This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) – Victoria Schwab

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Summary:

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from acclaimed author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books, This Savage Song is a must-have for fans of Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, and Laini Taylor.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives. In This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab creates a gritty, seething metropolis, one worthy of being compared to Gotham and to the four versions of London in her critically acclaimed fantasy for adults, A Darker Shade of Magic. Her heroes will face monsters intent on destroying them from every side—including the monsters within.

Review:

I remember requesting a DRC on a whim, not actually expecting to get approval. I got approval the same day as The Crown’s Game. And while I was excited for both, and more or less read the former the day I got the green light, I just sat on this for a while until I picked it up again today. Skipping over what I thought was a problematic prologue and going for the first chapter resulted me getting absolutely hooked. I read 65% of it on my flight home and finished the rest in the same evening because I will be honest: this book is compulsively readable. It’s a great book for when you’re looking for something truly fun to sink your teeth into.

If it I enjoyed it so much why was the prologue a problem for me?

It all comes down to Kate. Kate is the human who would be a monster to impress her father. Her father rules his half of the city mostly by fear, and she wants to be wanted by him, to be allowed to go home again and the lengths of what she’s willing to do to get there turn her pretty dark, pretty quick. It’s sympathetic in that sense of you can tell it’s a girl who just wants her only remaining parent to love her, but it’s also cold enough and hard enough that it takes a long time to reach that sympathetic point. I’m not entirely convinced that that was the POV to start out with.

Luckily, the book has an intriguing premise set in an interesting world that blissfully isn’t telling another story of teenagers improbably banding together to overthrow the tyrant/save the day or what have you. Although the book does walk some familiar paths, the story doesn’t go exactly where you expect it to, and that’s also a refreshing bonus.

If anything, my only real complaint is I would have loved to see what Schwab could have done this under her V.E. Schwab pen-name. This book is pretty dark for YA, but the premise could have gone darker still without much trouble and I would have loved really exploring it. Scwhab never really fully explores the morality at play here and she proved in Vicious especially that it’s something that she’s fantastic at.

All told, this is a return to form for me (I’m not a fan of A Darker Shade of Magic) as it shows all the hallmark originality and questionable morality that makes her stand out as an author. If you haven’t preordered this yet,  why don’t you get on that, mmkay?

Verdict: Buy It

Available: July 5

Night Watch (Watch #1) – Sergei Lukyanenko

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Summary:

Others. They walk among us. Observing.

Set in contemporary Moscow, where shape shifters, vampires, and street-sorcerers linger in the shadows, Night Watch is the first book of the hyper-imaginative fantasy pentalogy from best-selling Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko.

This epic saga chronicles the eternal war of the “Others,” an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who must swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. The agents of the Dark – the Night Watch – oversee nocturnal activity, while the agents of the Light keep watch over the day. For a thousand years both sides have maintained a precarious balance of power, but an ancient prophecy has decreed that a supreme Other will one day emerge, threatening to tip the scales. Now, that day has arrived. When a mid-level Night Watch agent named Anton stumbles upon a cursed young woman – an uninitiated Other with magnificent potential – both sides prepare for a battle that could lay waste to the entire city, possible the world. With language that throbs like darkly humorous hard-rock lyrics about blood and power, freedom and responsibility, Night Watch is a chilling, cutting-edge thriller, a pulse-pounding ride of fusion fiction that will leave you breathless for the next installment.

Review:

This is one of those books where the things that make it interesting also make it frustrating.

It is a refreshing change to read a story about a man who is not the hero and can never be the hero. It is also depressing when you are constantly being reminded that he is nothing but a pawn, knows it, hates it, and yet mostly accepts it because he sees little alternative.

There’s just something inherently depressing about this world; so much so that it makes it hard to keep a vested interest in the characters.

The book is not aided by a translation that, while assuredly faithful to the original as it can be, reads as very stilted as if the translator doesn’t understand that the meter and rhythms of the original language are only a hindrance here. There was nothing gained by refusing to soften the harshness of the style, is all.

Finally, the fact that this is not one story, but three shorts means that this feels like a loose collection of shorts that feel disconnected and only makes it that much harder to really ever gain any empathy for anyone.

This is one of those books you almost read out of academic interest because it feels so far removed from American urban fantasy. I’m not sad that I read it, but I also know I have no interest of looking at any of the other books in the series.

Verdict: Borrow it. This is very much a Your Mileage May Vary kind of book that’s hard to recommend at full price.

Available: Now

 

Review: Angelus (The Books of Raziel #3) – Sabrina Benulis

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Summary:

The heart-pounding conclusion to the Books of Raziel trilogy, a gothic supernatural tale about a girl who discovers that she holds the keys to both Heaven and Hell—and that angels, demons, and all the creatures in between will stop at nothing to possess her and control the power she holds

“These angels can be vindictive and cruel, more human than you might expect and oozing supernatural abilities. . . . If you think you have the guts . . . pick it up.”—Boulder Examiner on Archon

The war begun by three powerful angel siblings—Raziel, Lucifel, and Israfel—has divided the kingdoms of both Heaven and Hell, and the destruction is spilling over into the human world.

The last hope for a crumbling world is the Archon—the human Angela Mathers who has the power to control the supernatural universe. Angela alone can successfully oppose Lucifel and open Raziel’s Book, to use its power for good. But to do so would mean murdering her best friend, a sacrifice Angela refuses to contemplate.

Angela sits on the throne of Hell, fulfilling a prophecy of ruin. But ruin does not always mean destruction—sometimes it means revolution. Time is running out for both Angela and the universe, and former enemies are eager to see her fail . . .

Review:

Before I get into the review proper, I’m going to do something I don’t normally do and gush about the book cover. I was fortunate enough to receive a finished copy from the publisher, and man, the photograph doesn’t really do it justice. The cover itself is almost completely matte, the grays are nice and saturated so the blood-red color of her hair and the hourglass all really stands out. The lettering also has the barest hint of a shine to it too that helps makes it stand out. All told, it’s quite eye-popping and probably one of my favorite covers in quite some time.

Of course, while a catchy cover can catch your eye, it doesn’t mean that the heart of the book itself can slack, and I don’t think it has. As before, Angelus picks up not too long after we left off and the End is basically here with Angela running out of time to open the Book of Raziel and save all mankind. She is still trapped in Hell at the beginning and the book is largely her journey to not only escape, but to see if there any way she can open the Book without Sophia, while of course trying to avoid being killed by Lucifel or the humans on earth who have been convinced that she is the new devil.

Again, as always the series places its emphasis on action more than anything else. We do get story dolled out, but it’s as Angela and her friends/allies dart from place to place. I still personally wish that there was more character development and I still feel like this would make an amazing television series where you could really bring all the great visuals to life.

The story does get wrapped up satisfactorily, and there’s a great (and grisly) end for one of our primary antagonists that did make me cheer, and I think fans of the series should be quite pleased with this ending.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: February 9

 

Briar Queen (Night and Nothing #2) – Katherine Harbour

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Summary:

The dark, moody, and mystical fantasy begun in Thorn Jack, the first novel in the Night and Nothing series, continues in this bewitching follow up–an intriguing blend of Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alice in Wonderland, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream–in which Finn Sullivan discovers that her town, Fair Hollow, borders a dangerous otherworld . . .

Serafina Sullivan and her father left San Francisco to escape the painful memory of her older sister Lily Rose’s suicide. But soon after she arrived in bohemian Fair Hollow, New York, Finn discovered a terrifying secret connected to Lily Rose. The placid surface of this picture-perfect town concealed an eerie supernatural world–and at its center, the wealthy, beautiful, and terrifying Fata family.

Though the striking and mysterious Jack Fata tried to push Finn away to protect her, their attraction was too powerful to resist. To save him, Finn–a girl named for the angels and a brave Irish prince–banished a cabal of malevolent enemies to shadows, freeing him from their diabolical grip.

Now, the rhythm of life in Fair Hollow is beginning to feel a little closer to ordinary. But Finn knows better than to be lulled by this comfortable sense of normalcy. It’s just the calm before the storm. For soon, a chance encounter outside the magical Brambleberry Books will lead her down a rabbit hole, into a fairy world of secrets and legacies . . . straight towards the shocking truth about her sister’s death.

Lush and gorgeously written, featuring star-crossed lovers and the collision of the magical and the mundane, Briar Queen will appeal to the fans of Cassandra Clare’s bestselling Mortal Instruments series and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely

Review:

Look at me! I’m doing that thing where you review two books in a series back to back because you enjoyed the first one so much! And like the last time I did this, the second book wasn’t quite as good as the first.

First a caveat: do not try to read this without having read Thorn Jack as this book picks up almost immediately after the last and heavily references it – you may want to do a reread first if it’s been a while.

That out of the way, let’s get to the heart of why I don’t think Brian Queen works quite as well the first novel: the action leaves our Earth and move to the land of the fae. On the one hand, the creativity that I loved in the first book remains. On the other hand, I think it was more interesting watching Finn and her friends navigate figuring out what is going on than this more action-oriented books. That book had a lingering sense of dread that nothing was quite right, but you couldn’t put a finger on what that was. Here you know nothing is right and that certainty does a larger difference than you may think.

I also think that by having the focus being more on the Fata than the humans doesn’t quite work. On the one hand, it expands the mythology greatly. On the other hand, you just don’t care about the Fata the way you do for Finn and her friends, so it’s harder to get invested.

Night and Nothing is a trilogy and I already have the DRC of the final book in my possession. While I’ll definitely be finishing off the series, I’ll be honest I’m not entirely sure that I would if I didn’t. The series just lost a little bit of that magic this time around. I hope that it can be found in the final book.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: Now

Thorn Jack (Night & Nothing #1) – Katherine Harbour

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Summary:

They call us things with teeth. These words from Lily Rose Sullivan the night of her death haunts her seventeen-year-old sister, Finn, who has moved with her widowed father to his hometown of Fair Hollow, New York. After befriending a boy named Christie Hart and his best friend, Sylvie Whitethorn, Finn is invited to a lakeside party where she encounters the alluring Jack Fata, a member of the town’s mysterious Fata family. Despite Jack’s air of danger and his clever words, Finn learns they have things in common.

One day, while unpacking, Finn finds her sister’s journal, scrawled with descriptions of creatures that bear a sinister resemblance to Jack’s family. Finn dismisses these stories as fiction, but Jack’s family has a secret—the Fatas are the children of nothing and night, nomadic beings who have been preying on humanity for centuries—and Jack fears that his friendship with Finn has drawn the attention of the most dangerous members of his family—Reiko Fata and vicious Caliban, otherwise known as the white snake and the crooked dog.

Plagued with nightmares about her sister, Finn attempts to discover what happened to Lily Rose and begins to suspect that the Fatas are somehow tied to Lily Rose’s untimely death. Drawn to Jack, determined to solve the mystery of her sister’s suicide, Finn must navigate a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems.

Review:

Before I get this review going, have some music to go with it: it’s from a feature-length anime called Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, which had a lovely gothic atmosphere running throughout, much like this book.

Thorn Jack is dark fantasy telling the story of Finn and how she’s slowly brought into the world of the Fata’s and her attempts to get back out – life and sanity intact. One of the things that Harbour does really well is that you never feel safe in this world. Never once do you ever really buy that Jack is a viable candidate for a boyfriend. We’re not talking about someone like Edward or Angel where they make token protests about not being good for you, but never fully push away their girlfriends either – Jack consistently tries to pull himself away knowing that it isn’t good for either one of them.

His so-called family, the Fatas, is this constant menacing threat. Beautiful, ethereal and deadly, there is every sense that humans are their playthings and nothing more.  These are definitely not the Tinker Bell type of faery.

The prose in this novel is absolutely lovely, and really helps capture that dreamy feel. I have seen some complain about conversations that don’t seem to take logical turns, and I think that’s unfair. Those conversations are deliberately awkward as characters try to avoid conversations they rather not have. There’s also quite a bit of quoted poetry here and it doesn’t feel pretentious, it just fits in well even though it should feel out of place.

Finally, this series is interesting because the series description on Good Reads calls it young adult – but I (and Barnes and Nobles) heartily disagree. That’s not something you see often.

If you like dark fantasy, if you like gothic fantasy, pick this one up. Now that I’ve read it, I absolutely plan to go back and not only make a second go of the second book (which I had to put down because I was simply too lost without having read this one) and quite possibly the third one coming out in 2016. It’s simply lovely.

Verdict: Buy It

Available Now

The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath – Ishbelle Bee

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Summary:

1888. A little girl called Mirror and her shape-shifting guardian Goliath Honeyflower are washed up on the shores of Victorian England. Something has been wrong with Mirror since the day her grandfather locked her inside a mysterious clock that was painted all over with ladybirds. Mirror does not know what she is, but she knows she is no longer human.


John Loveheart, meanwhile, was not born wicked. But after the sinister death of his parents, he was taken by Mr Fingers, the demon lord of the underworld. Some say he is mad. John would be inclined to agree. Now Mr Fingers is determined to find the little girl called Mirror, whose flesh he intends to eat, and whose soul is the key to his eternal reign. And John Loveheart has been called by his otherworldly father to help him track Mirror down…

Review:

If Luna Lovegood of Harry Potter fame and The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland had a child, and the child grew up to become an author, than perhaps you might get a book like Mirror and Goliath.

This is a whimsical/dreamy tale of a girl trying to figure out what she is…and that’s about it, really.

Unfortunately, I found this book to be all style over substance. The dreamlike prose and cRaZY typesetting all work SO hard to create the atmosphere, and then almost nothing happens within it. Yes, we find out what happened to Mirror…well before the end of the book. This book doesn’t have a plot, so much as it has several characters more or less share their life stories (in a non-linear fashion, mind) and the stories eventually interconnect. There is no reason this can’t work to make a compelling story, but only if you care about the characters, and sad to say, I didn’t.

That same prose and cRaZY typesetting wound up being more of a distraction than anything. Towards the end there is quite literally a “chapter” that is nothing but ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ for like two kindle-screens solid.

Seriously.

I’m personally not a fan of messing around with the typeset in prose – I believe the words should be able to convey the meaning you wish to get across. Tricks like the one above push the style dangerously close to purple, or worst, pretentious. That said, the book does manage to quite crossing the line into obnoxious or unreadable, so there is that.

Ultimately, I think those who can get into the atmosphere may well enjoy this book and swept away, but if it doesn’t work for you, there’s little else to reel you in. If you’re considering this book, I strongly recommend checking out a sample first to make sure it’s a fit.

Verdict: Skip it. Pretty, but hollow

Available: June 2nd

2015 Stacking the Shelves #1

Hey everyone!

First Stacking the Shelves of the year! Got a mix of physical books, e-books, and ARCs for ya 🙂

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First up is my Book Outet Boxing Day haul. This is only the second time I’ve bought with them. I have to say that it’s kinda underwhelming when your “scratch and dent” (Alloy of Law) is in better shape than the non-“scratch and dent” books (The Goblin Emperor came with a torn dust jacket. D: ) I also have to say I wish they were a bit more forthcoming with how their coupons worked. They promised you half off. What they GAVE you was an extra 20% off after the 30% off. That’s about 46% off, not a full 50% off. It’s sketchy to say the least and something to keep in mind, though the books are still a great deal. Anyway, in the stack we have:

Blackwatch – Jenna Burtenshaw
Dangerous Women – edited by GRRM & Gardner Dozois
Nil – Lynne Matson
The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) – Brandon Sanderson
The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison

I kinda of blew it, I didn’t realize that Blackwatch was the second in the series – I’ll probably try and find the first one at the library. I enjoyed Rogues so decided to give Dangerous Women a try. I’ll probably and handle it the way I did the last anthology and post every few days covering each book. I’ve been following Matson on Twitter for a while now, so decided to give Nil a try. The Alloy of Law is the first of the second Mistborn trilogy. I still have the other two to read first but it was too good a deal to pass up, especially since it follows a whole new cast of characters and could be read out of order. And finally, I got my hands on a physical copy of my number 2 book of 2014 The Goblin Emperor because it was that awesome.

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And here we have my new ebooks! Red Rising I finally gave in and grabbed it for $1.99. I’m still weary of the genre, but it has so much praise that at that price, it’s hard to pass up. Enchantress sounds like fairly traditional fantasy, but there’s always a place for that, if it’s well done. And finally, Sebastian was a gift from my #TBTBSanta from my wish list: I want to see how it stacks up against her Black Jewel and The Others series.

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And finally we have my new eARCs. Masters of Blood and Bone is dark fantasy, a sub-genre that I don’t look at often; perhaps this will give me cause to read more in it! Seeker intrigues me. It’s being touted as Game of Thrones meets Hunger Games. While it’s an advertising trick that I hate, it does intrigue me – it’s being touted as YA literature on NetGalley. Curious to see how it turns out. Both reviews will be out in February.

So that’s it! Not a few books though. I need to start working down my list. Ah, bookworm problems. 🙂

What have you picked up recently?