RCCleanup

Review: A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness

Title: A Discovery of Witches (Goodreads)

Author:  Deborah Harkness (@DebHarkness)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Details

Series: All Souls Trilogy #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Published: Headline, February 2011 (originally published by Viking in Feb 2011)
Pages (paperback): 594

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

Diana Bishop pushed aside her magical abilities when her powerful parents were killed when she was just a child. Years later, she has become a scholar in Alchemy and early sciences without the help of magic, but when she finds a mysterious enchanted manuscript in the Bodleian Library, all sorts of things start to go wrong. First it’s the vampire and geneticist, Matthew Clairmont, who starts following her around. But when other witches and daemons start following her as well, Diana knows she has to find out what is going on.

Wow, where to begin with this book? It’s been a while since I’ve read anything so long and it took me a whole week to get through it.

Viking cover

I’m a little torn with my rating – on one hand, I really loved the world that Deborah Harkness has created, with its witches, vampires and daemons living amongst the ordinary humans with the (unfortunately a little Twilight-esque) Congregation keeping tabs on them all.

On the other hand, there were things about the book that disappointed me. One was the length. At just shy of 600 pages and with rather small text, I would have expected more to actually happen in the story. As it is, we get a blow by blow description of Matthew and Diana sitting around in various houses, reading, drinking tea or wine, and eating. Diana sleeps quite a lot. Every outfit that Diana wears is described. I just felt that there were big sections that could have been left out in order to make the pace a little faster.

There’s so much character development in this book that by the end the main characters were like old friends, and I was more than a bit in love with Matthew. Who wouldn’t want a gorgeous, intelligent French vampire around to protect you all the time, even if he is pretty pushy and likes keeping fairly major secrets. Diana, I didn’t like so much. She showed plenty of emotion when the bad things were happening but I had an overall feeling that she was a bit ungrateful. Matthew wants to take her off to France in a private jet? Alright then, whatever. Buys her expensive riding gear so she can take over his stables? Okay, but these shoes are too tight, I can’t get them on. She may be rich herself from her scholarly work (that’s never really revealed) but perhaps a little thanks might be in order? Perhaps a bit of girly excitement? I know I’d be over the moon with gratitude if someone let me play around in their library of ancient texts, and I am in no way a historian.

Okay, this review is starting to sound like I didn’t enjoy the book – honestly, I really did. I kept finding the time to get through it and when the action scenes did happen it was almost impossible to put down. Likewise for the romantic parts – very swoony. I especially loved the settings of Oxford and the castle in France – both very atmospheric settings, but also the house that Sarah and Emily and the ghosts live in. Gorgeous! I also thought it was neat, although slightly off-putting, that Matthew has met nearly every famous personality in Europe in the last thousand years or so. I really enjoyed thinking about what these people might really have been like to meet.

This is a very intelligent book, rich with history and scientific theories of past and present, but also with healthy helpings of humour, action and romance. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the second in the trilogy, A Shadow of Night, which was released back in July.

Warnings: Sexual situations, horror themes.

 

What did others think of A Discovery of Witches?

  • “Academia meets magic! The world is full of research musty books and cutting edge research as well as a richly told world of magic and secrets.” – 4/5 – Ellie of Curiosity Killed the Bookworm
  • “There’s a little something for everyone: magic, history, science, ethics, mystery, romance, action… you get the picture.” – 4.5/5 – Sarah of Sarah Says Read
  • “There was just way too much detail about Dianna’s job in alchemy, and about Dianna going through old manuscripts, and about Dianna talking a lot about history and discussing why she doesn’t use her powers. ” – 2/5 – Mindy of Magical Urban Fantasy Reads

 

Review and Giveaway: Stormdancer, Jay Kristoff

Title: Stormdancer (Goodreads)

Author:  Jay Kristoff (@misterkristoff)

Rating: ★★★★★

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

Details

Series: The Lotus War #1
Genre: YA Fantasy, “Japanese Steampunk”
Published: Pan Macmillan Australia, September 1, 2012; TOR UK September 13 and St. Martin’s Press (US) on September 18.
Pages: 450
My copy: ARC from Pan Macmillan Aus and an e-ARC from St Martin’s Press via Netgalley, thanks!

Pre-order Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
Pre-order E-book copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

I’d been looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Stormdancer for a while now, and the growing buzz around the blogs and social sites has only been adding to the hype. You know all those bloggers gushing over how much they love this book? I am totally about to join their ranks.

US cover

The land of Shima is choking under the Imperial need for the Blood Lotus plant, both as a fuel and an intoxicant that most of the population are addicted to. The Shogun sends out his most famous hunter, Masaru, along with his party and young daughter Yukiko on a perilous mission – to capture a thunder tiger, an arashitora. When their airship crashes during a storm over the mountains, Yukiko forms a strange bond with their captured thunder tiger. Together they learn the meaning of sacrifice for a greater good, as they do what they can to try to bring the Shogun’s destructive rule to an end.

The world that Jay Kristoff has created in Stormdancer is so richly detailed that it felt like the descriptions were projecting right out of the pages in all their beauty or horror. The story is a delight to read, painting vivid pictures of Shima, the Iishi Mountains and the city with its opulent palace.

It’s not just the settings that are amazing though – I was a little overwhelmed by all the descriptions of types of weapons and arrangements of clothing that are included in the story. I’m really not familiar with many aspects of feudal Japanese society or Samurai weaponry, but there’s a helpful glossary at the back to help you tell your Nagamaki from your Tanto. The chi-powered suits worn by the councilmen and all the other steampunk-ish touches were quite fascinating as well.

The relationship between Yukiko and Buruu is just gorgeous – I loved how it developed from deep fury and distrust into true friendship and more. Those two are really the highlight of this story to me – I can’t wait until the next book so we get to hear more of their banter and Buruu’s shrewd insights.

The supporting characters are also fantastic! I loved the banter between Masaru, Kasumi and Akihito. I was a little wary of the Kagé sympathisers in the palace though – I kept expecting them to turn out to be working for the Shogun all along.

As it’s known that Jay is not a fan of happy endings, he does like to heart out your heart and break it into many pieces – be careful where you read this, the lunch room at work is no place for sobbing!

Thankfully there’s no huge cliffhanger in this book – I just need to read what’s going to happen next in the story! Fans of Fantasy, Steampunk and/or Anime, get your hands on Stormdancer as soon as you can!

Warnings: A couple of sexual references. Plenty of violence. Some swearing.

Need more Jay Kristoff?

 


Giveaway

I enjoyed this book so much that I want to share the awesomeness by giving away a copy. Even though Stormdancer will be available in Australia on September 1, Book Depository is releasing on the UK date of September 13th so the prize will be a pre-ordered paperback copy of Stormdancer, to be shipped from The Book Depository on September 13. I’m not a huge fan of jumping through giveaway hoops but there will be a couple of extra entries for helping to spread the word. Good luck!

Details:

  • The giveaway is open internationally, as long as the Book Depository ships to your country (go here to check).
  • The giveaway will run until midnight on September 3.
  • The winner will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: India Black, Carol K. Carr

Title: India Black (Goodreads)

Author:  Carol K. Carr

Rating: ★★★★☆

When Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, Madam India Black is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried.

Blackmailed into recovering the missing documents by the British spy known as French, India finds herself dodging Russian agents-and the attraction she starts to feel for the handsome conspirator.

Details

Series: Madam of Espionage #1 of 3
Genre: Historical, Spies
Published: Berkley Trade, January 2011
Pages (Hardcover): 296

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

India Black is the first book our shiny new book club decided to read, and wow, what an opener! This review is a little about what I thought of the book, and a little about the group’s opinions from last night.

India Black is the proprietor of Lotus House, an establishment in Victorian London. In other words, she’s a retired bint, now the abbess of an upmarket brothel of which she is immensely proud. When one of the regular customers dies at the house and important government documents go missing from his possession, India is drawn into a dangerous ring of spies in order to recover the documents for Prime Minister Disraeli (whom she likes to refer to as “Dizzy”).

The chase leads India and the inscrutable English spy, French, into the Russian Embassy, swanky London hotels and eventually across-country and across the Channel!

Not only was this rather saucy story about whores and spies, but India herself is a delight to read about – a very strong, snarky and rather bitchy character. She’s grumpy a lot of the time but extremely determined. She doesn’t think much about the well-being of others. Her real draw, however, is her very dry wit. She made me laugh on several occasions, while also wincing at her treatment of Vincent the urchin boy and some of the girls in her employ.

In general we felt that the characters were a little one-dimensional – although showing snatches of interesting histories, there really wasn’t any back-story told about India or any of the supporting characters. The mention of romance in the blurb might as well have not been there – there are hints of a romance but barely any action. Perhaps in the future adventures.

The chase for the Government documents is a fast-paced cat and mouse, with the English and Russian sides passing the spoils back and forth several times in increasingly desperate circumstances. By the end of the book I thought the chase was starting to draw out a little, but it wrapped up rather nicely.

I found that India Black was a very enjoyable read. In general the book club decided it wasn’t a waste of our time (although not everyone felt that way!) and it was an easy and entertaining read.

Warnings: Plenty of sexual references. Violence.

The Madam of Espionage Series

  1. India Black
  2. India Black and the Widow of Windsor (2011)
  3. India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy (expected 2013)

Review: Seraphina, Rachel Hartman

Title: Seraphina (Goodreads)

Author:  Rachel Hartman (@_rachelhartman)

Rating: ★★★★★

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Details

Series: Seraphina #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: Random House Books for Young Readers, July 10, 2012.
Pages (Hardcover): 467
My copy: From Random House via Netgalley, thanks!

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

When I first heard that Seraphina was a YA fantasy about dragons, I knew I had to get a hold of it. I didn’t realise that on top of that, Seraphina herself is a gifted musician and assistant to the court Composer! As a lover of dragons, music (sometimes I make it too!) and romance in my fantasy, I was in absolute heaven reading this book.

Seraphina is certainly one of the most eccentric books I’ve read recently. It is set in such a complex world, peopled with several nations worth of humans plus, of course, the dragons. The religion of this world is quite complex as well, with an enormous pantheon of saints available to swear by. There is so much going on, in fact, that the first few chapters are quite slow to get going as we learn about this world and the relationship between the humans and dragons. I’ll admit I started to get a little lost around the time she started wandering through her mental garden. Fortunately things start to pick up as soon as Seraphina gets involved in solving the Prince’s murder, and don’t let up until the end.

Seraphina herself is a rather tortured individual, being a despised dragon-human half-breed. She and her father keep this fact very secret and because of this, she is very lonely, sees visions in her head and seems to be generally grumpy most of the time. It’s actually quite refreshing to see such a non-perfect heroine and her growth during the course of the story is delightful, as she learns more about her mother and the sacrifices she made.

Kiggs, Princess Glisselda and each of the other supporting characters are gorgeous and well-written. The dragons are especially interesting – they take human form in order to communicate with humans, but human emotions are viciously suppressed and so are completely misunderstood when they actually do begin to feel them.

Rachel Hartman has certainly created a beautifully told story that is a delight to read. The complexity of the world may be too much for some, but if you like your fantasy fairly light, witty and full of dragons, get a hold of Seraphina!

Warnings: None, it’s squeaky clean.

Did you know that there’s a free prequel available for Seraphina? It’s called The Audition (Goodreads) and is available on Scribd! It’s only 17 pages long so make sure to check it out!

What did others think of Seraphina?

  • “I have read quite a few stunning Young Adult fantasy novels this year and Seraphina is definitely another one to add to the recommend list. ” – 4/5 – Phillipa of Tea, Daydreams & Fairytales
  • “The imagery alone was breath-takingly beau­ti­ful. The prose were pol­ished and ele­gant. It was a plea­sure to read.” – 5/5 – Kat of Cuddlebuggery
  • “This dazzling debut has everything I love about the Fantasy genre; it features heartwarming characters, is set in a vivid new world (with dragons!) and deals with conflicts that I could immediately relate to. ” – Speculating on SpecFic

 

Review and Giveaway: The White Thread, K.B. Hoyle

Title: The White Thread (Goodreads)

Author:  K.B. Hoyle (@kbhoyle_author)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Darcy’s return to Cedar Cove Family Camp is marked by a mysterious disappearance, and in Alitheia a new message from the Oracle adds to the riddles that must be deciphered if they are to expel the dark evil that hovers over the land. The six friends and the alchemist Rubidius plan a sea journey that will take them beyond the borders of Alitheia, and into the realm of a legendary archipelago. Tellius winds up joining them as well and the foes they meet along the way are both deceptive and charming, while the Oracle’s riddles seem to dog them at every turn. 

Darcy is also hiding a secret from her best friend Sam that could test their friendship beyond the breaking point, and there’s an unexpected development in her relationship with Tellius that changes everything and makes her understand that the deepest scars sometimes cannot be seen.

Darcy isn’t sure if she’s prepared for another meeting with the Oracle, but if she wants to have any chance of saving her friend, she must try. To complicate matters, the evil they left behind in Alitheia has not remained dormant.


Details

Series: The Gateway Chronicles #3
Genre: Teen/YA Fantasy
Published: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, August 16, 2012
My copy: From Netgalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Writer’s Coffee Shop
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Writer’s Coffee Shop

Review

Please note: The White Thread is the third in the series so this review may contain spoilers for earlier books. You’re welcome to check out my reviews for The Six and The Oracle first, if you’re interested! These two books are on sale for Kindle during August – just $1.99 each!

The Six teenagers are now fifteen and head back to Cedar Cove for summer camp. This year things are slightly more tense in Alitheia as the population start becoming displeased with the lack of progress against the dark forces of Tselloch. The group doesn’t get to do anything about it though, as they are all swept off on a rescue mission to liberate the Nark, Yahto Veli, from the Oracle. A sea journey, mysterious islands and evil gods are just some of the obstacles to content with, not to mention new riddles from the Oracle itself.

I am a little conflicted with this book. You know how sometimes, in big fantasy series, you read a whole book and feel that nothing much has happened with the main storyline? I felt a little that way with The White Thread. I’ve loved the three books in this series so far and I’ve loved the character and relationship developments in each story, but I was a little disappointed that there was no actual visible progress against Tselloch’s forces during this year.

That’s not to say this isn’t a great instalment in the tale! The adventures are still exciting and very well told, and I enjoyed the budding romances within the group of teenagers. I really love the interactions between characters – they seem very realistic to me which makes the story very enjoyable to read. K.B. Hoyle has continued to write what she started with The Six and The Oracle – an action-packed story with plenty of fantasy elements both familiar and imaginatively new.

The White Thread is the Darcy Show – she solves all the riddles herself and saves the group’s lives on more than one occasion, occasionally with a bit of help from Tellius. I suppose this is part of her growing sense of responsibility and of settling into her role in Alitheria but I hope that in coming stories we get to see the rest of the Six taking a greater part.

The ending felt a little rushed and then left on a cliff-hanger – I really hope the next book isn’t far away because I’m anxious to find out what has happened now!

Overall, The White Thread is a solid and enjoyable addition to the Gateway Chronicles, even if the main storyline was not visibly progressed. Fans of teen Fantasy, get a hold of this series! You won’t regret it!

Warnings: Some grisly scenes but otherwise squeaky clean.

Giveaway

The Writer’s Coffee Shop is offering an e-book copy of The White Thread to give away. You can enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

Don’t forget, books one and two of the Gateway Chronicles series, The Six and The Oracle, are on sale for Kindle during August!

Details:

  • The giveaway is open internationally, as long as you can accept an e-book (there are apps for Kindle available for most devices so don’t worry if you don’t have one at all!)
  • The giveaway will run until August 22.
  • The winner will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Glitch, Heather Anastasiu

Title: Glitch (Goodreads)

Author:  Heather Anastasiu (@h_anastasiu)

Rating: ★★★★☆

In the Community, there is no more pain or war. Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network.

When Zoe starts to malfunction (or “glitch”), she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. Any anomalies must be immediately reported and repaired, but Zoe has a secret so dark it will mean certain deactivation if she is caught: her glitches have given her uncontrollable telekinetic powers.

Details

Series: Glitch #1 of 3
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Published: St Martin’s Press, August 7, 2012
Pages (paperback): 371
My copy: From Netgalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: (Not available for Kindle at this time) • Barnes & Noble

Review

The Community lives underground. Each person is implanted with a V-chip in their brain to control their thoughts and keep the Community the haven of Peace and Harmony, but the chips also prevent subjects from feeling emotions and seeing beauty or horror in their world.

Some young people’s brains have started rejecting the V-chip and its information-feeding Link – the glitchers. Zoel has just started glitching and is terrified to experience emotions for the first time. When she is taken in for diagnostics for her anomalous behaviour, a strange boy, Adrien, busts her out and they escape to the surface of the Earth. There Zoel (now called Zoe) learns about the Resistance and the way the subjects of the Community are controlled.

There are a lot of negative reviews for Glitch around the place at the moment, but I have to say that I really quite enjoyed it. Sure, it’s got insta-love, it’s got slighty wince-worthy invented swear words and I didn’t really enjoy the “back to square one” approach after Zoe’s trip to the surface, but at its heart is a very enjoyable debut.

Zoe is described in quite a few reviews as a “Mary-Sue” – that is, a character without any flaws, who is inherently boring and unrealistic. I’m not sure I agree in this case. When she starts glitching, Zoe experiences a lot of emotions for the first time, and that is sure to be confusing and scary. After she decides not to report herself to the Regulators, she spends a lot of time hiding and generally whining about the state of things. Considering she also has to deal with the advances of Max, who is also glitching and experiencing the overwhelming feelings of a teenage boy for the first time, she did pretty well not to turn into a screaming mess more often. Not every character has to be a strong kick-arse female lead! In fact, I felt that towards the end of the book she was starting to take charge of situations and I hope the next book will see quite a different Zoe.

I thought the society of the Community was described quite well by the end, but we are still left with little information about the way the rest of the world’s society works in this future world. The “Resistance” is hardly mentioned at all and the “Uppers” and others in charge of the Community remain shadowy figures. Where are the rest of the world’s population? I’m hoping the above-ground world will be more fully explored in the future books.

The made-up swear words made me cringe a little – it seems like the author wanted to make Adrien a little more edgy by making him swear, which is fine, but without using our modern swear words to make the book more appealing to young people. I don’t see the point – surely if our current batch of swear words have been around for hundreds of years, why shouldn’t they survive to this future time? I just thought it was a little unnecessary.

The insta-love was disappointing. Adrien basically says, “I just met you, and this is crazy…” and then goes in for the kiss, and Zoe is okay with it. It’s true that at that point she doesn’t really know what kissing or love is, and Adrien has been falling in love with her in his visions for a while already, but it’s all a little too fast. I did think, however, that the discovery of emotions by both Zoe and Max was really well described and occasionally funny. Poor Max! With all those teenage emotions suddenly flowing, it’s a shame that he ended up being the abusive and jealous type of guy. Zoe has no idea how to deal with him, and ends up feeling confused and guilty. I just wanted to give her a hug in a few points, and a slap in a few others.

The action scenes are very exciting and I wished there were more of them rather than so many secretive character-relationship scenes, but the story moved along fast enough to keep me reading way past my bedtime.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Glitch and will be looking out for the next in the series, Override. If you loved other sci-fi romances such as Across the Universe then give Glitch a try.

Warnings: Violence, sexual references

What did others think of Glitch?

  • “Although the concepts were fascinating enough, it was difficult to give this story the interest it needed. ” – 2/5 – Sam of Realm of Fiction
  • Glitch had a few glitches of its own, but it does make for an interesting tale with an interesting take on the world when technology decides to really take over our lives.” – Courtney of Rondo of a Possible World
  • “This series has so much more potential with Zoe’s growing powers. I can’t wait for the next book! ” – 3.5/5 – Reading by Kindle Fire

 

Review: Legends of Australian Fantasy

Title: Legends of Australian Fantasy (Goodreads)

Editors:  Jack Dann and Jonathan Strahan

Rating: ★★★★☆

Celebrate the legends of Australian fantasy. Extraordinary voices … extraordinary worlds.

Come to Erith, to a faerie tale with a sting, or to Obernewtyn, long before the Seeker was born. Revisit a dark pocket of history for the Magician′s Guild or get caught up in the confusion of an endlessly repeating day in the Citadel. Cross the wall, where Charter magic is all that lies between you and death. A trip with a graverobber can be gruesome, and it′s hard to share the fear of a woman who must kill her husband if her child is to rule …

Details

Series: Stand alone anthology of short stories
Genre: Fantasy
Published: Harper Voyager, 2010
Pages (paperback): 560

Paper copies: Booktopia • The Nile
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

I borrowed Legends of Australian Fantasy from the library expecting it to be a quick read of a few short stories to go towards the Aussie Fantasy month – how wrong I was! At 560 pages, this tome would be a decently-sized full novel. Add the time it takes to actually get into each story and it took me a lot longer to read than I had anticipated.

That aside, I loved the stories from the authors I knew and also really enjoyed discovering some new authors to add to my lists. If you’re a fan of any of the series mentioned in Legends of Australian Fantasy, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book.

Reviewing an anthology is quite tricky, but I’ll list the stories contained in this volume and add a few comments about each.

Garth Nix, To Hold the Bridge: An Old Kingdom Story

A young man, alone in the world and with nothing of value save a share of the Bridge Company building an enormous bridge over the Greenwash to facilitate trade. He approaches the masters of the bridge to become a cadet in the Company and begins his training, but soon has to face a much greater threat than he could have imagined.

What a great opening to this collection! This story starts out gently enough, but the action hits hard when it arrives. I loved this story! I must go back and re-read the Abhorsen series so that I can remember more about the magic system and the world of the Old Kingdom.

Also by Garth Nix: Mister Monday

Trudi Canavan, The Mad Apprentice: A Black Magician Story

A story of the black magician Tagin and his sister Indra, this tale shows how nasty black magic can be. I enjoyed this story even though it was a bit grisly. Trudi Canavan’s Magician books have been on my list for a while and this has made me want to get to them soon.

Juliet Marillier, ‘Twixt Firelight and Water: A Tale of Sevenwaters

Set in the world of the Sevenwaters series, this is a story about the love affair between Conri and Lóch, a curse, and how the curse was broken. Juliet Marillier has such a beautiful storytelling style that this story was a joy to read.

This book is also available as a separate novella: Goodreads • Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk

Also by Juliet Marillier: Shadowfell

Isobelle Carmody, The Dark Road: An Obernewtyn Story

This story may be rather incomprehensible to those who haven’t read almost all of the existing Obernewtyn books. It deals with Hannah, her daughter (also called Hannah), Cassandra and Evander and the combined quest to prepare everything for the Seeker. If you are already a fan of Obernewtyn, this story gives an interesting look into the time soon after the Great White, when the mountains were still poisoned and Obernewtyn a ruin.

Kim Wilkins, Crown of Rowan: A Tale of Thyrsland

The Queen Rose is pregnant, but her husband the King is not the father. This is quite an emotional story about keeping secrets, duty and honour.

Sean Williams, The Spark (A Romance in Four Acts): A Tale of the Change

Aditi is finally close to tracking down the man she swore to marry, Roslin. When she finds him comatose in a doss-house, she must pull all strings to try to get his mind back from the void.

I really enjoyed this story of love, loss and loyalty. I’ll certainly be looking up more of Sean Williams’ work in the future!

D.M. Cornish, The Corsers’ Hinge: A Lamplighter Tale

A Sherlock Holmes style mystery and a sinister Corser going about his work of collecting body parts, all set in the world of the Half-Continent.

Set in the world of Monster Blood Tattoo, this story might be a little confusing to those who haven’t read the series. There’s plenty of the terminology that makes the MBT series so brilliant, but here it’s not explained. Don’t let that stop you reading this story and falling in love with D.M. Cornish’s beautiful storytelling style.

Also by D.M. Cornish: Foundling

Ian Irvine, Tribute to Hell: A Tale of the Tainted Realm

Something is not right with the world. Depravity is rife in the population and the Gods seem to be failing. A young novice must try to stop a terrible act that could bring about the ending of the world, but can she make a deal between Gods to stop the destruction?

This story was exciting and certainly action-packed, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other Ian Irvine book I’ve read. This world is the setting for the new series Ian is working on, and it sounds promising.

This book is also available as a separate novella: Goodreads • Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk

Also by Ian Irvine: A Shadow on the Glass

John Birmingham, A Captain of the Gate

This story is a snippet of an alternate history of the Cold War, but it specifically deals with the invasion of Japan during the Second World War. I’ll admit skipping over this story because it’s quite gruesome and I’m not a big fan of modern war stories.

Jennifer Fallon, The Magic Word

Adrina is confused. Why does it feel like she has fed the same sparrow every morning for years now? When will her baby finally arrive? It feels like she has been pregnant forever.

This is a fun and light-hearted look at what story characters might get up to while the author is occupied with other projects. I really enjoyed Jennifer Fallon’s writing style, even if I found the story a little too whimsical. I’ll definitely be seeking out her books soon.

This book is also available as a separate novella: Goodreads • Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk

Also by Jennifer Fallon: The Undivided

Cecilia Dart-Thornton, The Enchanted: A Tale of Erith

I loved the world of Erith from Cecilia Dart-Thornton’s Bitterbynde series, so I was excited to get back to the world of unseelie wights, the Shang winds and the Dainaan. This story is a bit different – almost like an Austen-esque romance, with misunderstandings and whispering servants at every turn. This curious combination of styles worked quite well though, and made for an exciting final story in this collection.

Warnings: Some violence, sexual references and a bit grisly at times.

Review: Throne of Glass, Sarah J Maas

Title: Throne of Glass (Goodreads)

Author:  Sarah J Maas (@sjmaas)

Rating: ★★★★★

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

Details

Series: Throne of Glass #1 of ? (there are also four prequel novellas)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: Bloomsbury, August 2, 2012 (August 7 in the USA)
Pages (paperback): 404
My copy: From Netgalley, and from a Bloomsbury ANZ giveaway, thanks!

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.ukBook Depository • Booktopia
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

Celaena Sardothien, or Adarlan’s Assassin as she’s infamously known, is offered a deal – take part in a competition against other thieves and brutes for the position of King’s Champion. If she wins, she’ll be granted her freedom from the Salt Mines where she has been enslaved for the past year.

Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Guard, takes her for training on behalf of her sponsor, the Crown Prince Dorian. As the competition begins to heat up, one by one, the champions are discovered horribly murdered by a vicious beast in the deserted corridors of the castle.

US Cover

Where to begin? I loved reading this book. I didn’t want it to end – I was completely caught up in the story and hated having to put the book down! It was partially the romantic aspects of the story that were keeping me reading, but also the exuberance with which Celaena jumps into any challenge coming in her direction – and the the challenges do come, thick and fast.

Throne of Glass is certainly not the “Game of Thrones for YA readers” that I had heard about – it’s a light and enjoyable read, despite its 400-odd pages. Early on while the competition was getting under way, it seemed almost like a fantasy Big-Brother-style elimination with one competitor leaving after each test, but the story didn’t deal very much at all with the actual competition. The relationships between the competitors, the strange magic symbols appearing around the castle, the mysterious murders of the champions and the court intrigue with the King, Duke Perrington and the Lady Kaltain provided most of the suspense.

The story is supposedly based on Cinderella, but apart from the part when they all go to the ball, I must admit I don’t see any similarities. If anyone can enlighten me here, please do!

Celaena is completely adorable. At first she comes across as quite arrogant and selfish (actually that feeling never really goes away), but as the story progresses she shows much more of her vulnerable, girlish side hidden under the prickly exterior.

As with so many young adult books, there is a love triangle of sorts. In this case, it was quite delicious and I enjoyed the swoony romantic scenes, even if they were a little shallow and eyeroll-worthy at times. I know this is aimed at a younger audience and all, but I didn’t feel the story would have been hurt by perhaps Celaena actually spending a night with the Prince. They are adults, after all! What is it with all these lovely honourable men in books these days?

Throne of Glass is a brilliant debut and I am dying to read the next in the series already to find out where Celaena’s adventures take her next! Get your copy as soon as you can. There’s a handsome prince. And puppies. Did I mention the kick-arse heroine?

If you’d like to read one of the prequel novellas for free, Sugarscape still has The Assassin and the Empire up for a limited time! The other three novellas are available on Amazon but sadly, not in Australia 🙁

Warnings: Quite a bit of violence.

What did others think of Throne of Glass?

  • “So much creativity, imagination and love has gone into this novel. That is crystal clear.” – Hannah of Once Upon a Time
  • “This was a wonderful fantasy story. I enjoyed it immensely and Celaena is a fantastic heroine and role model for a Young Adult crowd.” – 5/5 – Philippa of Tea, Daydreams & Fairytales
  • “While the synopsis may come off feeling a little Hunger Game-esque, let me calm your fears now. It’s not. ” – 3/5 – Stephanie of Cuddlebuggery

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: