Review

Review: A Mighty Dawn (The Wanderer Chronicles #1) by Theodore Brun

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

A Mighty Dawn was offered to me by the publisher, because of my love for archaeology and history. The book itself is written by an archaeologist, specialising in the Dark Ages. I have to say the fact that the publisher clearly researched bloggers with these kinds of interests really impressed me, and immediately warmed me to the book.

The story follows Hakan, the young heir to the Lord of the Northern Jutes. His life seems calm, uneventful – until one day, their village is struck by tragedy, and Hakan leaves, unable to bear his grief. I have some familiarity with the history and mythology that this book is based around, but I feel that any reader would understand Hakan’s world regardless of their background knowledge. However, there were some instances of unexplained terminology, and it would have been nice to fully understand these.

The battle scenes in this book were so well-written, I found myself flying through the pages and following the action with bated breath. It was easy to read, but also so gripping and somehow even managed to drag me away from Mass Effect: Andromeda – an impressive fate when it’s a game I’ve been anticipating for years.

With a truly detestable antagonist, a dark historical fantasy setting and the genuine feeling that the protagonist is slowly crumbling away and perhaps slightly losing his mind, A Mighty Dawn was an enthralling read that should appeal to all fans of the genre. It is a shame that I felt less drawn into the story during the second half, but following Hakan along on his journey from the heir of a lord, green in battle, to something very dark and twisted, kept me reading.

If you’re interested in this period of history or want something a little dark, or a historical fantasy, then this is a great choice for your next read!

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Review

Review: Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

Red Sister is the third of Mark Lawrence’s books that I’ve read – and you know what they say, third time lucky. That was definitely the case here, as I completely fell in love with the book. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Prince of Thorns, which I read with my online book group, but I enjoyed Prince of Fools a lot more. However, Red Sister just completely blew me away.

I can’t resist a good origin story, nor stories containing assassins, and Red Sister is both of these. It follows a young girl called Nona, who ends up at the Convent of Sweet Mercy after several unfortunate events. However, this is not any old convent, and the Sisters are not normal nuns. Many are ‘Red Sisters’, trained in the arts of fighting, and this is what Nona is on the path to become. Just look at this opening line:

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.

Doesn’t that just intrigue you? I read the first 170 pages of the book in one sitting, absolutely enthralled by the world Lawrence had created, and what Nona was going through. Nona as a character is quite mysterious for much of the novel, she is perhaps almost as unfamiliar to the reader as she is to her classmates, but that certainly kept me reading. One of the things that made me eager to read this book was that it was centered around female characters, rather than a largely male cast. And within this cast of women and girls, there are some fantastic characters. Nona’s friends and their relationships are great, with rivalries soon becoming friendships. The Nuns are an interesting bunch – some kind, others cruel – so basically just like real teachers!

I have to admit that when I first started reading the book, I hadn’t realised that the protagonist was so young. However, this was not an issue – she therefore has plenty of room to develop, and due to the conditions in which she has grown up, she is very headstrong and mature for her age. I suppose in the sort of world that many of them have grown up in, childhood ends very early. The book is quite slow, and not much really happened in terms of ‘big’ events during the first half. This, to me, was actually pretty perfect. It meant I really got to explore the world Lawrence had created, learn along with Nona and her friends, and I got to see more of the ‘school’ setting (another story element I love!). There were flashes of the future in between, showing a huge and possibly catastrophic event, which only made me want to read even faster, even more in one setting to find out how this could happen.

Overall, Red Sister was an absolutely fantastic read, definitely one of the best series openers I have read in a while, and one of my top reads of 2017 thus far. Mark Lawrence has created something completely different from his other books with this series, so even if you did not get along with his other work I would absolutely recommend that you try Red Sister. If it’s already on your ‘to read’ list, then hurry up and grab a copy! I’m already anticipating book two, but looks like I’ll be waiting a while – so maybe I’ll continue on with Lawrence’s The Red Queen’s War series, to tide me over.

I also just want to extend my thanks to Mark Lawrence himself, who got in touch with me via Facebook to offer me a (signed!) ARC. I was ecstatic to receive this message, and so glad for the opportunity to read this book. I also need to thank Mark for being responsible for quite a bit of my blog traffic – a while ago he linked to my review of Prince of Fools on Reddit, as a review by someone who enjoyed the book but did not like Prince of Thorns. I’m still receiving blog traffic from that Reddit post, so thank you, Mark! 🙂

Review

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Because I don’t have a lot of space for storing books, I do quite often donate them to charity after reading if they aren’t favourites or I don’t think I will re-read them. This allows me to buy even more without taking up more space, so my book collection pretty much remains at the same size. Revolution was in my ‘donate after reading’ pile, and as I will soon be moving I’ve been trying to work through more of these so I don’t need to take them with me.

I’m not really sure what I expected when I picked up this book. In fact, after a couple of chapters I almost DNFed it because of the main character, Andi. The book opens with Andi hanging out with her friends, and they immediately seemed so pretentious and ridiculous, but I decided to keep going. And whilst I finished the book, Andi was definitely not my favourite of characters. I loved that she was so passionate about music and art, and really knowledgeable, but at times she felt elitist and a bit of a snob. Not to mention the whole very ‘try hard’ emo style she was going for. I get that she’s grieving. I get that she’s gone through this horrible event. But it kind of felt lazy for the author to use the emo look to portray someone who is struggling to get over the death of someone close to them.

However, Revolution was a clever story. I thought the use of the French Revolution, and entwining both Andi and Alex’s stories to be very well done. I maybe didn’t enjoy reading Alex’s journal entries as much as I’d expected – they just didn’t flow as well – but it was nice to revisit this area of history that I studied in detail eight or nine years ago.

Overall, this was a quick and easy read, and actually a lot more enjoyable than I’d reckoned – but let down in places by the portrayal of the main character.

Review

Review: The Dead Men Stood Together by Chris Priestley

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

The Dead Men Stood Together was, perhaps, not quite what I was expecting. I actually ended up reading this in print, rather than the e-galley originally from Netgalley, and the cover of the finished version gave the impression of a book for much younger readers than I’d originally thought. This is supported by the size of the font (HUGE), which for some reason was all in bold, a choice I found rather odd.

Formatting aside, this was a strange book. It is based on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an odd choice considering the book’s intended audience – and especially when, on reading, I think I would have appreciated the book a lot more had I prior knowledge of the poem, which I expect most middle grade/teen readers won’t have. It is not entirely clear when the book is set, the prologue is clearly the late 19th century but the majority of the story is centuries before that – from the elements of the story I would hazard a guess at the 1700s, which is also when Ancient Mariner was published.

The Dead Men Stood Together tells of a young boy who joins his uncle on a supply ship, but their ship gets lost in a storm and ends up in frozen and foggy waters. They are soon frequently visited by an albatross, whom the crew begin to see as a beacon of hope. However, the boy’s uncle, who is possibly mad and completely untruthful, kills the albatross, and the crew turns on him. Fortunately, just before they can kill him, the ice and fog begin to clear, and they are free. It just gets weirder from there – although this is all a direct retelling of the Ancient Mariner, the poem in prose form. The only original element is the narrator, the young boy on a journey with his uncle.

This was an easy and quick read, but a very odd one. I would definitely have appreciated it a lot more if I’d previously read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and I have a feeling the book will suffer a lot for much of its target audience being unfamiliar with the poem. I have to admit, whilst I’d heard of it, I knew very little about it before now. There were no names in the book – as with the poem, I believe – but this only meant that I had no chance to ‘get to know’ the characters. And now that I know that the book is pretty much the poem exactly, with a few additions at beginning and end, it feels almost lazy.

Review

Review: After the Silence (Amsterdam Quartet #1) by Jake Woodhouse

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1 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

I may not read the genre that often, but I do enjoy a good crime novel. Sadly, After the Silence is not one of these.

I picked it up initially because it was set in Amsterdam, and I’m always eager to read more books set in the Netherlands. However, the setting here is completely inconsequential: it could literally be set anywhere else in the world and it would make zero difference. We get some Dutch names, a few well-known locations in Amsterdam but otherwise you could just transport it anywhere else, which was a real shame. Not as much of a shame, however, as the absolutely atrocious characters that After the Silence contains, every single one a horrible, horrible stereotype:

  • The main character is a cop who had a career changing tragic moment pre-book, which we get to see in badly timed flashbacks. Since then he left the force, went to Japan and ‘found himself’, and came back.
  • The main female cop is constantly objectified by her colleagues, her soon to be boss makes lewd suggestions about how she might rise through the ranks and SHE DOES NOTHING ABOUT IT. This is so infuriating. She’s clearly a tough lady, judging by what she’s been through and what she does for a living, so why does she put up with this crap?
  • There’s the cocaine addicted, homophobic, racist and misogynistic cop who I’m supposed to somehow feel sorry for?? Er, no. No thanks.
  • Literally every policeman (and I say man, because Tanya is the ONLY female cop in the Netherlands apparently) is racist and homophobic and misogynistic and it made me SO ANGRY.

 

I can’t even really comment too much on what happens. It wasn’t a particularly special crime novel, there were no stunning twists or big reveals, and I was mostly just distracted by how disgusting these characters were, these people who were meant to be protecting society. And if it’s not bad enough, of course Jaap and Tanya hook up, because how on earth could a male and female cop work together without that happening? I spent the entire duration of this book feeling very angry, and the only positive was that it was at least quick to read, and needless to say I won’t be searching out the next one in the series.

Review

Review: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

The Winner’s Curse is a tricky book to define – I honestly have no idea what genre to put it under. The setting doesn’t quite feel fantasy, but it also doesn’t quite feel science fiction. I suppose it could considered to be a dystopian novel, but in a very different way to other Young Adult dystopian such as The Hunger Games or Divergent. I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I picked it up – there are a lot of positive reviews on Goodreads – but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this.

The setting seemed a little odd. There was obvious Graeco-Roman inspiration, e.g. the empire, slaves, villas, names such as Trajan and soldiers with names ending in ‘x’, but there were plenty of names that didn’t fit. I suppose it doesn’t have to be inspired by one particular culture, if any at all, but it does make it feel more grounded and ‘real’, in a way. The world-building didn’t feel very strong. There was a vague sense of history – the Valorians enslaved the Herranis a while before the events of the book, but that was about it.

Kestrel, the protagonist, was a relief. She may have been from an aristocratic family, but she wasn’t amazing at everything, despite all the opportunities. She was clever, quick-witted and musical, but not a good fighter. She doesn’t mope about, there’s no talk of how she’s plain or any ‘special snowflake’ behaviour. And she has a genuine friendship with a female friend that doesn’t just revolve around the friend being a handy way for Kestrel to discuss her feelings – although it does seem that way at first, it is later shown that Jess is truly important to Kestrel. However, Arin felt quite flat. There was a little bit of his history, but I wasn’t able to get a real sense of his personality. It’s a possibility that he was meant to be mysterious and aloof, but it didn’t really come off that way.

I am writing this review a few weeks after reading the book, and I have to admit that if it weren’t for my notes, I’d have great difficulty writing this. Despite having read the book not that long ago, it took me a little while to recall all of the details. It may not be the most memorable of stories, but I do know that I really enjoyed it! And the best bit? No insta-love!

Review

Review: The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1)

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

The Dark Days Club combines two things I love to read about:

  • a fantastical spin on a real historical period
  • real historical figures as minor characters

 

And it did it wonderfully! I absolutely loved the idea that behind this delicate society, where main concerns are the latest fashions, finding an appropriate husband before the spinsterly age of 23 and discussing who has been snubbed from the latest social event, there is a group of demon hunters. A group of demon hunters in Regency England, comprised of not just aristocratic gentleman who would be familiar with hunting and other such pursuits anyway, but society ladies, who swap their petticoats for trousers (scandalous!), and evenings filled with balls, champagne and dancing for hunting dark creatures. The book really exposes the ridiculousness of society at the time, where things seemed prim and proper on the outside, but often there was something darker hidden away.

I liked Helen as a character. She longs for the independence that her society will never grant her, and won’t settle for just being married off to the first available bachelor who will take her. Unfortunately, due to some family history, her name is not as desirable as it once was, and her uncle (and guardian) pretty much just wants to be rid of her. Helen is curious and intelligent, eager to learn and quick-witted. It wasn’t just Helen that was likeable, but also Darby, her maid. Their relationship in particular really stood out. Darby was more than just a maid, and the friendship between her and Helen felt so genuine. She could have easily been scared off by Helen’s abilities, but instead she was loyal and just as curious as Helen about what she could do.

I was a little dismayed by the pace of the book – it really was quite slow moving, and it is a good third of the way in before Helen even finds out what she is, let alone starts using her powers. I just wanted the demon hunting to commence asap! Sadly there just wasn’t enough action or demon slaying by the end for my taste, which is one of the reasons why this is a four star read rather than five stars. I’m hoping for a lot more in the second book to make up for it, but it also seems like Helen still has a lot to learn. One of my other issues was that it was quite predictable – none of the ‘shocking’ events were a surprise and it was easy to guess what was going to happen. Finally, at times there was quite a bit of info dumping, which can be quite frustrating.

However, I found The Dark Days Club to be a really fun novel, if slow to start. I absolutely loved the concept, and the contrast between the genteel society and the demon hunters. I’ll definitely be looking out for the second book in the series!