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review 2018-08-07 19:33
Stars Uncharted
Stars Uncharted - S. K. Dunstall

[I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s “First To Read” program, in exchange for an honest review.]

I have a soft spot for sci-fi stories with rag-tag crews and old spaceships; unsurprisingly, this is the kind of story that will get my attention.

The story revolves around two main female characters: Nika, a body modder on the run from her abusive-slash-mafioso boyfriend, and Josune, undercover engineer on board a ship known as “The Road” (these aren’t spoilers: you learn about it in the very first chapters). As they both have to face their own brand of trouble, their paths converge towards The Road, always underlined by the shadow of a man named Goberling, who almost a century ago came back from an expedition with precious metals… but never revealed where he had found them.

This is space opera through and through, with a dash of transhumanism. It’s a world where humanity obviously colonised many worlds, and where people regularly reinvent themselves through body modding—which offers pleznty of possibilities, too, considering how many characters in the book aren’t who they claim to be. It’s also a world of commercial ships, of big corporations that no one dares to cross, and of exploration and legends: The Road’s full name is “The Road to the Goberlings”, and another ship, the Hassim, is renowned through the whole galaxy as an exploration ship whose crew has dedicated itself to finding Goberling’s lost world.

In general, I quite liked the characters, and the relationships developing between them. They’re all their own kind of badass, even the ones, like Nika, who’re not crew that learnt to fight on a ship. There’s a slight dash of hinted romance, but never enough to interfere with the story. The budding friendship between Nika and Josune never veers towards that annoying trope of “female friendships always tinged with interest for A Man”. The Road’s crew sticks together, bound with a loyalty that keeps growing with each trip. And the regular quibbles between Nika and Snow (another modder), was overall fun enough, also because you can feel the nascent respect underneath.

Other things I liked less, though. First, the pacing was sometimes weird, carried in places by short sentences and paragraphs that felt too abrupt; the characters are constantly on the run, and at times it felt that not much happened, that everything was mainly their running away, with bits of story in between.

Another problematic aspect was Nika’s obsession with modding. I enjoyed the more technical side of it (I wish we had such machines, hah!), but she too often went about imagining how she’d reinvent the people around her, from their hair to judging them too fat, which was definitely obnoxious (and motivated much more by aesthetic judgements than by health reasons). For a character who prides herself on being a trend-setter, her trends were somewhat quite… conservative, a.k.a. everybody has to be slim and trim. Somehow, I’m not convinced that if our future does hold such body modding in store, everyone will want the same.

Finally, I wasn’t fully on board (look what I did there) with some of the plot twists, because they were too easy to guess, and I could see them coming a parsec away, to the point that I couldn’t understand how the characters didn’t see it sooner. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it was made too obvious, too soon? I don’t know. And we don’t get to learn that much about Snow, which is a shame, because I suspect he also has his closet full.

Conclusion: 3 to 3.5 stars. In the end, some parts I had trouble with, others kept me hooked, so while it wasn’t the best book I read this year, it was nonetheless very entertaining, and set in a world that I wouldn’t mind revisiting, because a single book can’t possibly reveal all there is to know about it.

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review 2018-03-18 01:33
Quest to the Uncharted Lands
The Quest to the Uncharted Lands - Jaleigh Johnson

When the Iron Glory's engines rumbled to life for its journey to the uncharted lands, it marked a new future for the world of Solace.

- First Sentence

 

This book is a fantastic companion to The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson. It isn't a sequel, it takes place in the same world with different characters. 

 

Stella Glass is the daughter of two scientists who are traveling on the Iron Glory to explore the uncharted lands of Solace. No one has ever explored this far west beyond the mountains. The Dragonfly Territories and Merrow Kingdom have finally reached an uneasy peace. They worked together on this ship and representatives from both countries are onboard. 

 

Stella is not permitted to go, but she has planned for months to stow away because she is terrified her parents won't come back. On the first night, Stella finds out she isn't the only stowaway. No children are allowed on the ship, but she sees a boy outside the engine room with his hands on the wall. His hands begin to glow, and then his eyes. Stella isn't sure who he is or what he is up to, but when he passes out, she drags him to her hiding place in the cargo hold. Someone doesn't want this voyage to succeed, but who and how can they be stopped?

 

So, in The Mark of the Dragonfly, we met Piper (a girl who connects to machines in an almost magical way), and Gee (a boy who can transform into a dragon). This book continues in the same fantasy steampunk world and the story is in the same heroic adventure vein. Again, I highly recommend it to students in grades 4 -8. It is just as good as the first.

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review 2017-11-29 18:34
Review: The Shift of the Tide by Jeffe Kennedy
The Shift of the Tide (The Uncharted Realms) (Volume 3) - Jeffe Kennedy

Zynda lived her whole life in Annwyn, one of the most talented shifters of the Tala. Leaving her protected home with the Dafne and Jepp on the mission to Nahanau and Dasnaria, Zynda harbored a personal mission: to learn how to take Final Form, the dragon. Marskal, one of Ursula’s Hawks, noticed Zynda right from the start and fell in love with her the more time he spent with her. Being assigned as Zynda’s personal guard allows him to spend more time with her, and he’ll take whatever he can get.

 

The Shift of the Tide picks up the adventures of the Uncharted Realms following High Queen Ursula’s near death. Now back on Nahanau, Ursula and Dafne want Zynda to help locate the lost kingdom of N’andanan; however, Zynda has her own agenda, which takes over the storyline. While I enjoyed Zynda’s journey as she progresses towards her goal of Final Form, I missed the forward momentum of the overall storyarc regarding N’andanan and the attacks by the Deyrr. Yes there are bits and pieces, but nothing substantial, and in that sense, the book has almost a transitional quality, putting cogs in place for the future telling.

 

I enjoyed both Zynda and Marskal. While I was a bit disappointed that Marskal was already “in love,” I found Zynda’s acceptance of his love, along with her own personal development made for an enjoyable tale. Marskal is everything Zynda needs, and I love how she recognizes it, but uses her determination to take Final Form to help the Tala as excuses for not accepting it. And as the story progresses, I grew to like Zynda more and more. I like how she had to completely rethink her life. I liked seeing the reasons for the pressures she faces (puts on herself) everyday once she’s back in Annfwn. Then there is Marskal, who almost always knows how to encourage Zynda. He seems to know before she does, just what she needs. To be held, to be nourished, to be pushed. It’s his patience and devotion that makes the romance work so well.

 

With that said, I felt something was lacking in The Shift of the Tide, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. While the romance isn’t as central as in other books, that really isn’t what is missing. The plot felt choppy, like some piece of story building was gone and that prevented me from fully immersing myself. I liked the characters, but needed more from them. Additionally, I felt the last 10% of the book was too easy and quick, with a few key elements coming off anti-climatic, which added to my frustrations with the story.

 

In the end, I struggled with The Shift of the Tide. I wanted to like it more than I did because I adore this series so much. Yet, I never was able to fully immerse myself into the story. However, I did enjoy Zynda and Marskal, and hope to see more of them in future titles. The story is a must read for fans of the series, setting up bits and pieces for the battle to come.


My Rating: C+

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review 2017-06-19 00:00
The Edge of the Blade (The Uncharted Realms)
The Edge of the Blade (The Uncharted Realms) - Jeffe Kennedy Yep, I failed out.
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text 2017-03-06 01:51
The Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy $2.99! Adored this book!
The Pages of the Mind (The Uncharted Realms) - Jeffe Kennedy

Magic has broken free over the Twelve Kingdoms. The population is beset by shapeshifters and portents, landscapes that migrate, uncanny allies who are not quite human…and enemies eager to take advantage of the chaos.

Dafne Mailloux is no adventurer--she's a librarian. But the High Queen trusts Dafne's ability with languages, her way of winnowing the useful facts from a dusty scroll, and even more important, the subtlety and guile that three decades under the thumb of a tyrant taught her.

Dafne never thought to need those skills again. But she accepts her duty. Until her journey drops her into the arms of a barbarian king. He speaks no tongue she knows but that of power, yet he recognizes his captive as a valuable pawn. Dafne must submit to a wedding of alliance, becoming a prisoner-queen in a court she does not understand. If she is to save herself and her country, she will have to learn to read the heart of a wild stranger. And there are more secrets written there than even Dafne could suspect…

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