Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders


5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

A tale of magic versus science, All the Birds in the Sky had me gripped from the very first page. It was a truly enchanting story, all the more wonderful for going in pretty much unaware of the plot, or anything about the book (apart from the pretty cover).

There was something really wonderful about Charlie Jane Anders’ writing. She added in all these unnecessary details, so small and yet they made the story all the more intriguing, the world all the more vivid. I have previously spoken about how I like magic systems that require some sort of sacrifice, rather than just saying some words or waving a wand and casting a spell, but here this system seemed to work quite well. Patricia’s magic required no sacrifice, but that felt natural. I felt that the book would not have benefited from an explanation of how the magic worked – it would have just distracted away from the story.

Although All the Birds in the Sky did lose its wind a bit in the last quarter or so, I was gripped throughout almost the entire story. It was a truly lovely story of two ‘weirdos’ who come together, united by their social awkwardness and alternative interests. As you can see by how short this review is, I just don’t feel I can truly tell you how wonderful this was – so go out and read it yourself!


#ReadGoldenSon: Review of Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown


5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

When I mark a book as ‘read’ on Goodreads and I’m planning on eventually posting a review, I often like to leave a reaction GIF as a placeholder. This was said GIF for Golden Son:

shocked gif

Thank you, Emma Stone, for so accurately portraying my feelings at the end of this book. That GIF will remain alongside my review, because as they say, a picture (or GIF, in this case) paints a thousand words.

Golden Son was pretty much everything I wanted and expected from Pierce Brown, after the absolute wonder that was Red Rising. However, it was so, so much more brutal than the first book, but that’s what it needed. As the stakes rose, as Darrow’s task grew more and more dangerous and he grew more determined, there needed to be an element to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Brown pulls it off for sure, with this violent and shocking addition to the series that kept me reading and gasping at each twist and turn.

Occasionally, I felt a little bit lost by the (seemingly) endless names, so thank goodness for the character list at the beginning of the book! Whilst I would have enjoyed a bit more about Darrow’s time at the Academy – the book skips a year or so, to move things forward, and I would have liked that element of development, there is really not much else I can fault about Golden Son. The events suddenly felt so much more ‘real’; Darrow was no longer in the confines of his education and training, but out in the ‘real world’. This time, it felt personal.

With a lot more politics this time round, Golden Son had less of the action than Red Rising, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in it. There were so many reveals and surprises, so much going on. And that cliffhanger. Oh… help. I mean, I’m frustrated about having to wait the couple of months between reading Golden Son and the release of the next book, Morning Star, so I feel very sorry for the people who read Golden Son as soon as it came out, and have had that horrendous wait in between (not long to go now!).

Whatever happens in Morning Star, I feel it is going to be even more brutal, even more heartbreaking, and even more astounding than the events of Golden Son. And that is definitely something I do not want to miss.


This review is part of the #ReadGoldenSon readalong hosted by Hodder, in preparation for the release of Morning Star.

Golden Son


Review: The Empress Game (The Empress Game #1) by Rhonda Mason


5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Lately, I’ve had this really bad habit of receiving fantastic looking books, making plans to read them as soon as possible, and then ignoring said plans. And almost every single time, when I finally get round to the books, I wonder why it took me so long. The Empress Game was another fine example of this.

The focus of the story is the Empress Game itself, but it was so much more than that. The titular event sees all eligible young ladies – ladies of nobility – fight in arena matches in order to win the position of Empress Apparent. These are not matches to the death, but they can be brutal all the same, and it was interesting to see a society (or societies, rather) where the nobility, particular female nobility, were trained in such combat. It is an interesting way of choosing the right person for such a position, and whilst the reason why is never fully explained, one can imagine the kind of person it would produce: ruthless and ready to make the tough decisions that come with ruling.

Kayla is selected to take part in the Empress Game, not as herself but fighting as Princess Isonde, a fair claimant to the position with moralistic ideals, but sadly lacking the combat skills to prove herself worthy. Wearing a hologram, and with the help of some biometric/technological alterations, Kayla is able to take part in the Game. As the story progresses, the reader learns more about Kayla herself, her reasons for hiding, the history of her people and the future that may come to pass. What originally seemed like a book about fighting for the position of Empress soon turned into a book about fighting for what was right.

As for Kayla herself, I really liked her. At first she is very suspicious of those who employ her services, and she sees Princess Isonde as a total snob. Her fierceness covers up a hidden past, and her protectiveness of her younger brother Corinth is admirable. Soon, she begins to warm up, and even starts making friends. Isonde herself is shown to be a good person, not just someone who wants a powerful position for the sake of it. And Malkor, the agent that finds Kayla in the first place, provides support and friendship for Kayla.

A good chunk of the book is Kayla working through arena matches (within the Empress Game there are thousands). Mason manages to keep up the interest throughout, even whilst Kayla is just fighting as a day-to-day activity. The action and fight scenes were wonderfully written, with each movement feeling so fluid and easily to visualise.

There were a few little issues with the book: the conclusion was over too quickly in my opinion, although it did have its tense moments, and the romance was rather predictable. I do also worry that the title/parts of the blurb will make people think the story is something like The Hunger Games, with a fight to the death, last one alive pronounced the victor. However, let me assure you that The Empress Game is nothing like that at all. It turned out to be a fantastic read and I’m so excited to find out what happens in the second book. Whilst it feels like a classic space opera, it is also not too ‘heavy’, making it a great read for all types of science fiction fans. Whether you’ve just started reading the genre or you’re a hardcore fan, The Empress Game comes highly recommended.

Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Review of Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown


This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.


5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Red Rising. Red Rising. Why did I take so long to get to you?? Chosen as the Science Fiction Book of the Month by my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks, this had actually been sat on my Kindle for months. Despite having heard some really wonderful things about it – which I now completely understand – its nomination as Book of the Month was what finally pushed me into reading it.

The opening gripped me straight away, introducing the reader to Darrow’s world. It is a dark, grimy world, with only a faint glimmer of hope. The people of this world work hard to terraform Mars, so that in the future their descendants can live normal lives on the red planet. Yet soon, Darrow discovers that everything he and his people have worked for is a lie – Mars is already terraformed. The Reds, as his people are known, are being used as slaves, tricked into thinking they are making a contribution to society, and other higher social groups benefit from their work. Darrow becomes involved with a group of rebels, and must disguise himself as a Gold, the highest of the groups, in order to infiltrate the system. To do this, he gains a place at their military academy, and what followed felt almost like a feudal setting on another planet: groups of teenagers vying for power and territory.

One thing that really struck me about this book was the relationships and character development. In a book that is very brutal and sometimes shocking in its portrayal of a society and human nature, there were also some tender moments. Darrow’s relationship with his wife, Eo, was wonderful. Having known each other since they were small children, their relationship is a close one and felt so genuine, nothing like many teenage relationships in books. This may also be a byproduct of Darrow’s society throwing children into adulthood too early.

Additionally, Darrow’s character progression was fantastic. The reader follows his journey from a courageous but perhaps reckless Red to a focused and determined Gold. He keeps to his roots, but on the way he develops so much. One scene that really stood out to me showed what Darrow could become if he really immersed himself into the Gold way of life, and demonstrated the stark contrast between the social groups. Although he becomes a Gold on the outside, he never really forgets why he is there, remaining a Red within.

The action slowed down a little towards the middle, but this doesn’t mean nothing happened. Darrow and his house prepared themselves for battle, allegiances were forged and shattered, friendships built and destroyed, enemies made and truths revealed. I finished this book in a matter of days – carrying my Kindle with me everywhere I went, reading it at every spare moment. Red Rising is an absolute must read for science fiction fans, but I would also highly recommend it to those who are new to the genre. I cannot WAIT to read the sequel, Golden Son!


Review: Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan


5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Yet again, I have found a book that I really wish I had picked up earlier.

Thief’s Magic had been sat on my Kindle for a while, one of my many Netgalley requests from when I was still really getting to grips with the whole system (i.e. not thinking through what I could read and when…). Unlike some of these requests, it was one that I knew I’d get around to – the question was just when.

A story that features archaeology? Check. A setting that includes a magical school/university? Check. Those are pretty much the two main factors that drew me to this one, and although the archaeology element is very minor, it was a good way to set up the story and introduce the reader to Tyen and Vella. Thief’s Magic is, at its current place in the series, more like two separate stories that do not really meet, but sooner or later you know they will. Although the two points of view did not combine as I hoped, they showed two very different worlds in which magic is seen and treated in two very different ways. In Tyen’s world, magic keeps things running – literally. It pretty much does the job of electricity in our own world. It is not seen as a negative thing. In contrast, Rielle’s world sees magic as something only Angels, and their priests, can use. If anyone else uses magic, they are seen as ‘stealing’ from the angels, and are punished.

However, in both worlds the use of magic has a similar result – a black cloud or void in the area where the magic was used, the size of the cloud depending on the strength of the magic. In Rielle’s world it is known as the ‘Stain’, reflecting the negative associations with magic, whereas in Tyen’s it is just referred to as ‘Soot’, a byproduct of industry. I personally enjoy magic systems where the use of magic demands a sacrifice of some kind, such as in The Name of the Wind. Whilst the magic in Thief’s Magic did not, I have a feeling that something will come into play later on in the series that reveals what the ‘Stain’ or ‘Soot’ actually is, and it won’t be a good thing.

Whilst at the beginning of the book I much preferred Tyen’s chapters, Rielle’s really started to pick up later on, and I was just as happy to read either point of view. Tyen’s world had a sort of fantasy-steampunk feel to it, whilst Rielle’s felt more like a ‘traditional’ fantasy world. From Tyen’s chapters especially I got a real sense of exploration and adventure, and overall found Thief’s Magic to be an extremely fun read. It made me feel as though I hadn’t read a good old fashioned fantasy adventure novel in a while, and I was glad to amend that.

Strangely enough, it seems I actually picked the right time to read this – the second book in the series is due to be published next month. I will definitely be looking out for it!


Review: Armada by Ernest Cline


5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I had been waiting for Armada to be published from the moment I finished Ready Player One back in 2013. Despite my attempts to stop requesting ARCs on Netgalley until I raised my ratio, I just couldn’t stop myself when I saw Armada.

It was everything I wanted, and expected, from Ernest Cline. Pop culture references galore, every one relevant. A fantastic sense of humour. Fast-paced action. And video games – I can’t seem to get enough of books about or that involve video games. When the book opens we are introduced to Zack, an apparently ordinary teenager, living with his mum in a small town in Oregon. He daydreams through his classes and spends his free time playing an online game, called Armada with his two best friends. Soon we learn more – Zack has quite a temper on him, and he never quite got over the death of his father when he was only one year old. His father was a huge fan of science fiction – video games, films, books – and Zack has inherited this passion, along with his father’s collection, including his journals. Journals which detail conspiracy theories on how the government are using video games to train people for extraterrestrial combat, Ender’s Game style.

It turns out that Zack’s father was right, and Zack soon finds himself enlisted in the Earth Defense Alliance. This happens early on in the book, and from there on out Armada is an incredibly fast-paced and action-packed story. To me, this story did not feel as ‘big’ as Ready Player One, in that the reader only gets to see a few locations. However, this did not detract from my immersion into the plot, and I was cheering every character along every step of the way. Cline’s writing meant I could easily visualise each action scene as it happened.

With references from Star Trek to The Lord of the Rings, plus more subtle ones to games such as Portal, as well as ‘appearances’ from famous scientists, Armada will draw readers in with its link to our very own lives. Armada is, ultimately, a love letter to old school alien invasion sci-fi that also pokes some fun at the genre, one that many sci-fi fans will find themselves equally as in love with. Highly, HIGHLY recommended for all fans of Cline’s previous novel, Ready Player One, as well as any classic science fiction fan.

Throughout the book, Zack refers to his father’s ‘Raid the Arcade’ playlist, which he uses for gaming. I have recreated this playlist on Spotify, although sadly without the AC/DC tracks which aren’t on there.

My review of Armada is quoted in the UK paperback!




Review: Time Salvager (Time Salvager #1) by Wesley Chu


5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

How do I review Time Salvager? Well I know there’s one thing I can say: this book swept me away, completely and utterly.

The basic premise is that, by the 26th century, the Earth is toxic, a wasteland. Thanks to humanity, it has been pretty much destroyed. Within this future is a company called ChronoCom, who employs ‘Chronmen’. These Chronmen travel back in time in order to retrieve important things – technology, documents, natural resources – but never people. That is, until the protagonist James decides to rescue a scientist from an exploding research base, bringing her from the 21st century to the 26th. That’s when things get messy.

Elise, the scientist that James brings back with him, is ripped from a time where mankind is finally fighting its wrongs – with peace, medicine, etc – and placed in one that feels like it could almost be the past, not the future. The Earth she knows and loves has been ravaged, and is now covered in pollution and smog. I really liked Elise, she was intelligent and quickly adjusted to this new time period. She was a wonderful contrast to James. And speaking of James, it was nice to have a flawed protagonist. No-one is perfect.

From the very first page, I was gripped. I’m a big fan of time travel in books, film and television, especially when it involves travelling BACK in time, rather than just forward. Sometimes it’s hard to pull off. Sometimes the author feels the need to overexplain. Chu doesn’t explain one bit how time travel works in this universe, and to me, that didn’t matter. Everything felt so established: ChronoCom, the Time Laws, James’ slow spiral downwards, that I didn’t really feel a need to know how the time travel worked. It just did.

This was a book that made me want to do nothing but sit down and read it for long periods of time, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt like that, thanks to my studies. The last few chapters were incredibly tense, and the ending was very open, allowing the reader to make their mind up about what happened.

Time Salvager feels like the sort of science fiction I’ve been yearning for. To me, it is on par with greats such as Hyperion and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It’s clever, it’s fast, it’s action-packed, but it also carries a message. And most of all: it is DEFINITELY worth your time.

Also, below you can find a sample of the Time Salvager audiobook!


Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab


5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I still have yet to read Vicious by V.E. Schwab, but when I heard about A Darker Shade of Magic I knew this was one I had to read, so imagine my delight when I was offered a copy by Titan Books! Plus those covers… I could stare at them all day.

I really love the concept of different versions of our own world, filled with magic, and it’s definitely something I haven’t read enough of. A Darker Shade of Magic is technically about three different worlds, one of them our own, within each of which London has the same name and location, despite differences everywhere else. Grey London is our own world, so named for its lack of magic. Red London is where magic is embraced, whereas White London is where magic is almost feared, and those who brandish it are not to be trusted. There was a fourth London, Black London, but it was destroyed by magic. Kell, as a Traveller, can move between the three worlds, passing messages on for the monarchs.

Kell was a bit of mystery although his intentions were always good. Lila was a bit of a contrast, a somewhat morally ‘grey’ character just trying to survive. The contrast between the two of them was nice, and I feel like they could both really help each other. I desperately wanted more back story for both, so that better come in book two!

I have to say, V.E. Schwab has some serious talent. Her words paint such rich and vivid scenes: I could practically see the foggy, shadowed streets and smell the scents of beer and roasting meat pouring out of the taverns; each London was so markedly different. Too often, books featuring magic make it seem so easy – wave a wand, speak a few words and bam, magic. When a magic system requires some sort of sacrifice, that’s when I really love it, and this particular system requires blood. It makes magic something to be feared, reinforced by the destruction of Black London, something that is not easy to control. And despite the fact it is about magic, it makes it more believable, in a way…

My only issue with the book was, ironically, the setting, or at least the setting in a larger context. Because Kell’s visits to every world were limited to London, and we didn’t see or even hear much of the worlds past London, it felt very small. Therefore if something were to happen to the people of one of those worlds outside London, it wouldn’t feel ‘real’, if that makes sense.

But apart from this small issue, A Darker Shade of Magic was a wonderful read. Vivid and original, it’s only convinced me further that I need to get my hands on a copy of Vicious and sample more of V.E. Schwab’s fantastic writing.


Review: Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson


5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Oh Brandon Sanderson, you’ve done it again. After finally reading and absolutely loving Steelheart, I couldn’t wait to move onto Firefight, and luckily Gollancz were kind enough to send me a copy. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get round to it as quickly as I’d hoped, hence why this review is a little late, but wow was it worth the wait.

From the get go I was just as mesmerised by this book as I was by the first. With Sanderson’s fluid writing and magnificent story-telling, not to mention David’s absolutely awful and hilarious metaphors – and who else but Sanderson could get away with writing like that? – I was whisked back to Newcago with the Reckoners.

The majority of this story actually takes place in Manhattan, or Babylon Restored as it is called by this point, and I have to say, for a post-apocalyptic city, it sounded pretty beautiful. Apart from the whole murderous ruling Epic thing… In Babylon Restored, the water levels have risen so much that the skyscrapers poke out of the water like islands. Glowing fruit mysteriously grows all over the place, giving it an ethereal jungle vibe. The descriptions of the city were so vivid in my mind, like an urban Pandora.

There were some fun new additions to the team, Mizzy especially. One of the youngest Reckoners, excitable and clumsy, she tries hard to fit in with the rest of the group. I wasn’t sure about Exel, it felt a little like Sanderson was creating a character to fill the shoes of Cody, who was left back in Newcago. However, it wasn’t just some great new characters, but also new techology – the spyril in particular. A sort of water-powered jetpack, I could perfectly imagine David weaving his way through the concrete jungle of New York with it – although at times it did remind me a little of Super Mario Sunshine

With some fantastic new Epics, such as Obliteration and Regalia, and a really dark and shocking ending, Firefight is an absolute blast of a book and a definite recommendation whether you’re a Brandon Sanderson fan, or have never read any of his work (although in that case make sure you read Steelheart first!). I CANNOT WAIT for Calamity – and this time I actually have to…

impatient gif


Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie


5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I have to say, after finally reading the first book in the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie, I now understand why he is ‘Lord Grimdark’. The Blade Itself felt like a whirlwind of a book, despite probably being the slower of the three as it builds things up. Of course I was expecting the book to be grisly, but it was definitely grimmer and darker than I thought it would be – and that’s no bad thing. There are several points of view within the story, and each felt unique.

I really loved the range of characters that Abercrombie has created to populate his world. Inquisitor Glokta is the crippled, vicious product of two years of torture, both despairing of what his life has turned into and using his disfigurement to his advantage. Occasionally, just very occasionally, I got small glimpses of what he was like before, or how he could have been, had he not been tortured, and I actually felt sorry for him. Jezal may have been, at first glance, the handsome young hero of the story, but actually as it progressed it was clear that he was an arrogant and spoiled young man, clinging to his heritage and wealth and using them as a stepping stone to make his way up, rather than pure talent.

And then there were others – Logen as this battle-scarred, grizzly warrior, whose misunderstanding of foreign cultures occasionally made him feel like a small child trapped in a hulking great body. It was really interesting to see him after reading one of Abercrombie’s other books, which is technically set after the events of The First Law series, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he changes from one man to the other. Of course, I can’t forget Bayaz and Brother Longfoot who, for me, especially in Brother Longfoot’s case, provided the comic relief. It’s definitely going to be an interesting journey…

There is a medieval feel to the book, as you often find with fantasy – that sort of society, but with added magic which is always a bonus. One thing that would have been nice would be more female characters. There were only two, and the first didn’t appear until around halfway through the book, the second about three-quarters. More time for them over the next two books, please?

The Blade Itself is definitely not the book you want to read when you have to be up early the next day. It’s a page turner and a half, and will keep you reading well into the night if you’re not careful. Definitely HIGHLY recommended for all fantasy fans, especially if you’re looking for something a bit (or rather a lot) darker.