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review 2015-12-09 04:05
Review: Dreamstrider - Lindsay Smith

Published by: Roaring Brook
Source: ARC via publisher
Release Date: October 6, 2015

Dreamstrider - Lindsay Smith | Goodreads

A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.

Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject's body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.

A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.


I'm surprised that Dreamstrider didn't catch more in the YA blogosphere-- it's got such a beautiful message, and should overlap with fans of Shadow and Bone as well as fans of Lindsay Smith's previous novels.

On that note, the blend of religious elements, political intrigue, and magic as well as the romance should appeal to fans of Shadow and Bone. Lindsay Smith is also one of the few YA authors whose work seems to highlight political espionage. Of the books that feature political intrigue, most seem to be high fantasy, and even then few that I know of focus on espionage itself. It's wonderful. I love that element in Smith's work, and if you like Sekret and Skandal for that, you should also enjoyDreamstrider. The book builds action fast, especially given the nature of the main character's dreamstriding missions, so it's a good combination, too, of political intrigue, action, romance, and world-building.
Dreamstrider takes something as simple as our dreams and fashions an entire society around them: a dreamstrider invading other bodies while their hosts dream; temples of priests devoted to shaping the dreamworld and studying the history fought between the Dreamer (the ultimate god figure) and Nightmare (the ultimate devil figure); theories focusing on how to manipulate dreams and the dreamworld; conversations devoted to sharing each other's dreams and interpreting what messages lie within from their god; and much more. And in taking something simple, Dreamstrider also carries an empowering message - this is tied intricately to the main character's growth arc, and may potentially be a spoiler should I discuss it further, but the message of hope, of fulfilling your own dreams is a strong theme throughout the work... and that inner core is what really made the book for me.
As you may have inferred from above, I thought that the world-building was perfect. There were enough details to ground us in the Barstadt Empire (the priests, Dreamer/Nightmare, Hesse's theories, the Houses, class differences, and Writ of Emancipation, etc.), while offering us the opportunity for more in another side novella (the history of the different countries, the first battle between Dreamer and Nightmare, etc.). I've seen it said that you'll come up with more of the world than can be mentioned in your book; this is certainly true of Dreamstrider. While the world-building provided a good backdrop for the novel, so did the romance; always it remained a side plot, fueling the main character's motivation and her character arc and adding emotional intensity but never overshadowing the main plot of political espionage. Livia, the main character, underwent significant growth throughout the novel. Her position as a dreamstrider is uncertain; the Minister for whom she works holds her citizenship papers over her head. At any moment, the life she has worked for and dreamed of might crumble around her feet, but she perseveres despite self-doubt and comes to realize more about herself, her powers, and her world. I already compared Dreamstrider to Shadow and Bone, but really, if you enjoyed Alina's character growth arc and her moment of embracing the light within her, Livia's self-acceptance and self-realization may also appeal to you.
Bright with hope and inventive details, Dreamstrider tackles deeper issues like class warfare and historical constructs within an action-packed, intrigue-driven narrative led by a heroine as fierce as she is determined.
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review 2015-03-17 11:59
Review: Shadow Scale - Rachel Hartman

Release Date: March 10th, 2015
Source: Netgalley
Published by: Random House

Shadow Scale - Rachel Hartman | Goodreads

Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

There's no doubt that Shadow Scale is one of the best books I've read this year. It has a depth that you can sense even at the surface; while reading, I consistently found myself smiling at Rachel Hartman's use of metaphors but even if you don't read with metaphors in mind, her use and development of symbols, her themes and characters and plot arcs - they're all so wonderfully worked into the story. Essentially I know that I'm in the hands of a master storyteller and I think that reading at a surface -- or deeper -- level highlights this fact.

While reading, I also found myself enamored of the discussion between logic and emotion -- relevant to how humans and dragons govern themselves. There have been many young adult books that to me, never seem to get farther than saying something akin to "emotion is important to acknoledge," and I never quite understand why emotion crops up so frequently in YA books as a theme/discussion topic. The intensity of youth? None (to me) have transcended such discussion except for Seraphina and Shadow Scale. I LOVE what Rachel Hartman has done here and quite honestly there are no other YA books out there like hers. I was trying to think of comparisons and I couldn't come up with many. If you liked the religious elements on the Grisha trilogy and wanted them to be more expanded upon; the character focus / hero's journey epic of Kristin Cashore's novels; the older fantasy writing styles akin to Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown but in a first person perspective you should try out Seraphina and Shadow Scale. If you are a fan of high fantasy you should DEFINITELY read these books.

The world-building is absolutely phenomenal. This book makes the duology much more epic. Seraphina gets to travel across all the countries in the wake of pending war and Rachel Hartman does an amazing job developing the various cultures and attitudes of each country. Characters from each country we understand better because we know more of the countries; and they clearly belong to their respective cultures. The races of dragons, humans, and half-dragons are just as well developed and the characters are lovable and easy to distinguish from one another. Such a larger character cast -- and yet Rachel Hartman makes it seem effortless! Seraphina's own character development was so well woven into the various plot arcs. This book, y'all...

That's not to say Shadow Scale didn't have its flaws. I put it down several times in the beginning because I didn't feel a sense of urgency or maybe connection; that came along with the plot twists. Seraphina's voice is very dry and sometimes distant, which makes it harder for me to connect even in this first person narrative, and yet aside from my moments of silliness, I think that I'm a lot like her -- which you would think would help connect me to the story, but I wonder if that contributed to my boredom at the beginning. I also misjudged the need to reread Seraphina before reading this book. I read the Recaptains recap and Shadow Scale starts with a recap of Seraphina, but I think that rereading would have definitely helped me connect to the story more.

Despite that paragraph, there's no doubt in my mind that Shadow Scale being a wonderfully written masterpiece. Highly recommended to any and all who are interested in Seraphina / high fantasy and/or loved Seraphina.

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url 2014-11-20 14:23

Check the link for reviews of A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, Clariel by Garth Nix, and Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, fall science fiction and fantasy titles that seem quite popular with a lot of my fellow bloggers. My thoughts on them are a tad more complicated than usual. Also, you can read about the books I'm currently reading, books that I've read and won't review, and book reviews still to come.

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url 2014-08-28 21:05
LonCon3 #13: Fantasy and Medievalism

Panellists: Robin HobbK.A. LaityMarieke Nijkamp (We Need Diverse Books), Lynda RuckerGillian Polack

High fantasy is almost invariably set in invented worlds inspired by medieval Europe. Can we put this down to the legacy of Tolkien and to genre works being in close conversation with each other? Or is there something about the place that medieval Europe occupies in our imagination that makes it a perfect companion for tales of epic striving and larger-than-life Good versus Evil? Either way, does this help or hinder the genre?

Continue reading 

Source: literaryames.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/loncon3-13-fantasy-and-medievalism
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url 2014-01-10 20:54
Medieval Cone Shaped Princess Hats Were Inspired by Mongol Warrior Women

I honestly have some questions about the scholarship here, but whatever. I'm legit sick of modern high fantasy claiming "historical accuracy" when depicting a monarchical rape-a-thon in their big bad dragon-offs. (Because medieval Europe had magic, right? Historically accurate?)


So, what's up, medieval Mongolians? Way to rock a giant head phallus, ladies. 

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