Category Archives: YA novel

Updraft by Fran Wilde

UpdraftKirit lives in a city made of bone high above the clouds. Her mother Ezarit is an accomplished trader, who flies between bone towers negotiating trades and delivering anything any of the other people need, including medicine. All Kirit has to do is pass her wing test in a few days, and she can join her. But everything is turned sideways three nights before the wing test when Kirit it sitting on her balcony and is attacked by a skymouth. Kirit screams at the skymouth’s approach, and it flees from her voice. This unusual and rare event is witnessed by a Singer named Wik, a protector of the city. Wik offers Kirit a place as a Singer, and when she refuses, he sabotages her wing test and she fails. In retaliation, Kirit and her best friend Nat fly to the Spire, the home of the Singers, a place forbidden to regular citizens. Kirit is caught and told in order to keep the rest of her family and friends alive, she must become a Singer. Desperate to keep her mother and friends safe, Kirit agrees, moves into the Spire and begins training to become a Singer, the very thing she used to hate. The longer she lives among them, the more secrets Kirit discovers the Singers are hiding, and the more determined she becomes to reveal the truth to everyone.

Updraft is the first book in Fran Wilde’s Bone Universe trilogy. It falls somewhere between YA and adult fantasy. The protagonist Kirit is around 17 years old (though Wilde never says specifically), which often indicates YA fiction, but the novel’s themes of secrecy, betrayal, and death are much more “Adult” in nature. The library where I borrowed the book files it with their adult fiction. I snagged the book after I saw Fran Wilde speak in Philly with Kevin Hearne and Chuck Wendig. She was fabulous, and I was intrigued by the novel’s concept of a people who live above the clouds and build their own wings to travel around their city.

Wilde falls firmly into the Show Don’t Tell camp of world building. I never felt like I completely, 100% understood how the world worked, with the bone towers and Spire and how everything connected – and it was perfect. Not knowing everything added to the suspense and drama of the novel, and allowed the reader to better relate to Kirit, since Kirit didn’t know everything about her city either. Finding out along with Kirit really drew the reader into the story – you share her frustrations, fears, and hopes as they happen, and are never sure whether or not things are going to work out. I loved the feeling of not knowing, experiencing genuine fear and concern for characters I liked, hatred for those I disliked, and never quite knowing which side I was on.

Kirit was a well-written character. She was a heroine, but she didn’t have any special powers beyond grit and determination. She stood by her beliefs, but listened to new thoughts and ideas and wasn’t afraid to adjust her worldview when she learned new things. She protected those she loved, and always did what she believed was right. Her actions and choices made sense, and were believable – the reader could buy into the idea that Kirit was a relatively normal young adult and capable of thinking what she thought and doing what she did. Yes, that sentence is rather vague, but this book had too many twists and turns for me to even hint at a spoiler.

Speaking of the twists and turns, there were almost too many. Perhaps it was just because I was so engrossed in the novel, and so desperately needed to know how everything worked out, that I read it in about a day and a half. The slow reveal of all the various relationships between characters certainly added to the suspense, but I did catch myself thinking at one point, “Oh Good Lord, not another betrayal!” It got a little over-whelming to keep track of everything, and who was on which side of the conflict. This was not overly detrimental to the novel though, and I probably wouldn’t have noticed as much if I hadn’t been fatiguing from reading for about 5 hours straight.

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Me, this morning. 

Finally, I must mention, there was no hint of a love triangle. No love story at all really. See, authors everywhere. You can write a successful, thought-provoking, honestly fantastic YA(ish) fantasy novel without a lovesick, tortured female protagonist. There’s a tiny, minuscule, barely worth mentioning possibility one could appear in a later novel. But I find that rather unlikely. There was no cliffhanger either! Are there unanswered questions? Sure. Of course I want to know what happens next – I’m completely invested in Kirit, her friends Nat and Wik, especially since by the end of the novel the City has changed quite a bit since the beginning. But the main plot lines wrapped up fairly neatly, and the ending was satisfying.

4 and a half stars

Fran Wilde’s Updraft receives  4.5 out of 5 stars from me and I highly recommend it to those who love high fantasy, an unusual world, and a realistic, believable heroine. The second book in the trilogy is called Cloudbound, and I’m looking forward to reading it as soon as possible so I can be ready for the release of Horizon, the final book in the trilogy, this September. Go out and enjoy it!

The Novice by Taran Matharu

novice cover

Isn’t this cover art spectacular?

Fletcher is a young orphan living in the secluded mountain town of Pelt, a small town in the kingdom of Hominum. Found outside the town gates in the freezing dead of winter , he is taken in by the town blacksmith. Because he is the protagonist in a YA novel, he is bullied by the wealthy teenagers in the town, so life has not been easy for Fletcher. When a old soldier who has been deemed too old to continue fighting the Orcs passes through Pelt on his way to fight the Elves, he gives Fletcher a book he claims belonged to a summoner, a magician who can summon demons and use them for battle. Fletcher is intrigued, sneaks out at night, and reads a spell from the book. He is sure he has no magical talent (of course) but discovers he DOES have magical talent (of course) when a small demon answers his summons. The wealthy bully has coincidentally chosen this night to follow Fletcher out of town and murder him. Fletcher’s new friend the demon takes this badly, attacks The Bully, and Fletcher is forced to flee the town before anyone finds out. He heads towards the capital of Hominum and Vocans, an academy where teens with an affinity for magic and demon-summoning are trained to fight the Orcs. Fletcher makes friends and enemies, learns quite a bit about politics and world history, learns how to use his magic, and struggles to earn a commission into the army to fight in the on-going Orc war.

Overall I thought this was a good book. The world-building was impressive, with at least a 2,000-year history that effected and mattered to the present. The system of magic was particularly interesting, and the way the author chose to give us the “rules” and information about the system of magic really sold the story. Combined, these aspects of the novel made an otherwise fairly formulaic plot and shallow villains work. The questions I have about the next book mostly involve the way the Orcs, enemies of all the other races, use their magic. Not all the humans can use magic–most of the magic users are nobles, due to the complicated way the bloodlines are mixed. Only one elf and one dwarf have magic and therefore a demon. There are quite a bit of difficult politics – dwarves are repressed, but are also the only race that can make guns. Sometimes the elves and humans get along to fight the Orcs, sometimes not. While Fletcher’s story was interesting, and of course you root for him and want to see him succeed, its really all these political battles and questions about the Orc magic that have me wanting to read the next book.

Almost forgot to mention, no love story!! Woohoo!! I’m not saying there aren’t YA high fantasy books out there that have good love stories. See Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series for a good example of the right way to write YA Romance in a high fantasy series. After reading so many YA books that are almost completely based on a teenaged-love-triangle and everything else is an afterthought, its always refreshing to read YA lit with no romance whatsoever. This one had no romance AND a successful plot. Way to go, Taran Matharu!

Now for the things I didn’t like so much about the book. One of Fletcher’s teachers, named Rook, absolutely hated Fletcher. This has something to do with Fletcher’s suspected parentage, but we hardly know anything about Rook and his reasons for disliking Fletcher are not serious enough to warrant how horribly he treats him. His character reminded me a bit of Professor Snape – but rather than hating him, I was just annoyed by him. I did not think Rook’s hatred was necessary to advance the plot, and I wonder if his character will become more clear in the next novel.

I would have liked this book to be at least 50 pages longer, with less big jumps in time, skipping several months at a time. I wanted more history and more details of Fletcher’s life. I wouldn’t have minded the book being longer in order to get more detailed character analysis and background. It does make me more excited for the next book though, The Inquisition. Hopefully I will be able to get it from my library soon. The novel has quite the online fandom. There’s some gorgeous fan art out there – I didn’t want to share it from Pinterest without giving credit to the artists, but I highly suggest going to Pinterest and looking for it.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for those who enjoy YA high fantasy. I’m looking forward to reading more in the series.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

truthwitch cover 01This. Book. Was. AWESOME. High fantasy set in the mythical Witchlands, it follows the story of Threadsisters Safiya and Iseult, Windwitch and Prince Merik, and Bloodwitch and assassin Aeduan. The story focuses mainly on the relationship between Safiya and Iseult, two strong and powerful women bonded by friendship, whose strengths beautifully even out the other’s weaknesses. I typically enjoy any novel with a strong female protagonist, and this novel had two, both interesting and involving, and I loved it.

The world building was excellent in this novel. In the system of magic, witches have a specialty. A Windwitch can control air, even including a person’s “air” (or breath) depending on their level of power. A Truthwitch can tell if a person is telling the truth. A Poisonwitch has poisonous blood and can use it as a weapon. These are just a few of the witches we met in this novel. The land itself is nearing the end of the Twenty Year Truce, which (almost twenty years ago, obviously) ended a Great War. The war destroyed many of the lands belonging to the Witchlands, and now that the Truce is nearing its end, various empires are fighting for power. So Safi and Iseult’s personal struggles occur in the midst of significant political drama, which effects them both directly and indirectly, most notably when Prince Merik becomes involved. He belongs to a land devastated by the War, and seeks to do everything he can to help his nation Nubrevna grow and flourish before the Truce ends. Bloodwitch Aeduan is a more enigmatic character, one who is chasing Safiya at the behest of an emperor. We see part of the story from his POV, but know little about him other than he rejects his lot in life, and his power is considered a myth by most, at least until they meet him. His mysterious father, another king, is referenced but not explained, and presumably we will learn more about him in the next installment of the series. He is possibly the most complex character of the group, with much more story to tell.

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My copy of the book read used cover art above, but when I found this one online I loved it so I included them both. 

The stories of the land and its history are skillfully woven into the tales about the girls’ lives by author Susan Dennard. Clearly the Witchlands have a detailed past and well-thought out religious beliefs, both ancient and current. The world, and strong leading ladies, put me in mind of Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass series, which made sense when Dennard mentioned Maas as her best friend in her acknowledgments. If you liked Maas’s writing, you will like Dennard as well.

I discovered this book because I happened to be wandering around Barnes and Noble when the second book in the Witchlands series, Windwitch, released, and the beautiful cover caught my eye. I’m glad it did, and I’m also glad Windwitch is already out and available at my local library, so I don’t have long to wait before I can read more of Safi, Iseult, Merik, and Aeduan’s stories. I give this book a rare 5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it to fans of high fantasy, magic and politics, strong female characters, and very minimal love stories. Go read and enjoy it!

The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite by Kiera Cass is the second book in The Selection series. Therefore, it goes without saying that MAJOR SPOILERS for The Selection, book 1 in the series, will be found in this review. I have not reviewed The Selection, and I read it too long ago to do a complete review now, but I will summarize it below. DO NOT read this review if you have not read The Selection!!

elite-kiera-cass

The setting for this series is post-apocalyptic southwest United States, specifically Los Angeles. World War Four has passed, and a new system of government is in place, which includes a royal family and an inescapable caste system. America is a young woman whose family belongs to the artist caste, one of the lowest, and her talents lie in song and violin playing. America is randomly selected to participate in The Selection. During the Selection, a group of 35 eligible young women are invited to the royal palace and eventually one of them will be chosen to marry Prince Maxon and become the new queen. Initially, America does not want to be part of the Selection, wanting to stay with her childhood sweetheart Aspen (who also happens to be a caste below her). Eventually, America realizes Prince Maxon might not be so bad after all, and feels like she may have the opportunity to change things for the better if she stays part of the Selection.

 

In The Elite, America has made it to the final group of eight in the quest to win Prince Maxon’s love and become queen. After several weeks and plenty of inner conflict, America has found herself falling in love with Prince Maxon. Even though America’s former love Aspen has joined the palace guard to be close to America, she is still on the cusp of deciding to tell Maxon she loves him and is willing to become his queen. Mere moments after America makes the life-altering decision to stay with Maxon, and thinks to herself nothing could possibly change the way she feels, everything changes.

True confession time: there are few things I hate more than books, whether they be YA or adult, in which the plot is centered around a girl trying to decide between two near-perfect boys. The worst part of these stories is not just that the girl can’t make a decision and strings along two unsuspecting boys, but that the boys let her. Alright, so Maxon doesn’t know about Aspen–but he continually tells America she can have “more time” and he will wait for her because she is just so wonderful in every way. (*gags* – sorry but come on!) Aspen DOES know about the competition with Maxon, but rather than tell America he’s going to take his gorgeous looks and fabulous charm elsewhere, he also chooses to wait for her because, again, she is just soooooo amazing. This plot device doesn’t say much about the girls OR the boys in series like these.

Luckily, there is just enough “extra” in this series that I can tolerate the silly love triangle. In The Selection, the author teased us with information about the history of the world the characters are living in. The history of the caste system and how the US went from democracy to monarchy are what really interest me about this novel, and who are the North and South Rebels that keep being mentioned? We moved closer to the answers to these questions in The Elite, and the story became a bit more interesting. I have the impression the next novel, The One, will bring us more about the Rebels and the former rulers.

I give this novel 3 stars out of 5, and recommend it to fans of YA, dystopian literature that includes a slightly-sappy love story.

Dark Descendant by Jenna Black

Dark Descendant is the first book in the Nikki Glass series. Here’s the summary from the back of the book:

Nikki Glass can track down any man. But when her latest client turns out to be a true descendant of Hades, Nikki now discovers she can’t die. . . .
Crazy as it sounds, Nikki’s manhunting skills are literally god-given. She’s a living, breathing descendant of Artemis who has stepped right into a trap set by the children of the gods. Nikki’s new “friends” include a descendant of Eros, who uses sex as a weapon; a descendant of Loki, whose tricks are no laughing matter; and a half-mad descendant of Kali who thinks she’s a spy.
But most powerful of all are the Olympians, a rival clan of immortals seeking to destroy all Descendants who refuse to bow down to them. In the eternal battle of good god/bad god, Nikki would make a divine weapon. But if they think she’ll surrender without a fight, the gods must be crazy. .

dark descendant coverI was pretty excited to read this book because I’m into mythology, and it sounded like it would be different than the vampire love-triangles I had been reading recently. On one hand, I was not disappointed. There certainly was no love triangle or vampires. On the other hand, the mythology wasn’t nearly as exciting as I had hoped it would be. In this world, a group called Liberi are immortal descendants of the gods who thanks to their ancestry have powers reminiscent of the gods from whom they descend. One group of Liberi, called the Olympians, are led by a power-hungry Liberi named Konstantin who wants to control everyone and thinks the only Liberi who deserve to live are those descended from the Greek gods. Anderson leads the other group of Liberi, a small faction that doesn’t agree with Konstantin’s way of thinking and tries to protect other Liberi from Konstantin. In the course of her work as a Private Investigator, Nikki Glass discovers she is a Liberi and her ancestor is the highly sought-after Artemis, goddess of the hunt. When Konstantin finds out about Nikki, he wants to use her to track and kill other Liberi. Nikki is forced to turn to Anderson for help, but his group of part-gods doesn’t like Nikki much, so Nikki has to avoid the bad guys, watch her back around Anderson’s good guys, all while learning to deal with her new life which has been totally turned upside down.

The Liberi and it’s various factions doesn’t read nearly as complicated as it did in the description I tried to write, because Nikki spends the entire novel talking about them and trying to figure out which is the lesser of two evils. In fact, Nikki spends a lot of time telling us things, like how she has a “bleeding heart,” how she’s jealous/not jealous of her perfect, older adopted sister, how every male around her is attractive. All of them. Even the ones that only make a token appearance to mention the god they descended from and then disappear totally, thus allowing the author to say “look! mythology!” I think that was the frustrating part of this book for me. It had several good ideas that were all mentioned but not developed. Characters would show up for two seconds, but we never learned anything about them and by the time they reappeared I had forgotten who they were. Maybe these characters and their backstories will be explored in more detail in later books. I hope so, because at the very least I want to know more about Blake, the half-sex-god.

Not bad for a first book in the series. Started slow, but by the end I was emotionally invested and didn’t want to put it down. I’m not dying for the next book, but I would like to read it eventually. 3 stars out of 5 and recommended for fans of urban fantasy and female heroines who don’t spend half the book sleeping with everyone. Happy reading!

-Branwen

 

In the After by Demitria Lunetta

Amy survived the apocalypse. The aliens arrived and wiped out almost the entire human race, but through using her brain and more than a little luck – she just happens to live in a house with solar panels, a water filtration system, and an electric fence (powered by the solar panels) that keeps her safe from the very fast, green, hungry-for-human-flesh creatures. On one of her outings to search for food, Amy finds and takes in a toddler she calls Baby. The two learn to communicate in sign language, since noise summons the monsters, and keep each other company for almost three years until they are suddenly rescued and taken to the mysterious survivor colony New Hope. Everything in New Hope seems perfect with a clear set of rules and tasks for everyone. As usual, nothing is as perfect as it first appears.

in-the-afterIt’s possible that I have just become tired of YA novels where the only one who notices anything about anything is a 17 year old girl who also happens to be smart but not popular, stunningly gorgeous despite the apocalypse (or trials/tribulations/whatever) and the boy (also really really ridiculously good looking) immediately falls for her without knowing anything about her. But that wasn’t the only thing I didn’t like about this book. I thought Amy had a much too easy time of it during the end of the world. Sure, her parents died and she had to deal with that, which sucked. But she also had ELECTRICITY AND RUNNING WATER!! And an electric fence that conveniently kept the creepy green creatures out of her house. She had to stay quiet during her showers, poor thing. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic. But it got on my nerves.

I was wildly unsurprised when Amy discovered what life was really like in New Hope. From the first moment, it was clear it was much too structured and everyone was too happy for everything to be as it seemed. Amy and her “Advanced Theory” class finally coming to the realization that the creature were called “floreas” because they had plant-like qualities was definitely a head desk moment. These teenagers are supposed to be the smartest of the bunch, who created the synthetic impenetrable suits the Guardians (who “fight” the Floreas) wear and they didn’t realize “floreas” meant plants?? Dude, the creatures are green and thrive in sunlight. I also wasn’t thrilled with Rice. I thought he was under-developed and clearly just a bland, unimportant love interest.

There were some things I enjoyed about the book. While there wasn’t anything surprising about the general plot, I did like the relationship between Amy and Baby. I thought it was pretty cool that they developed their own form of sign language which they used to communicate. I also noticed that Amy always told Baby female-empowering fairy tales, which was a nice touch. I also liked the way the author wrote the second half of the book, giving us hints about the terrible things that were happening to Amy after she was committed to the Ward. This writing technique made this part of the book much more interesting that it would have been otherwise.

Overall, I would give this book 3 out 5 stars. Fans of The Hunger Games and especially the Divergent series will definitely enjoy it. I’m interested to see what will happen in the next book, but I won’t be running out to get it tomorrow.

May harmony find you,

-Branwen

Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey

Sadima, Franklin, and Somiss, driven out of Limòri by a suspicious fire, are living in a cave hidden within the cliffs that overlook the city. Somiss is convinced the dark passages of the caves were the home of ancient magicians, and his obsession with restoring magic deepens. Sadima dreams of escape — for her, for Franklin, and for the orphaned street boys Somiss has imprisoned in a crowded cage. Somiss claims he will teach these boys magic, that they will become his first students, but Sadima knows he is lying.

Generations later, Hahp is struggling to survive the wizards’ increasingly dangerous classes at the Limòri Academy of Magic. He knows the fragile pact he has forged with his secretive roommate, Gerrard, will not be enough to put an end to the evil. It will take all the students acting together to have any chance of destroying the academy. Building trust, with few chances to speak or plan, will be almost impossible, but there is no choice.

sacred scars coverIn this second book in Duey’s Resurrection of Magic series, all Sadima’s efforts are focused on convincing Franklin to leave Somiss. She, Somiss, and Franklin are living in a cave in the woods where Somiss has been keeping the boys he kidnapped, claiming they will be his first students. Sadima is sure this is a lie, and Somiss’s real purpose for the boys is much more nefarious. Somiss’s mania to find the secrets of magic has increased, and he treats Franklin worse with every passing minute. Something must be done. Meanwhile, in the future, Hahp is busy trying to convince Gerrard that the only way they can truly defeat the wizards is for their entire class to band together both to survive, and eventually destroy everyone else at the Academy.

I ran to my library to get this book almost as soon as I finished the first book in the series, because I just had to know what happened next. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as the first one (Skin Hunger, reviewed here). It was soooooooo slow. Sadima spent chapters and chapters and chapters exploring cave tunnels. Hahp spent chapters and chapters and chapters (again) making food or figuring out how to make other random things with the “magic stone.” It droned on and on. I felt like the book could have been 150 pages shorter. Now, it did have some interesting moments. The action that did happen was dramatic and unexpected. Sadima and the boys’ escape attempt was suspenseful (though it would have been even more suspenseful if it had been about 5 chapters shorter). I also thought learning more about the Eridians was interesting, since Somiss and Franklin talked about them all the time in the first novel, but don’t really explain who they were. Towards the end of the novel, I was sure the timelines were about to come together, but whether or not they did was never made clear. I think that was supposed to get me excited for the next book (which, at the time Sacred Scars was published, was not even in the planning stages) but really it just frustrated me. Notice I did not really find anything about Hahp’s story interesting enough to mention here. I desperately wanted to be emotionally invested in Hahp–I felt like I should be–but I just wasn’t.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for readers who read and enjoyed the first book, but warn you not to get your hopes up too much. According to Duey’s website, the third book is in the revising stages (though Goodreads doesn’t know anything about it, which is a little suspicious). We can only hope the third book releases soon and is better than the second!

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey

Skin Hunger coverSadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers prey to fakes and charlatans. A “magician” stole her family’s few valuables and left Sadima’s mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima’s joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But Franklin’s irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her, too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students will graduate — and the first academic requirement is survival.

Skin Hunger, the first book in Kathleen Duey’s Resurrection of Magic series, follows two separate timelines in the same world. In the first, young lady Sadima has  the magical ability to read the feelings of animals but no one around her believes her. In her time, magicians are feared as charlatans and crooks and all magic has been banned. Needing to escape her farm life, Sadima flees to the city and meets up with wizard friend Franklin, who has promised to help her with her talent and that he and his colleague Somiss are trying to bring magic back safely to the world. Many, many years later, young boy Hahp is sold to the wizard academy by his hateful father. Hahp’s teachers are none other than Franklin and Somiss, who “train” young boys to become wizards by starving them and forcing them to discover their inner magic or die.

Initially, I was hesitant to read Skin Hunger because I didn’t understand how the two separate time periods were going to work together. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the two different timelines–almost two entirely different worlds–connected in an interesting way that made logical sense and made the story exciting. I’d never read anything like that before, and thought it was original and well executed.

This book very much read like a first-book-in-the-series type of novel. I realize this is to a certain extent a normal feature of books that are the first in a series: lots of world building, back-story of many characters, leads up to some major action that doesn’t actually take place. I thought this book had a little too much of all that at times. It was slow in sections (how many times did we really need to read about Hahp trying to make food, and the guilt he felt when then he could and others could not?) and I was bored; however, the fact that there were two stories at once helped with this immensely. Where one character’s story was slow, the other was faster, with more interesting details. Overall, the balance was well done. Ultimately, we received just enough about each character’s story–Sadima and Hahp–that I’m going to the library right away to pick up the next book.

3 stars out of 5. I recommend this book for fans of YA fantasy literature involving magic. Happy reading!

-Branwen

Cress by Marissa Meyer

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

cress coverI just love this series. The characters are perfect, the world-building is great, villain is easy to hate and the love stories don’t overwhelm the plot. In this novel, we meet Cress for the first time. Cress, a Lunar “shell” who has none of the usual Lunar mental powers, has been trapped on a satellite for years, perfecting her hacking skills and protecting the Lunar space fleet from Earthen detection. She made contact with our heroine Cinder back in book one (Cinder, reviewed here), and Cinder and her team, including orphan Scarlet, genetically engineered fighter Wolf, Iko the android-turned spaceship, and the dashing fugitive Captain Thorne have finally gotten around to rescuing Cress. Naturally, the rescue goes wrong, the characters are split up, and Cinder’s plan to stop the evil Lunar queen Levana from marrying Emporer Kai and taking over Earth gets even more difficult.

Cress’s satellite crashes to Earth with her and Captain Thorne, who Cress has been crushing on since she first started reading about him on Earthen newsfeeds, aboard. Thorne goes blind in the crash, and Cress has never set foot on Earth before. Suddenly Thorne and Cress must work together to survive in the desert where they have crashed. They make an interesting pair, Thorne being the “tough guy” criminal and Cress being the naive young girl relying on him to keep her safe and trying convince Thorne he’s not as bad as he thinks. This isn’t a new theme in YA fantasy novels, but it was well-written and mostly believable. The only part I thought was strange was that (assuming my math is correct) Cress is about 14, and Thorne is around 20…which makes their love story a little weird as far as I’m concerned. Maybe I missed something so it’s not really as creepy as I think, haha.

I like how Meyer introduces new characters in this series without pushing out the characters from previous books. True, we don’t hear much from Scarlet and Wolf in this novel, but the overall plot of trying to stop Queen Levana stays consistent and in the forefront throughout the series. This impresses me, since often the love stories not only make me want to puke (was that too strong? haha), but they are often so important the initial plot is non-existent or completely ridiculous. My only very minor complaint about this series is Meyer’s insistence on basing her characters on fairy tales. Not that I necessarily mind, I just find it unnecessary. The books are excellent and don’t need those ideas to make me want to read them.

I love this series more with each book I read and I don’t know how I’m supposed to wait until NOVEMBER of 2015 for the final book, Winter. I recommend this book for readers of the first two Lunar Chronicles of course, and also readers who enjoy futuristic sci-fi YA novels. 5 stars out of 5.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick

This review will contain SPOILERS for the first book in the Ashes trilogy, Ashes. If you haven’t read Ashes, don’t read this review!!

 

shadows coverShadows picks up right where Ashes left off. In fact, it’s a little difficult for me to remember what happened at the end of Ashes, and what happens at the beginning of Shadows since I read them almost one right after another. Despite the short amount of time between books for me, I wish we would have had a bit more of a recap at the beginning of Shadows. A lot of things happened at the end of Ashes, and I couldn’t remember who all the different characters were, especially once we started meeting many more. That was frustrating, and made me less interested in some of the characters.

In Shadows, leading lady Alex and her friends are living in an apocalypse. No one is quite sure what happened, but some sort of EMP attack left most of the adult population dead. Only the very elderly and young children are left, and most of the teenagers are Changed. The Changed are horrifying, zombie-like former humans whose brains have malfunctioned somehow and now they hunger for human flesh. They have started to herd humans like cattle, who they then torture, roast, and eat. Alex is captured by a particularly gruesome group of Changed who wear wolf pelts, and spend whatever time they are not torturing people lusting after each other. I will admit, some of the descriptions of the horrors the Changed committed were not only terrifying but disgusting as well. Bick spares not a single detail when describing what the Changed like to do to people before they eat them, all made worse with Alex’s descriptions which include her enhanced sense of smell. I actually thought some of this was a little too intense for a YA book (it was certainly too intense for me!) but I guess Bick was going for shock value. She succeeded, that’s for sure.

A new feature in this book was the multiple perspectives, something becoming more and more popular in these sorts of YA fiction (Allegiant and Through the Ever Night which I just recently read were both like this). This was both good and bad for me. On one hand, we finally get to find out what happened to Tom, and we get inside his head which is pretty cool. We also get inside Peter’s head–although at the beginning of the book I didn’t remember who Peter was, he did end up having a storyline wildly different from the other characters and boy wasn’t that interesting. We also get inside the heads of Chris and Lena. This would have been cool, except I never really cared about these two characters and for the majority of the book they didn’t do anything except wander around in the snow complaining about being cold. I was so bored, I wanted to skip over their chapters. Even at the very end when they finally saw some action I didn’t really care, I was just glad SOMETHING was happening to them.
This book had a little bit of “middle book syndrome.” While it wasn’t a total set-up for book 3, there were parts of it that were VERY slow. We also didn’t learn much outside of the weather. (Clearly, the cold and snow was impressed upon me, since that’s what I think of when I remember this book). I still liked this book because I’m emotionally invested in Alex and Tom, and I want to know more about what’s happening to the Changed and why it’s happening, even if they’re gross. Hopefully the next book will have a little more excitement throughout instead of all at once at the end.

Happy reading,

-Branwen