineBookClub and requested this book as my first to review on the site. It’s a paranormal thriller, focusing on a “hunter” who tracks down demons. It begins with an epilogue following another character, who we later learn more about. The protagonist is a young man called Haatim, completely ordinary and unaware of the paranormal activity in the world. Strange circumstances send him and Abigail – the hunter – off to Raven’s Peak together.

The beginning was rather interesting; Haatim was hired by a complete stranger to track down a suspected stalker. It soon became clear that this was no ordinary stalker, and the situation was definitely unique. However, the following plot felt a little slow to me, taking a while to really develop. It’s possible that the intended peak was earlier than I felt, but I personally felt like the main story only really started when the pair arrived at Raven’s Peak. This did not happen until much nearer the end. This meant that the “main” sotry only lasted for a few short chapters. There was a section between Haatim’s stalker mission and the arrival in Raven’s Peak that felt painfully slow and, quite honestly, boring.

The characters were okay, but I didn’t connect with them emotionally. Haatim was given an emotional backstory – as was Abigail, in fact – but I just did not feel anything for them. Their speech felt a bit disjointed and artificial, and they just didn’t feel particularly real to me. It would’ve been nice to develop the characters’ relationships more, both with each other and their own families.

Many books in the paranormal/supernatural genre feel very similar, and this book is sadly included. There was nothing about it that particularly stood out to me. Some of the ideas in the book are very interesting, though. I am intrigued as to how Haatim’s father is connected to the Ninth Circle, and I also want to know what happens in Abigail’s quest for saving Arthur. But this book didn’t fill me with anticipation or excitement to read on. In fact, it barely mentioned the Ninth Circle, and without that being the series title, I’d never have picked up on it.

I also noticed a few typos and grammatical errors, which would be the result of insufficient editing. While a few errors are often found in books, this felt quite amateurish and unfinished.

Overall, the book wasn’t particularly special or exciting, and didn’t feel as fluid as it should. It wasn’t bad, but it was not outstanding. 2.5 stars.

Book Review: The Returners

I have a vague recollection of reading this some time in the past which is kind of ironic considering the topic of the book itself. While I felt a repeated deja vu throughout this book, I can’t seem to remember when I actually would have read it before. I also couldn’t remember much of the main plot, which is pretty weird.

Anyway, the review.

It’s a good book. honestly, the opening paragraph of this review sums the book up quite well – it’s good, but not overly memorable. When you read it, you often think, “this is good” or “cool” or whatever, but a few months later you’ll forget all about it. At least, that’s how I felt.

Gemma Malley is an author I used to love when I was in my preteens, and I’m not sure if that’s why her books feel very adolescent to me, or if it’s because they actually are. Basically, I feel too old for them now. The protagonists are usually “cool” mid-teens, who the reader is supposed to look up to in some way. But I’m older than most characters and actually find their attitudes a bit pathetic and petty.

The story was good but I felt like there were a few loopholes, honestly. The idea of the “Returners” is interesting but not developed enough – who actually ‘controls’ them? Where did they come from? What is their real purpose? I felt like their purpose was a bit wishy-washy. Douglas’s refusal to change his attitude because it “isn’t their role” or whatever just sounded a bit… lame. Like a cop-out, I guess. I really would’ve liked to know more about the Returners and why they actually exist.

It’s only short and this may contribute to it feeling quite young, but it is well written and really enjoyable to read. Will is almost an anti-hero, and as the reader I both loved and hated him. His thoughts and attitudes were quite sporadic and it was sometimes hard to keep up, but that may have been the intention. I did like how we learned things at the same time as Will – we followed him through his own story. It was also really interesting how Will decided to handle the life he’d been forced into.

4 stars.

Book Review: Adamant

I can’t remember how I came across this book but I read it on the mobile Kindle app.

It alternates between two narrative voices: Ada and Kay. At first, their two narratives seem completely disconnected but they soon merge together in one single plot.

In this multiverse, there is a sort of political agreement amongst the dozens of different worlds. Ada helps smuggle runaways from other planets onto Earth, while Kay has only just graduated from the Academy and got himself a job at the Alliance. When Ada and her friends break in to the Alliance to steal some bloodrock – an important ingredient for their magic disguise formula – Kay happens to be on duty. He arrests Ada while the others escape. But there are murders happening within the Alliance, and Kay and Ada both realise that they don’t know their friends as well as they thought.

I wasn’t all that keen on Ada as a character, personally, but Kay was okay. (Haha.) Their “budding romance” was a bit strained, I think, and forced into the story too much. The sort of negative connotations around magic was quite interesting, though.

It was quite a good book, with a ton of plot twists and deception. Ada’s trust issues are really not going to be any better after all this! 3 stars.

Book Review: The Other Wind

68059I think this has been my favourite of the Earthsea novels. It tied all the previous stories together, and included two of my favourite characters – Tenar and Tehanu.

Again, there were times where I felt a little bored or lost, but when I was able to sit and really focus on reading it, I really did enjoy this book. I guess it’s not really a “light” read.

This story focused more on dragons, and how humans had broken an ancient promise by seeking immortality. Women – who were previously seen as lesser than men – are invited to Roke, and help to bring peace amongst dragon and mankind.

The history of dragons and men being one species was a really interesting concept, as was the “other wind” that Irian and Tehanu long for. The ending was pretty sad, too – the bond between Tenar and Tehanu was so strong, but they knew that they would have to let each other go.

I definitely found this the most interesting out of the series. The writing is lovely (if a little archaic, but that fits the universe Le Guin has created) and I love some of the characters. 3.5 stars.

Check out the whole series here.

Book Review: Tales From Earthsea

68055This is the fifth installation of The Earthsea Cycle.In this book is a collection of short stories from different eras and locations within Earthsea. There are tons of links to other tales in this series throughout this book, including character crossovers. There’s even a whole section on describing Earthsea at the end, giving a real in-depth history of the land and it’s cultures.

I am getting a little bored with this series, but I think it’s just because of how the writing has a rather archaic feel. This writing really does help create the universe, but it’s just not my thing. I appreciate how effective it is in creating the world of Earthsea and immersing you in the book, though.

My favourite tale in this book is the final one, where a woman is allowed entrance into Roke School. I’m interested in seeing if equality returns to Earthsea – women with power are looked down upon, whereas sorcerers, wizards and especially mages are respected for their power.

I will stil finish reading this series, despite not loving it as much as I maybe should. 3 starsTales from Earthsea map

Book Review: The Bane Chronicles

9781406360585-usThere are a few companion novels to Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, but as this one is centred around my favourite character, I just had to read it.

The first thing I noticed was how well the changing time periods were reflected in the language and writing. As a warlock, Magnus has lived through hundreds of years and in dozens of different countries. I felt like, as the reader, I was really transported to all those different eras and places along with Magnus. But he still had that charm and humour that I adore so much about him, and the eccentricity we all love.

Most of this book is filled with tales from before the characters of The Mortal Instruments are even alive. If you’ve read the series you’ll notice how the events tie into references from those books. I really enjoyed reading more details on things that are casually mentioned in the main series, especially as Magnus is such an interesting character with so many stories to tell. Some of the main events include his relationship with Camille, his helping Raphael when turned into a vampire, and (of course) his relationship with Alec. We also hear a lot about what really happened in Peru…

This is definitely one of my favourite companion books – a lot of authors seem to go too far with their franchise and try too hard to write extra books. This felt more natural and was thoroughly enjoyable. 5 stars!

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