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review 2016-12-28 01:26
#CBR8 Book 129: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Because of Miss Bridgerton - Julia Quinn

Sibylla "Billie" Bridgerton has always been a tomboy. As a girl, she ran wild with the neighbouring Rokesby children, and it's been long expected that she'll end up marrying either of the younger sons, Edward or Andrew. She's doesn't really mind the idea herself, but marriage is the furthest thing from her mind, even after her best friend, Mary Rokesby goes off to marry her eldest brother George's best friend. After all, if Billie gets married, whose going to oversee the running of the Bridgerton estate? Her brother Edmund is still away at Eton, far too young to take charge. The only Rokesby Billie doesn't really get along with is the heir, George Rokesby, Viscount Kennard. He's always so serious, clearly disapproving of her un-ladylike ways.


So when Billie falls out of a tree, twists her ankle badly and ends up stranded on a deserted cottage roof, having tried to rescue a stray cat, she really wishes that anyone else in the neighbourhood except the supercilious George is the one to come to her rescue. Things do not improve when circumstances cause the ladder he's used to get up on the roof to fall over, stranding them both. While no one in their right mind would think that George Rokesby had compromised Billie Bridgerton on a roof in the middle of the countryside, propriety would demand that the Viscount offer for her hand if they are stranded there for too long. Luckily, Andrew Rokesby, home on leave from the navy with a broken arm, comes along and rescues the two of them, but is very amused by the predicament they've found themselves in. George also insists on chivalrously carrying the wounded Billie back home, and after their little adventure, the two suddenly see each other differently.


As the son and heir, George has never been allowed to go off and see the world. His brother Andrew is in the navy, while Edward is over in the Colonies, scouting in the Revolutionary War. As the eldest, he has always observed his younger siblings and the vivacious eldest Bridgerton daughter run around and cause trouble. Even now, although Billie is universally loved in the neighbourhood, she has a tendency to get into unlikely scrapes, and it annoys George immensely. Almost as much as the thought that she may some day end up marrying one of his brothers. After their little interlude on the roof, George suddenly finds himself very bothered by the idea of Billie marrying anyone...except him. Could he be falling in love with the exasperating Miss Bridgerton?


While most of Julia Quinn's books are set in the Regency era, this new series is set a generation before her most famous Bridgerton books, in the Georgian era, but do in some ways still involve Bridgertons, as the title suggests. Billie Bridgerton is in fact the aunt of all the various Bridgerton siblings, whose father Edmund, Billie's younger brother, never actually appears in the series, except in the heroes and heroine's memories, as he died tragically before his youngest daughter was born. He's only mentioned in passing here, as he's away at school, but it seems likely he may make an appearance in later books. There is certainly another Bridgerton sister to marry off, as well as two Rokesby brothers, one of whom is missing in the Americas in the midst of the Revolutionary war for much of the plot of this book.


I've said in previous reviews that the best Julia Quinn novels don't have overly complicated plots or outside forces trying to get between the lovers. She's really not very good at writing villains. Happily, this is one of the books where the only thing keeping our couple apart is their preconcieved notions of one another and the fact that they've just not realised that they've got their perfect partner a few miles away, on the neighbouring estate. Billie and George just need to forget the impressions they made of each other growing up, and see each other as the adults they've become. Their families are clearly perfectly happy for them to end up together and it's quite sweet how they scheme to throw them together.


I wish I could say that this is Julia Quinn's triumphant return to truly great romance, after her previous years' efforts have mainly been rather forgettable, but I can't. I absolutely enjoyed this book, and appreciated that it didn't feature a lot of complicated drama, just two people learning to see the other in a new light and falling in love. Yet I doubt it's going to be one of the Quinn books that people remember in years to come, and it's certainly not a timeless classic like some of her Bridgerton novels. I don't regret buying it when it came out, but I suspect I will wait until her books are on sale before getting more of them. The next book in the series, involving lost brother Edward, set in Revolutionary era wartime America, will be an interesting departure from her previous books, though, so I imagine I'll be reading it, just to see her do something different.


Judging a book by its cover: There's a lot I like about this cover. The gorgeous green of the gown. The fact that it's only saucily slid off one shoulder rather than all undone in the back with anachronistic lack of undergarments. The cover model's little smirk in the mirror. The crossed fingers behind her back. There's also things I don't like. The cover model is way too old to be a 23-year-old Billie Bridgerton. This book is set in the Georgian era. That is not a period appropriate dress! Great for Regency, wrong for the previous generation.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/12/cbr8-book-129-because-of-miss.html
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review 2016-10-05 23:53
#CBR8 Book 111: Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
Six-Gun Snow White - Charlie Bowater,Catherynne M. Valente

From the blurb:
From New York Times bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente comes a brilliant reinvention of one of the best known fairy tales of all time. In the novella Six-Gun Snow White, Valente transports the title's heroine to a masterfully evoked Old West where Coyote is just as likely to be found as the seven dwarves. 

A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the story of her parents - a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother's death in childbirth, so begins a heroine's tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.  

This novella is a clever retelling of the classic German fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Having moved the narrative to the Old West, the girl at the centre of the story, the half-blood daughter of a Crow Native American woman and a wealthy prospector, grows up alone and unloved on her father's ranch. She entertains herself with card tricks and sharp shooting, her only companions the impersonal servants and the wild animals in the ranch menagerie.

When her father eventually remarries, it is to a beautiful young woman who takes it upon herself to civilise "Snow White", as she names her stepdaughter. Mrs H's lessons of love involve Snow performing the duties of all the female servants (all of whom were let go after the wedding), nearly drowning in icy milk baths meant to make her skin paler and various kinds of physical and emotional abuse. Having never had anyone show her any attention at all, Snow takes it all, without complaining. Her stepmother has a dark and mystical mirror, where Snow sees visions both of herself, and Mrs H's past. Eventually her stepmother gives birth to a baby boy, but only in the mirror. The child seems to grow fast and he and Snow have a strange connection.

Snow leaves the only home she's ever known, riding off to find the Crow, hoping to reunite with her mother's people. She travels through frontier towns and mining villages, defending herself against all manner of aggressions. She spends some time prospecting in a ruby mine along with seven rugged men. A ruthless Pinkerton agent trails her tirelessly, hired by her stepmother to catch her, so he can cut out her heart and bring it back to Mrs. H. Snow can be bested by no man, however, and escapes the detective with her heart intact.

Eventually arriving at a town populated by women, cast out from other places, Snow begins to find some solace and peace. The reach of her stepmother's powers are long, though, and once Snow stops running, she'll be easier to catch.

The story is told in an oddly poetical manner, narrated in a special cadence, which even when you read it seems very oral. Transposing the classic fairytale to a new setting makes you see the story in a new light. Valente certainly makes the story more feminist and diverse, highlighting how lost Snow is, never fitting into her father's world, or that of her mother. Mrs. H, Snow's stepmother isn't merely a one-dimensional villain. It is made clear that the way she treats Snow is a somewhat harsher way than she herself was treated before she got married. Mrs. H turned to witchcraft to gain power, Snow runs away instead. Only towards the end does she see the caring and nurturing side of womanhood.

This novella incorporates a lot of mythology, both Native American and Western. It plays with the reader's expectations and the well-known story tropes, re-inventing the old tale for a new time. Because the narrator imposes a sort of distance in the way the story is told, I never emotionally connected with it as much as I wanted to, but I was entertained and impressed. It's also not a very long story, so I didn't have time to get bored - which was not the case when I read Valente's twist on Russian folk tales, Deathless

Judging a book by its cover: The Charles Vess cover for this novella is absolutely gorgeous. Snow triumphantly rearing on her loyal horse Charming. Her stepmother, Mrs H, kneeling holding up a bloody heart. The various animals and creatures of the wilderness coming in from the left, looking as if they're about to stampede over the stepmother. I pretty much love everything about this.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/cbr8-book-111-six-gun-snow-white-by.html
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review 2016-09-19 23:49
#CBR8 Book 104: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
Crimson Bound - Rosamund Hodge

From Goodreads, because I'm lazy and it's mostly a pretty good summary (I will point out the ways in which is it not afterwards):


When Rachelle was fifteen, she was good - apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless - straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.


Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand - the man she hates most - Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?


Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love and redemption.


Rachelle lives in a world where there are evil things lurking in the Forest and they believe that three thousand years ago, an evil entity known as the Devourer, god of the forestborn, swallowed the sun and the moon. A brave pair of siblings, known as Zisa and Tyr managed to recover the sun and the moon, and bind the Devourer in sleep for millennia. But soon, Rachelle's aunt, the village wood-wife (wise women trained to protect people against the evil of the forestborn) announces, the Devourer will awaken, to swallow the sun and moon once more. 


With the foolish impulsiveness of youth, Rachelle decides to try to figure out a way to subdue the Devourer once more, should he really return. She starts walking in the woods, attracting one of the dangerous servants of the dark forces. She keeps courting danger, until one day, he persuades her to remove her protective charms, and (naturally) attacks her. Once marked by a forestborn, an individual has only two choices. Kill someone before three days are up, or die. Rachelle fights the compulsion, but ends up killing her aunt. She does discover, from the sinister and seductive forestborn who marked her, that the only way to defeat the Devourer, is with Zisa's legendary bone swords, believed lost forever. 


Three years later, Rachelle is living in the capital, and is one of the king's order of penitent bloodbound. She was marked by the Forest and killed to stay alive, but has not fully submitted to the call of the Forest and become fully forestborn yet. Instead, she spends every waking hour hunting down the wicked creatures that threaten innocent civilians. She has a semi-flirtatious relationship with Eric D'Anjou, the Captain of the King's bloodbound, but refuses to give into his attempts at seduction, refusing to become another notch on his belt. 


After foiling an assassination attempt at the King's bastard son, Armand, she is ordered to be his bodyguard. As Rachelle has only just gotten word from the shadowy forestborn who changed her that the Devourer will be rising as soon as the next Solstice, she has only a few weeks to try to locate Joyeuse, one of the bone-swords the legendary Zisa used to free the sun and the moon. Stories say it is hidden "below the moon, above the sun". She certainly does not have time to baby-sit one of the King's many illegitimate sons, especially one who has been proclaimed a saint by the populace after he was allegedly marked by a forestborn, refused to kill, but still survived after three days. He did lose both his hands, and now has silver ones he wears instead. The blurb claims he is the man she hates the most, this is wildly exaggerated. She despises him, believes he is a liar and a fraud - as there is just no proven instance of anyone surviving three days after encountering a forestborn, unless they kill someone, like she did. 


As the assassination attempt on Armand that Rachelle foiled is not the first, she is told to accompany him to one of the King's sumptuous country estates. Rachelle is persuaded to bring her fully human friend Amelie, who wants to basically be Rachelle's stylist, now that she has to appear at court functions. Armand tells Rachelle a legend from his region of the country, that makes her believe that the sword she is looking for, may in fact be hidden somewhere in the palace they will be staying. As it is impossible for her to be on guard duty and keep on searching, she reluctantly enlists Armand's help. She is still convinced he is lying about how he lost his hands, but the more she observes him, the more unlikely it seems that he wants any kind of glory or fame, and he is clearly deeply uncomfortable being venerated by the general populace.


The return of the Devourer draws ever closer. Rachelle and Armand are running out of time and the closer to the solstice they get, the more the sinister Forest seems to be encroaching on the royal residence, even though protective spells are supposed to be all over the grounds. Will Rachelle find the legendary sword and stop the Devourer, before it's too late?


What I liked:

- I absolutely adored the dark fairy tale told at the beginning of many of the chapters, relating the story of Zisa and Tyr. There were clearly elements of Hansel and Gretel, but with much darker undertones throughout, and there are clearly other folkloric tales mixed in there too. The horror that the siblings go through and what Zisa is willing to sacrifice to rescue her brother is lovely. Creepy and fantastic as all the best fairy tales are.

- The various folklore elements woven throughout the story. 

- The sinister creeping dread of the Forest, and the almost vampire-like forestborn. The bargain the marked have to make to continue living and the ever-present threat that they submit fully to the call of the Forest, and become fully inhumane.

- I liked Rachelle's complexity, even though I didn't always like her. She made an incredibly stupid mistake in her youth (some TSTL behaviour right there), but strove so hard to atone for it. Working to fight the threats from the Forest and saving innocents, even as she believed herself wholly damned. 

- The sweet and genuine friendship between Rachelle and Amelie.

- I liked Armand as a character. His cut-off hands and his silver replacements (that burn him when the metal gets too hot) was suitably gruesome. I was also impressed when it was finally revealed what actually happened to him - the full extent was both cool and horrible. 

- The concept of the wood-wives, local wise-women who could weave various charms to protect the populace against the creeping evil of the Forest. Zisa was apparently the first of the wood-wives and they pass down the knowledge through the generations.

- I mostly liked the decadent Renaissance French court setting. 

- I liked the monsters Rachelle had to defeat, both in her everyday fight against the encroaching Forest and when looking for Joyeuse.  

- The plot wasn't entirely predictable (for all that some things were pretty obvious to me from early on). There were a lot of cool reveals along the way.


Did not like:

- Erec D'Anjou. He gave me the creeps from the moment he showed up. He was an arrogant creep and the way he treated Rachelle was condescending and appalling. The fact that he was presented as charming, handsome and a supposed third in the love triangle of the story was baffling to me. He was pond scum.

- Rachelle's initial aversion to Armand really did seem very extreme and was really never well explained. 

- Nor was her sudden change of heart, where she pretty much out of the blue loves him. Not at all sure at what point her feelings changed from distrust, disdain and slight loathing to true love. 

- Absolutely and utterly hated the whole love triangle. 

- The structure of the story was a bit messy and the book could have been tighter plotted. The ending seemed a bit confused and rushed.

- The Little Red Riding Hood inspiration was tenuous, at best. 


This is Rosamund Hodge's second book, and from what I can see from various reviews, a lot of people don't think it's as good as her first book, Cruel Beauty. As there was a lot that I really liked about this book, I'm now even more excited that I have the supposedly better book still to read. As some reviews also say that the plots are a bit reminiscent of each other, I think I'm going to wait a bit, so the books don't suffer too much in comparison.


Judging a book by its cover: I've seen some people complaining that the cover of this book is too close to Rosamund Hodge's debut novel, Cruel Beauty, but I honestly don't see why this is problematic. The books are published by the same company, they probably wanted to make it more obvious the books were by the same author. The spiralling stair motif is a cool one (even though it has very little to do with anything in the actual book), whilst the black and white, with the bright green of the trees and the splash of red of Rachelle's cloak are lovely contrasts. The way the trees seem to be moving ever closer to the stairs is a nice call-back to the encroaching Forest in the book.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/09/cbr8-book-104-crimson-bound-by-rosamund.html
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review 2016-09-17 23:51
#CBR8 Book 101: A Scot in the Dark by Sarah Maclean
A Scot in the Dark - Sarah MacLean

Miss Lillian "Lily" Hargrove, is the orphaned daughter of a land steward and unwilling ward to the Duke of Warnick. Due to an odd and unbelievable series of events, her guardian, and then the next seventeen heirs to the title die in the course of about a fortnight, leaving a very distant claimant to the title, Alec Stuart, a belligerent Scotsman as the new Duke. He doesn't like England, and stays in Scotland for the next five years, not even aware that Lillian exists. 


As such, Lily lives a comfortable, if extremely isolated and lonely life in one of the ducal residences in London. She's not of the aristocracy, nor is she a servant. She has no friends or family to support her, and so, when unscrupulous actor and artist Derek Hawkins encounters her walking in the park, woos her and flatters her and makes her feel special, it doesn't take all that much persuasion for him to get her to pose for a nude portrait. Of course, Lily believed no one would see the portrait but them. She also foolishly believed Hawkins would propose marriage to her. Instead, he announces at the opening of the Royal Exhibition that his masterpiece will be displayed to the public on the closing day of the exhibition. Lily, distraught and shocked, makes a very public scene, and what little respectable reputation she may have had, is ruined.


Alec Stuart, reluctant twenty-first Duke of Warnick, known in the gossip pages as "the diluted duke" arrives in London two weeks after his solicitor informs him that 1) he has a young lady as a ward and 2) said lady is the object of a huge scandal. Alec has a number of reasons for disliking England and the English and he also has a massive distrust for all beautiful women. Lily announces that the painting will be unveiled to all the world in ten days' time. She wants the money promised to her by her initial guardian, so she can go far away and reinvent herself, somewhere no one knows who Lillian Hargrove is. 


Alec refuses to let her run and hide, and believes the solution is to get her married off to someone respectable, as soon as humanly possible. He bestows a massive dowry on her, and sets about trying to match her up with a suitable gentleman. Of course, he is fiercely jealous of any other man so much as looking in Lillian's general direction. Yet when everyone around him, Lily included, suggests that he may be the best candidate for the job, all his fears and insecurities rise to the surface. Lily may have given herself to an unscrupulous artist and is about to have her naked body displayed for all of London to see, but Alec still believes that he is unworthy of her hand and needs to find her someone better.


In her newest series, Scandal and Scoundrel, Sarah Maclean basically takes contemporary celebrity gossip scandals and interprets them through a historical lens. The first book in the series, The Rogue Not Taken, was seemingly her take on a Kardashian-like family of sisters hugely popular in the scandal press, whilst this book is her response to various leaked nude photos in recent years. Sadly, this isn't as interesting as Ms Maclean seems to think it is. I liked the previous book a lot more than a lot of my romance reading friends on the internet, even though the hero was a complete tool for most of the book. Alec Stuart, the Scotsman hero of this one, appeared briefly towards the end of said book, and both Sophie and her new husband, the Marquess of Eversley, appear in this book, along with Sophie's many Scandalous Talbot-sisters. There are also appearances by Duncan West from Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover, as well as his wife, who becomes one of Lily's new friends. I found most of the Talbot sisters annoying in the first book and didn't really like them all that much here (nor can I tell them apart), although it is nice that Lily finally makes some friends and gets to go out in society.


While the previous book in the series had some issues, this is even more of a hot mess. There are absolutely things I liked, Maclean excels at writing witty banter and the book made me laugh more than once. I genuinely like the title, which is certainly not always the case with Maclean's books. It discusses important feminist themes such as the nature of consent, victim blaming, slut shaming and how men in society are judged by a completely different standard to women. The eventual reveal of why Alec is so damned convinced that he's an uncivilised and uncouth brute, his dislike of the English, his distrust of beautiful women and his sense of unworthiness was an interesting twist on a common trope. 


It still didn't make up for the fact that it got boring really quickly that Alec was bullheadedly determined to get Lily married off, yet insanely jealous of any other man so much as breathing in her vicinity. Starting with his mother, he's been told by women his entire life that he is too large, coarse, brutish and uncivilised. His mother eventually ran away from Scotland, and it seems more than one woman has treated Alec mostly like a glorified sex toy, good for nothing but a quick affair, but never anything more lasting. His internal monologue about how precious and exquisite she was, while he was brutish and unworthy still got on my nerves. I'm not really surprised that society at large sees him as a brute, when he literally tears doors of hinges and rampages around like a jealous madman for much of the book.


Lily keeps being described as devastatingly beautiful, but it has clearly not brought her any happiness and living holed up, isolated from polite society, without any chance to experience the world or make friends makes her a far too easy victim for Derek Hawkins. While waiting for the Diluted Duke to acknowledge her existence, she has dreamed of a season, of balls, dancing, marriage and children, and she has no wish to be forced into marriage in less than two weeks just to quell the gossip. Some of the behaviour she exhibits to drive suitors off is just bizarre, though, and the various madcap schemes that she and/or Alec devise to try to stop the painting from being displayed seem strange and out of place.


There is also an aspect of insta-love here, a trope I'm less than fond of. From figuratively hissing and spitting at each other during their first encounter, fewer than ten days pass before Lily and Alec are madly besotted with one another, ready to elope for Scotland to spend the rest of their days together. Would it really have hurt to have the story take place over a slightly longer span of time, say a month? It would have made the romance more believable, certainly.


I think there is only one more book left in this series, which seems to be going for celebrity divorce proceedings, with the eldest Talbot-sister, Seraphina, petitioning the House of Lords for divorce from her husband, the Duke of Haven (I severely doubt they'll end the book divorced). I desperately hope that it is better than the first two in the series, which keep going down in my estimation the more I think about them. Sarah Maclean has been removed from my auto-buy list and is quickly moving into the "only on sale" category, which is a shame, because I really love some of her earlier books.


Judging a book by its cover: Here we have another example of that baffling new romance cover trend, with the dresses with fabric that go on for miles and mile, but still inexplicably show most of the heroine's naked legs. Just in case you didn't figure out from the title of the book that it's about a Scotsman, the cover designer has helpfully added some tartan to the floor. I like the colour of the dress, it's pretty, but it is otherwise in no way period appropriate (for any period, really, this is made up historical clothing). I highly recommend you go to Goodreads to see the splashback cover though, where this exact romance cover is shown (presumably) as the scandalous painting (Worst. Nude. Portrait. Ever) in question, while the hero and heroine sort of smooch. It's hilarious.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/09/cbr8-book-101-scot-in-dark-by-sarah.html
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review 2016-09-15 15:05
#CBR8 Book 98: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Steelheart - MacLeod Andrews,Brandon Sanderson

Because it's been nearly a month since I finished this book (yay, backlogs!) and because the blurb does a good job of summing up the story, I'm going to resort to Goodreads:

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came a desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.  

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David has been studying, and planning - and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge. 

The book starts shortly after the appearance of Calamity, when Epics are still are a new thing. David and his father are at a bank, trying to get a loan, when a minor epic attacks, starting to kill patrons and guards, mainly because he can. David's father still believes some of the Epics will take on the roles of superheroes, so when Steelheart arrives and stops the murdering, bank-robbing Epic, he is initially relieved. Until it turns out Steelheart is just there to enforce his new claim on Chicago and wipe out any rival claims. David's father is killed in the ensuing confrontation, and Steelheart makes sure to wipe out anyone who may have witnessed the fact that he was grazed by a bullet and actually injured. David manages to escape though, and realises what a big deal the seemingly minor injury is, when Steelheart doesn't just sink the bank into the ground, but kills any survivors or even rescue workers responding to the crisis.

About a decade later, Chicago is Newcago, a city turned entirely to steel by Steelheart. It ruled by a merciless and seemingly invulnerable Steelheart and his closest advisers, Nightwielder, who keeps the city in constant darkness (no sunlight ever); Conflux, who runs the security forces and provides power to the city, as well as the mysterious Firefight. There are minor Epics who help his reign of terror. Most people live in the steel catacombs under the city and keep their noses to the ground. Any attempts at civil disobedience is crushed by Conflux's efficient enforcers.

David is nearly eighteen, and has devoted spare moment of his life since his father died to researching various Epics, trying to ascertain their unique weaknesses (despite their sometimes astounding powers, all Epics also have one or two fatal weaknesses). He has also been tracking rogue resistance group the Reckoners, who are currently in Newcago. David wants to join their ranks and he wants them to stop just targeting minor Epics, which doesn't actually have that much effect. He wants revenge on Steelheart, and there is no way he's going achieve it on his own.

The gang of Reckoners that David meets, a small cell consisting of the Professor, research whizz Tia, muscle Cody and Abraham and point woman Megan, are initially reluctant to let him join their ranks, even when he proves his bravery while helping them on a mission. Once Tia sees his many notebooks with years worth of research on the various Epics, she warms to him and despite Megan's distrust, David is recruited into the gang. David has a massive crush on Megan, and can't entirely understand why she's so hostile towards him. Eventually, he figures out that she's worried about the consequences to the people of Newcago if the Reckoners and David actually successfully take out Steelheart. The power vacuum that would be created could lead to complete chaos. Maybe the evil they know is better than the chaos they don't?

Brandon Sanderson is ridiculously prolific. Unlike most writers of epic fantasy, he seems able to juggle multiple series at the same time, and seems to publish at least one, if not several books a year. As well as several highly regarded epic fantasy novels (some of which are stand-alone, a rarity among the genre), he's written several things for young adults, such as The Reckoners trilogy, which takes on epic supervillains and the people who oppose them in a creative twist on near-future dystopias.

Steelheart is a quick and entertaining read. It took me a while to get through, but only because I was listening to it in audio. Once the story really got going, I found myself going for longer walks and occasionally even just listening to it at home so I could get more enjoyment faster. Macleod Andrews reads the book very well.

David is an engaging, if dorky protagonist. He really is defined by his all-consuming obsession with revenge on Steelheart, an event he doesn't necessarily believe he'll survive. Several of the other characters mention that he needs to find other things to live for and care about, just on the off chance that they survive the dangerous mission. He also makes absolutely atrocious metaphors, and is deeply sensitive to being called on his nerdy tendencies.

The members of the Reckoners aren't exactly massively fleshed out, and more given one or two defining character traits. Tia is smart and bookish, and has a Cola-addiction (I can relate). The Professor is a genius inventor, but withdrawn, gruff and cranky. Abraham is large, French-Canadian and quite philosophical. Cody is really annoying and keeps making up preposterous stories alluding to his seemingly ever-changing ancestry. He's from the South, but of Scottish ancestry, but also keeps dragging in Irish and Australian. He was probably my least favourite character.

Megan is the youngest Reckoner, before David joins. She's a crack shot, witty, pretty and at least initially teases David good-humouredly. She doesn't like that he manages to convince the other, normally risk-averse Reckoners to go along with his plan, though, and it helps David understand her further when she finally explains her misgivings. Not entirely sure if she was worth being the recipient of David's mega-crush, but she also seems to be the first girl he's really allowed himself to notice. Being obsessed with Epic research and revenge plans will probably cut your potential flirting and dating time considerably.

It may be because this book is aimed at a YA audience, but I found that Sanderson's normally intricate plotting wasn't as tight as it tends to be. I'd figured out several of the big "twists" before they were revealed, which is not something that normally happens in his books. It's a fun, action-packed little adventure story, though, and I've already secured the second book in audio as well, to listen to a bit later in the year.

Judging a book by its cover: I'm thinking the cover is supposed to show David, standing in the steel-covered ruins of Newcago. The various shades of grey on the cover are a nice touch, as are the torn edges of the steel in the foreground. It's not a super exciting cover, but it's not awful either.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/09/cbr8-book-98-steelheart-by-brandon.html
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