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review 2018-02-20 11:04
Review: Reign of the Fallen
Reign of the Fallen - Sarah Marsh
I received a copy from Penguin First to Read.

I finished this in December last year and I’m still struggling to put to words how to review it. I sort of liked it, I loved the diversity of the characters. This was one of my most anticipated January releases, but the actual book itself? Even after well over a month later I’m still undecided. 

I think my biggest issue with it was the whole the dead rule the world thing. In this novel you have a kingdom where Necromancers are the most powerful mages and when dead nobles die, it’s their job to go and retrieve their soul so the person can keep living and ruling as they have done. Maybe I’m getting too cynical but I’m struggling to grasp this concept. Mainly because from this reader’s point of view – it doesn’t teach anyone how to deal with the concept of death. Particularly the ruling class. Even their king is the living dead. I don’t get it. 

Best thing I loved about this book was BISEXUAL LEAD FEMALE CHARACTER!!! 

The novel starts with the lead female Odessa and her best friend/boyfriend Evander about to receive their commendation as official members of the Necromancer’s guild. As full Necromancer mages they can live in the palace and lead comfortable lives. Odessa sort of secretly wants to see the world, and you get the impression she thinks that Evander did too. Odessa has a friend (lady pirate) with a ship who can offer a passage out into the wider world. However, it’s forbidden to leaving their secluded comfortable little kingdom, even though the royals are mostly wise and seemingly well-liked and respected and everyone seems pretty comfortable. At least on the surface. There’s always going to be problems hidden in a kingdom like this which is never obvious to the people whom it should be. Which should raise questions as to why no one is ever allowed to leave. Why do the dead have to be brought back over and over? (There may have been an answer in the book I just can’t remember it).

The risen dead have certain rules to live by and there’s consequences, things can take a drastically bad turn and the risen dead can become murderous monsters known as Shades. On a seemingly routine job the kingdom princess Valoria accompanies Odessa and Evander and the reader gets their introduction into the land of the dead and the way things work.

Only a short time after the task is done there is a shock death. A loose Shade on the rampage. Odessa starts to question things about her relationship with Evander. The mystery in the dead lands is progressing, the Shade attacks are getting more frequent. 

Early on in the novel there was a really surprising twist I would never have guessed at.

The characters were great, I loved them all. A+ for diversity, a lesbian couple, a gay couple, and a bisexual lead female. The characters were well fleshed out, their emotions and actions believable. Though I did feel that Odessa could be a tad over dramatic. 

That being said, in the aftermath of an unexpected tragedy she falls apart. She breaks down. Completely understandable, but she also develops an addiction to a pain numbing tonic rather than dealing with the harsh reality and emotions. There was something very uncomfortable about this. I do understand and logical that it’s so much easier to give into an addiction rather than deal with the feelings when faced with something horrible.

I did find the pacing of the novel very slow, something would happen and then it would emotional turmoil and meandering and seemed like ages before anything else would happen. There didn’t feel like a whole lot of action going on. The second half of the novel picked up a bit, a new character is introduced who comes across as quite antagonising for Odessa and gives her more of a challenge, a new lead into the investigation into the increasing Shade attacks sets of a new direction which breathed more life into the novel. Also hinting at the possibility of a new romance angle as well. The character is mentioned in passing a few times earlier in the novel and comes in with her own agenda but finds herself becoming part of Odessa’s investigation. 

Meredy is a Beast Master, she can control animals as well as being a Necromancer. She’s smart, sassy and not afraid to call Odessa out on her bullshit. She doesn’t follow blindly, though she has some pretty misguided ideas of her own necromancy when she makes her appearance. She provides a good counter balance to Odessa.

When the force behind the Shade attacks is finally revealed there was a bit of eye rolling why didn’t I see this coming from a mile away? Kind of amusing in a way, should have been fairly obvious but actually it was quite clever that I never managed to figure out the twist to see it coming. 

While some of the novel I found slow and boring it did have its moments. I didn’t get some of the magical concepts. There were some of it I liked. It was certainly interesting and creative and not a fantasy type I’ve seen done a hundred different times. So plus points for uniqueness. I did buy a finished hardback, I may have to read this again at some point before the next one comes out. 


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review 2017-07-13 11:54
Review: Blood Rose Rebellion
Blood Rose Rebellion - Rosalyn C. Eves

I received a copy from Netgalley.


I had pre ordered a finished hardcover, I put in a request on Netgalley, and 90% of my Random House requests are declined, so I was completely gobsmacked when I was actually approved for this one. So I wound up with a pretty white cover finished copy and a pretty blue cover copy for my kindle.


Though I don’t really know what to say on the actual story itself. It’s an interesting idea. In this alternative historical society the upper class wealthy people are magical users, Luminates. Various families have different magical traits. When they reach a certain age society children go through a test to see what magical affinity they are suited to. Only the elite class can become Luminates. There are rare instances where children like our heroine Anna, are barren with seemingly no magical talent whatsoever.


Anna’s best hope in society is marrying of equal wealth. Her older sister Catherine outshines her in every respect, magically and looks. Catherine is a snob. She has a younger brother who I got the impression was quite weak and sickly. Her mother is much of a snob as her sister, and her father seems quite passive. Debutant balls in this society require a display of magic. The novel starts with Catherine’s debutant ball and magical display. Anna is supposed to be out of the way with the younger brother but it doesn’t happen. She’s been seeing a wealthy boy, Freddy, whom she has a big crush on. She winds up crashing her sister’s ball and something goes drastically wrong when the magic collapses when Anna arrives in the ballroom.  Anna apparently has the ability to break magic apart.


Scandalised, her mother sends her off to Hungary with Anna’s grandmother to Grandmother’s home estate. Where Anna gets a lesson in Hungarian magic and politics. She inadvertently finds herself on the land of Hungarian Romani’s. Which sparks a love-hate relationship with a boy she meets. There’s also a rebellion going on she finds herself entwined with, a group of people who (understandably) hate the fact that only the aristocrats of society can use magic. They’ve spelled it to be so. Anna has the capability of bringing this to a collapse.


The biggest problem I had with this novel was that I found it quite repetitive. The magic and the rebellion were quite fascinating, Anna was a likeable enough heroine. But she finds herself in situations that are quite often morally ambiguous. She’s faced with some really tough choices in following her heart or following her own mind. Most of the situations she’s faced with are the sort where there is no clear right or wrong answer. Whatever decision she makes, someone will be hurt. And she goes back and forth over this in various situations throughout the novel.


Definitely a worthwhile read and after that ending I’m looking forward to the next instalment.


Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Children's for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-06-12 20:58
Review: The Disappearances
The Disappearances - Emily Bain Murphy

I received a copy from Netgalley.


This book was brilliant. So delightfully different and unexpected. I’d completely forgotten what it was about when I started reading it. It’s an early 1940’s based YA novel, set sometime during the Second World War.  Beautifully written and really really unique, the way the fantasy is woven together could almost boarder on magical realism.


The novel tells the story of Aila and her brother Miles, their mother has died and their father is a pilot who has gone to fight in the war. With no other close relatives, the two are shipped off to the small town of Sterling, where their mother grew up and move in with a dear friend of their mom’s, Matilda Cliffton. Her household consists of her husband, Dr Clifton, their son William who is Aila’s age, and a housekeeper named Genevieve. The Clifftons are very nice if formal and clearly wealthy.


Though Aila notices something strange immediately, whilst going through the small town centre, they pass people well known to Mrs Cliffton, give them the cold shoulder. They’re polite, but very frosty and it all seems to do with the fact that Aila’s mom left the town.


In the house Aila notices more strange things and finds out a phenomenon occurs every year something “Disappears”, touch, dreams, reflections. No one really knows how they started, but there are magical remedies called Variants that can recreate these lost things. Aila struggles to make sense of this mystery, at the same time fitting in in a new school and trying to make friends.


All the while there is the underlying hint that her mother may have had something to do with starting The Disappearances. Aila’s mother seems to be the only person who has ever left Sterling and regained the things the Disappearances have taken. Which has caused a great mistrust and dislike amongst the townspeople.


As Aila makes friends and gets to know the people in her class, she learns more about the history of the town and the founding families and the other interconnecting towns in the area.  Early in the novel Aila discovers a book of Shakespeare’s works that has notes written by her mother. The Shakespeare connection is brilliant. It’s woven beautifully into the narrative without being too overwhelming.


There’s also a second point of view in alternate chapters from a mysterious man who appears to be looking for his father. It’s not all together clear (or at least not for this reader) of whether this is something happening at the time or something that happened in the past. It all becomes relevant later on in the novel.


The writing is gorgeous and almost lyrical in its tone, it’s completely absorbing and everything is so incredibly described and so so easy to picture. Incredible history and backstory believable as well. Aila was a very likeable, intelligent lead, head on her shoulders, with some recklessness, a good friend and good sister to her little brother Miles.  All the characters are brilliant, all fully fleshed out from the good ones to the nasty ones. There’s a great sense of family as well, the adults are not just side characters, they have their own importance in the novel and not just relegated to necessary background characters.


There was nothing about this book that didn’t absolutely love to pieces. I am definitely looking forward to more from this author.


Thank you to Netgalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-05-08 18:31
Review: Flame in the Mist
Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

I wound up with two review copies of this one. I first put in a Netgalley request which I figured was a long shot, and when I didn’t hear anything back in months, I used some of my Penguin First to Read points to secure a copy when it popped up on their read to review site. And then when I’m half way through the book my Netgalley request was approved. Oh well.


I don’t really know what to make of the novel in the end. I gave it a generous 3 stars, but it’s more like two and a half. While I can appreciate the journey of inner strength from the main character, Mariko, I didn’t actually like her all that much. I found the first 100 pages or so incredibly boring. The novel is beautifully written, the scenery is fantastic and the descriptions are vivid and lyrical. The fantasy setting in a Japanese world is fascinating. All marks of a fantasy I should love.


But personally, I just could not get into the plot. I found Mariko almost aloof, I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from her at all. I couldn’t connect with her character in a way that would make me as a reader care about what happened to her.


That being said, as the novel progressed, the plot did get better and Mariko did show some pretty impressive growth and strength. She’s definitely intelligent and determined, you have to give her that. On the way to her politically arranged marriage her carriage party is attacked by a notorious mercenary group the Black Clan. Mariko survives the attack and doesn’t cower in fear. She’s furious and decides she wants to know the reasons behind. Disguising herself as a boy, she follows the Black Clan and worms her way in.


Back in her home province, Mariko’s twin brother Kenshin, is convinced she survived the assassination attempt. Other plots include devious goings on between the Emperor and his Mistress who seems to have some hint at dark dangerous magic and her own political agenda. The Empress who seems quite passive but there’s more to her than meets the eye. The Emperor’s legitimate son (Mariko’s intended) and the illegitimate son with their own squabbles. And while all this is going on Mariko in the guise of a boy is uncovering the inner secrets of the Black Clan.


Of course there are lots of plot twists and everyone has secrets of their own. Mariko uncovers some shocking truths about the lands she came from and how her lord father runs them, and must decide where her true loyalties lie. There’s a romance agenda as well for Mariko when the truth about her identity is revealed. There are secrets within the Black Clan itself.


The plot did improve as the novel goes on and starts getting more into the twisty secrets, there’s a barest hint of some sort of magic involved, but very little of it is explained. Though it’s enough to make the reader want to know more (or it certainly worked that way for me). While Mariko was a difficult character to warm to, her journey throughout the novel is impressive, even with a kind of predictable romance, I want to know what happens next.


Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.


Thank you to Penguin First to Read.

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review 2017-05-03 19:52
Review: Witchtown
Witchtown - Cory Putman Oakes

I received a copy from Netgalley.


An enjoyable YA fantasy with a rather unique take on witches. In this novel witches have been living among humans forever, Natural witches, witches born with power, and Learned witches, those who become witches with training. The secret came out and there was wide spread panic, leading to the US government creating “havens” for witches. Towns just for witches where they can feel safe and be with their own kind.  There’s also a darker more mysterious kind of witch known as a Void witch. Little is known other than they’re bad news.


Most havens aren’t the best places in the world to live, someone came up with the idea of making a town better than all the other havens, a multi billionaire with big government influence created a spectacular, wealthy haven called Witchtown.


The novel starts with teen Macie and her mother Aubra arriving in Witchtown to start a new life. Only Aubra and Macie have a secret – they’re con artists and thieves there on a specific mission – to rob Witchtown.


Aubra is the latest addition to my Worst YA Parent list. She’s obnoxious right from the get go, Macie is clearly struggling with something that happened in the last Haven they conned, something to do with a boy she really liked, but right off there’s an impression it ended badly and the mother was to blame. She flat out ignores Macie’s obvious objections to being where they are now and heads off on her plan. Aubra is a very powerful Natural witch, Macie has a secret about her own power and Aubra often holds this against her to manipulate things to her advantage. She really is a horrible piece of work, but can be very charming when greasing the wheels.


Macie was much more likeable. I don’t usually con artist main characters and definitely not characters who are thieves. Though there is something quite sympathetic about Macie, that as a reader I found myself actually liking her as a character. She was a bit stubborn and sulky, under the circumstances this is quite understandable. She could be a bit of a bitch herself, but as the novel progresses, Macie shows some pretty impressive character growth over what she feels is right and wrong.


Aubra’s determined to go ahead with her plan to rob the town, and gets to know the right people. Macie finds herself fitting in more than she ever has anywhere and as she gets to know some of the other teens in town, she learns not everyone is what they first seem. There’s much more to people, and as she starts getting to know people and make friends she begins to think of a life without her mother’s overbearing presence.


Through flashbacks we learn a little bit of Macie’s history, what happened the last time she had a potential friend, and why she’s so reluctant when the kids she meets in Wichtown want to get to know her.


It goes to Macie’s character growth. Over the novel as Macie learns more about Witchtown and the people and discovers her own inner strengths, she also learns some pretty shocking secrets about herself and her own levels of power. And some pretty terrible deceptions on her mother’s part as well.


It’s a fun easy read with some great world building, and decent, well fleshed out characters, twisty secrets and some good friendships built, though not without a little drama thrown in. There’s also a little hint of romance but not the main focus of Macie’s attention. Macie shows a tremendous amount of strength and self-worth as her story is told. Also, a really interesting and different take on YA witches, something I’ve not seen before.


I would definitely read something by this author again.


Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for approving my request to view the title.

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